Porky the Pork Pig in a Bacon Blanket

All these beer reviews lately, you’d think this blog was about … beer. Au contraire, my friends (French for “nuh uh”). If you’ll point your attention to the navigation over there on the right side of this page, you’ll note a mysterious, delicious category called “Meat Stunts.” That’s where you’ll find instructions for home made bacon, the legend of the curiously named “La Caja China,” and our last Superbowl centerpiece, “Snack Stadium XXXL.”

After last year’s surge in post-game web traffic, I knew we had to do something spectacular this year. This time, inspiration came in the form of a slab of shelf-stable Broadbent pepper bacon I acquired from bacn.com (now owned by baconfreak.com). The predictable thing to do would have been to chunk it up into lardons (French for thick-ass pieces of bacon) or simply slice it thick for superdelishtstic BLT’s. But the meat stuntman in me wanted to stuff it with something.

Slab O'Bacon, Stuffing elements.

So of course I went to the best stuffing of all: more pork. I picked up a whole pork loin from Gartner’s, along with some pork sausage-stuffed pork tenderloins. If you’re counting, that’s four types of pork product so far.

peel-back-the-bacon-blanket

I had a plan going in, but it was just a bit of stray cholesterol until I actually opened up the slab. I had no idea how much room there was in there! I got so excited I forgot to take photos of the assembly process, so instead I’ll let you digest the photo below, and describe what’s going on after the break.

pork-creature

Back? Not what you were expecting, was it? Heh. So the body’s the pork loin, sliced at one end to form a mouth. Inside the “mouth” are two garlic cloves acting as incisors, and the traditional apple. A couple more garlic cloves form the eyeballs, and two apple slices form the sow’s ears. The legs are those sausage-stuffed tenderloins I mentioned, with garlic toes (Mmm, garlic toes). Now, I wanted this thing to actually be tasty, and I was a bit concerned about overwhelming samplers with a lot of grease. This creation was going to be wrapped in bacon for a few hours, after all. So before I tucked her in, I sprinkled her back and legs with fresh rosemary “bristles” and lots of chopped up garlic “garlic.” Beneath the sow, I cut some drainage slits in the bottom of the bacon blanket.

tucked-in

I set the oven to 350, and tried not to open it every 15 minutes to see how my monster was developing. The house smelled … so delicious it was actually almost sickening. Imagine a foggy morning so thick you have to turn your headlights on. Now imagine that fog in your nose, and the whole thing smells like bacon, rosemary and garlic. It was difficult to concentrate. But four hours later, I pulled the pig and … wow. I wish you could have tried it. It was delicious, and those that could get past its eerily lifelike appearance were able to taste all four meats in one bite. Best of all, no one got sick, despite the Russian Roulette-like meat game we played. Four chances to get trichinosis, but all cylinders came up empty.

Soooo-ey!

cooked-pig

KLCC Microbrew Festival in Eugene

Several accomplished beer writers (John Foyston, Lisa Morrison and Abram Goldman-Armstrong), bloggers (Portland Beer) and somehow BS Brewing were invited by Travel Oregon and Travel Lane County to visit Eugene for the KLCC Microbrew Festival and spend Zwickelmania with local brewers.

I give this fest high marks, more than 50 breweries and 110 beers, a homebrew competition, vendors selling classic vinyl records, live music and a People’s Choice Award (won by Hop Valley’s Alpha Centauri). The lines and crowd were very manageable, hardly waited more than 30 seconds for a fill and it’s a pretty standard $1 ticket per taste and your $12 admission gets you an actual glass taster. Proceeds benefit the listener-supported station.

KLCC Brewfest

Definitely the most interesting aspect of the festival was the inclusion of a collaboration brew, where participating brewers each developed their take on a (get this…) Belgian Style Cascadian Dark Rye Ale. In the description of the beer below they used the phrase “Because we can,” perhaps because some said “Oh no, you didn’t?” Overall, I think each of the beers suffered from being a bit of an over-engineered concept, any two of the three (Cascadian Dark, rye malt, Belgian yeast) would have been fine, but all three together created some odd flavors regardless of the skill of the brewer making the beer. A good thing to remember is just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

DSCN1469

Dave in his quest to drink 999 different beers over 999 days reviewed Ninkasi’s entry here.

Aside from the collaboration brew, there were handful of seasonals but most brought beers that are available in some form here in Portland. That didn’t crush our enthusiasm for seeking out old favorites like Maui Brewing’s IPA and breweries we’ve never tried such as Wakonda Brewing’s Imperial Pilsner.

As our Twitter post summed it up that night, it’s like a mini-GABF but instead of beer geeks there are college girls and old hippies. I would definitely recommend checking the festival out in future years, either on its own if you’re in the area or as a part of of a beer weekend to check out the all great breweries in the area.

More on our Zwickelmania trips later…

Dinner With the Widmer Brewers

It’s great to have a beer blog and an excuse to drink beer, but I guess we should actually add some content more than once a month.

A couple of weeks ago, the fine folks at Widmer invited us over for dinner to celebrate the release of W’10 Pitch Black IPA. Due to the enormous success of Brrr, W’10 was already in stores, but that didn’t deter our enthusiasm for this Cascadian Dark Ale.

Rob and Kurt

I’ll leave a more detailed review of the beer to Dave at 999 Beers but I really like W’10, easily my favorite in the series, challenged only by W’07 that eventually became Drifter.  I think it’s a safe bet we’re going to see a lot more Cascadian Dark Ales this year and that style will be the choice of backyard BBQs and camping this summer. It’s a great blend of roasted malt flavor and hops without being too heavy.

33 beers and bottle

I was joined for dinner by brewer John Eaton who generally works the overnight shift at Widmer. I was a great opportunity to discuss the entire W series at Widmer, the collaborative creative process and the success of 07 and 06 turning into Drifter and Brrr in the company’s line. In general, the brewers get together and discuss a few different styles and then they work together to hash it out and determine what that year’s W beer will be. It’s a great opportunity for the brewers to flex their creativity outside of the company’s standard brews.

It also seemed some at Widmer were a little miffed/disappointed at the lack of success of W’09, the Belgian Golden Ale and to a lesser extent 08’s Crimson Wheat. In thinking about the Belgian Golden, it reminded me of Bridgeport’s Supris and a similar tepid response.

It makes me think that major production brewers such as Bridgeport and Widmer become well known for certain styles and the consumer just doesn’t think of them as an outlet for something so different. I’m certain that in addition to letting brewers create new styles, the W series also helps Widmer stretch the consumer’s mind and while a certain year may not sell as expected, it can help open the door for future, more commercially successful new styles.

You can learn more about W’10 and the W series by going here and can find Widmer Brothers on Twitter and Facebook.

Would a ‘Warm Beer’ Sign Make You Stop In?

A good way to develop your taste in beer is to keep drinking and try new beers. Yet, you should make sure you’re getting everything you paid (or brewed) for. The temperature of the beer and the glass can have a large impact in the amount of flavor exposed to your palate.

Last week, I performed a simple taste test to compare a flavor of cold beer in a cold glass to the flavor of beer in a glass that approached the ambient temperature. I used Total Domination IPA (6.7% alc./vol. 65 ibus.) from Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Oregon in both tastings. My results are as follows; I encourage you to try a similar test and confirm my results.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA
Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Cold Glass + Cold Beer

I used a freezer mug for this test. This mug had been inside the freezer overnight and the fluid inside the mug kept the beer frosty cold.

  • First, the beer tasted cold (obviously, but I need to state this for completeness, right?)
  • I could tell it was a carbonated fluid, but not much more.
  • There was little, if any, flavor on the sip.
  • The beer raced through my mouth, not much time to savor.
  • I tasted bitterness upon swallowing; when back of tongue reaches the roof of my mouth.
  • It also exhibited a bitter aftertaste.
  • This reminded me of the macro-brews consumed during my college years. The point was to drink this one and then move on to the next one. Not much thought was put into enjoying the experience.

Ambient Glass + Near Ambient Beer

Now that I write this, I wish I would have taken a temperature measurement with Dave’s sweet laser thermometer. I didn’t think about it, so maybe I’ll have to re-do the test. Ha!

  • This warmer beer was thick, with a full body which bloomed into a slight citrus taste after a few sips and more time in my glass.
  • This beer was more savory and definitely more chewy than the cold glass I had earlier. I could chew on the bubbles that make up the head.
  • The beer exhibited a more malty finish too.
  • I could tell the bitterness was more of an after-thought than the primary flavor present in the cold glass.
  • I could sense a slight pine flavor; other beers like Pliny the Elder (the beer, not the ancient Roman nobleman) have a bold pine flavor, but this was more subtle.
  • I stuck my nose in the glass and smelled a real craft beer.

Based on my results, I experienced a much broader flavor when the temperature of the beer neared the ambient temperature of the room. I wasn’t missing nearly as much as I did with the ultra cold beer. Even after burning a fair amount of my taste sensation on the cold, bitter beer, I could still enjoy the flavors present in the warmer beer.

You might be asking yourself why some beers actually highlight the coldness of the beer and/or the can. That’s a good question. My guess is that (1) you were watching a commercial for mass markets and (2) the beer advertised was not a craft beer.

I don’t have anything against big market beer with less flavor, it has a time and a place too. And I’ll still get a lot of enjoyment out of my Blazer mug with embedded super-freeze technology. I’ll just put the right beer inside it and enjoy the day. Its a close analogy to mixing Seagrams 7 in a glass of Coca-Cola and pouring Woodford Reserve in a tumbler with a little water to open up the flavor. I enjoy both beverages, but there’s a time and place for each. When you select one, make sure you’re getting all the flavor available to you.