Delicious meat pies of beef braised in Oktoberfest beer wrapped in puff pastry.
Makes 6 large muffin size pies
1 lbs beef
¼ cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ small onion, finely chopped
24 oz oktoberfest beer
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
2 lbs puff pastry
eggwash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water)
We both love Lambics, in fact while we were visiting Belgium a few of years ago we drank a huge variety of them. Aside from the fact that they were so good, we felt that we had to imbibe as there were many Lambics that we simply couldn’t buy anywhere else. Certainly not in Texas, where the TABC run the show with their bizarre regulations which seem to favour only the giant breweries. Because of the TABC and its weird quirks, some of the more esoteric lambics (and particularly Schaerbeekse Kriek) can be difficult to find.
Lambics are beers made with spontaneous fermentation, rather than by the addition of yeast they use yeasts occurring naturally in the air, the most common being Brettanomyces bruxellensis. They are so called Sour Beers, which can be an acquired taste, but one definitely worth acquiring! To quote Michael Jackson (The beer expert, not the inventor of Jesus Juice): “The lambic family are not everybody’s glass of beer, but no one with a keen interest in alcoholic drink would find them anything less than fascinating. In their ‘wildness’ and unpredictability, these are exciting brews. At their best, they are the meeting point between beer and wine. At their worst, they offer a taste of history” (From The Great Beers of Belgium, 1991).
I personally had my lambic epiphany with Oude Lambiek, by Geuze Stekerij De Cam. We could only find it in ‘t Brugse Beertje in Brugge at the time, so had to go there more than once, just for one more, I promise, no really.
Lambics can be made more accessible by adding fruit, no fruit more iconic than the Belgian Kriek which is a type of cherry. One of the beers we particularly enjoyed in this vein, was an aged kriek lambic by the Drie Fonteinen Brouwerij (Three Fountains Brewery).
The Oude Kriek leaps out at you as an excellent, very fruity lambic. Not surprisingly it gets 5 out of 5 stars in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide – Belgium, so you can imagine how pleased I was when Angela arrived back from her trip to Portland with 2 large boxes of beer, one of which contained a Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek. Or so we thought.
On closer inspection it turned out to be a rather special “Schaerbeekse Kriek” bottled on 28th April 2010. It also turns out that these particular cherries are quite rare, grown only in a small area of Belgium. In fact in 2009, Drie Fonteinen only produced 6000 bottles due to the scarcity of the cherries. The cherry is a wild variety, growing close to the brewery, but the trees are disappearing. This, plus the fact that the brewery relies on its neighbours to provide them with the cherries, results in very limited production runs.
In general, its is becoming harder to source kriek cherries, which is why some brewers are looking further afield for them, some as far as Poland. These cherries, while excellent for Lambics, cannot bear the name “Schaerbeekse”, because they are not from Schaerbeek, however, the good news is that Brouwerij Boon, has plans to plant an orchard of these wild, tart cherries, with hopefully more breweries following suit. Perhaps soon we may see a revival of beers using this unique cherry.
Drinking and pairing notes
On the nose, the first thing that hit me is a very dry champagne note, followed by sour cherry with a nice lambic funk. The beer itself is very sour, somewhat mellowed by the almost 3 years of aging. The cherries add to the sourness, but bring with them a complexity that is magnificent. Shame we only had one bottle!
Lambic’s pair well with shellfish and with rich, dark chocolates, but they also go surprisingly well with more robust dishes. If you’re feeling adventurous, try them with these Steen’s syrup braised-pork turnovers.
I love rye. Rye bread, rye whiskey, and rye beer. We have an excellent rye beer made in Texas called Real Ale Full Moon Pale Rye which tends to be a standard go to for me. So I was excited to come across this in a grocery store in Portland, OR. Upright Brewing is all about farmhouse inspired beers using saison yeast and Northwestern ingredients. The beers are numbered based on their starting gravity (pre-fermentation sugar content) in Belgian brewing degrees. The Six displays abundant rye spice characteristics along with some bubble gum derived from open fermentation. It has a dry refreshing finish and me eager to try their other beers.
Just sometimes something happens that takes you completely by surprise. Sometimes it’s not such good news and at other times it brushes a smile right across your face. Arrival in France has taught us an enormous amount about wine, but frankly the beer selection here is dreadful on the whole. You would have thought with what is in reach the opposite would be the case and there a a few good local brews but on the whole ale very much takes a back stage to vin.
So I was off to Italy to review some of our operations there. I needed to go and see our bunkers which were quite a distance from the base. We drove for over an hour to get there and the country side reminded my of Norway to an extent – glaciers carved this landscape. We toured around the bunkers with me doing my inspection, guided by the chap who runs them. After an hour or so when I had reviewed everything it was time to head off when the casual remark was dropped that we off to see his other “fireworks”… We had been visiting bunkers after all. So off we head Comunanza and stop at a house in the centre of town. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect…. We walked round the house to the back street to see a large under ground garage and the best sign in the world “Birrificio”! So the gent who runs the bunkers (and a farm, and organises the local horse festivals) has just started his own micro brewery and in we went to meet his brew master. As we stood by the fermentation tanks he ran through the process for us. He started brewing an apple flavoured beer and it was so popular people were asking for it so he started using a nearby by brew house. Now they have gone it alone. I explained how in a recent location I had learned to brew from barley – malting it ourselves and going through the whole process. The first one we made was sooo bitter! Explaining this and where we were caused some laughter as we sampled the three brews on the run right then. All of them fantastic. It was as I was lifting the first one to my lips that I got that wonderful aroma that frankly your run of the mill mass brewed amber fizz just cannot compete with. For a moment I was rushed back into the Gingerman in Houston or the Flowerpots in Cheriton where real beer lives. It was heaven.
You can have a quick look at there website… The fairy theme comes from the fact that fairys live in the near mountains and valleys. Frankly (if I wasn’t already married) if fairys look like that I would be hiking a great deal more in Italy! Perhaps after a few glasses they become easier to find! Any way its hard for me to write what a truely wonderful experience the whole thing was.
And another benefit of going to Italy – learning how to cook pasta properly and pair it with olive oil. Cath has always loved pasta but frankly I haven’t – too used to the squishy, sauce covered mop we too often get. I am converted…. We had pasta twice already this weekend! And as I have been hopeless with Christmas cards this year… HAPPY CHRISTMAS.. Let’s hope 2012 is a good one.