Harpoon & Dunkin’

Coffee, doughnuts and beer together at last

Harpoon Brewery and Dunkin’ teamed up last year to bring the beer world the Harpoon Dunkin’ Coffee Porter. I thought it was a nice take on the coffee porter, featuring distinctive notes of roasted coffee and chocolate in a robust, malty package.

I suspect Starbucks fans disagree with me, so I just want to offer that qualifier right off the bat.

If you haven’t noticed, Harpoon and Dunkin’ decided to take things to another level this fall. I, as usual, am months behind, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a Harpoon-Dunkin’ mixed-pack during my pre-Thanksgiving run to the beer store. This was not your run-of-the-mill mixed-pack.

My wife requested pumpkin beer and I wanted a coffee-flavored brew, so the mixed-pack, which featured the Harpoon Dunkin’ Coffee Porter and a Pumpkin Spiced Latte Ale, caught my eye. The deal was sealed when I saw the mixed-pack included a Boston Kreme Stout and a Jelly Donut IPA. This is real.

Between Thanksgiving itself and the day after Thanksgiving, I enjoyed a pour of each one. What I enjoyed most and found most impressive about the entire foursome was that they held true to their pairings. The Coffee Porter truly tastes like the Dunkin’ original coffee blend and the Boston Kreme Stout tastes very much like a Boston Kreme doughnut, and so on.

I made my comment about Starbucks in jest but I suspect whether or not you like any of these Harpoon-Dunkin’ brews depends very much on whether or not you like Dunkin’ from both the doughnut and the coffee perspective. If you aren’t a fan of Dunkin’ coffee, nothing to see here.

I think the Coffee Porter was my favorite; I like the richness of the brew. That said, it’s not too heavy. I enjoyed it Thanksgiving afternoon as we finished up meal prep.

I can’t honestly say that I liked the Jelly Donut IPA, but my wife enjoyed it. I just didn’t think the sugary sweet jelly flavor paired well with the hops, but this legitimately tastes like a jelly doughnut. It’s worth giving it a shot as it may well be the most unique brew you’ve ever tasted.

The Pumpkin Spiced Latte Ale tastes so much like an actual pumpkin spiced latte that sometimes I forgot whether I was drinking a coffee or a beer. It’s sweet and features the combination of pumpkin, cinnamon and sugar you expect from this as a coffee — a tasty, seasonal treat. The pour is more or less the color of pumpkin, more orange-y than I expected.

The Boston Kreme Stout was excellent with notes of sweet chocolate and coffee and a smooth finish. This one was much lighter than expected, and because of that, I think this makes an excellent choice for someone who normally doesn’t like stouts.

A final note is that I feel that mixed-packs make excellent choices for holiday get-togethers, as they provide a variety of options and hopefully something for everyone. Now, I know we’re celebrating in smaller numbers this year so just go ahead and save that sage advice for next year.

Featured Photo: Courtesy photo.

Cocktails as a holiday family avoidance strategy

Holidays are traditionally the time for extended families to gather together. Amid all the hastening and chastening, they are also a time for avoiding family. Hiding in the bathroom or the garage is a time-honored Thanksgiving activity.

But this year — as with all aspects of our lives — things are different. The family we might be the most eager to avoid may also be the same people we’ve been with 24 hours a day for the last nine months. At this point most of us have used up pretty much every viable excuse to leave a room.

Except perhaps one: a cocktail.

Please notice that I have specified “A” cocktail. Aside from flirting with dangerous habits or an outraged liver, heavy drinking rarely produces the outcome you might be looking for. Before you get to the Comfortably Numb stage, you will probably pass through the Karaoke stage, and even the “Let Me Text the Relatives and Tell Them What I Really Think Of Them” stage — neither of which are likely to give you the sense of peace you are looking for.

Leaving the room to make a drink, however, especially at the holidays, is a culturally sanctioned escape from playing Pictionary. “I’m just going to make a drink; go ahead and start without me,” is a tacitly accepted Holiday Get Out of Jail Free Card.

There are two approaches to the Escape Cocktail:

Fast and Easy: Get into the kitchen, make a simple drink, drink it, and get back out to the living room without spending too much of your rapidly diminishing social capital.

Slow and Complicated: Make something that will involve so much time and effort that nobody will be tempted to help you, and at the same time everyone will pretty much avoid and then forget about you altogether.

Thanksgiving Cocktail No. 1 – Fast and Easy: The Jack-In-The-Box

2 oz. Calvados, AppleJack or other apple brandy

2 oz. Pineapple juice

2 dashes bitters (I measured this out and two dashes = about 25 drops)

Combine ingredients over ice and shake thoughtfully. Don’t smash the ice up this time.

Strain into a martini glass.

The Jack-In-The-Box is a classic cocktail from the 1970s. It is different enough from what you are used to drinking to be interesting, but not so different as to be threatening. You don’t need threatening. Not right now.

Your experience drinking a Jack-In-The-Box will be highly subjective, depending on what you’ve been snacking on. If you’ve been eating something sweet, this will taste a little … off. If you’ve been eating something salty on the other hand, you will need one hand free to make a chef’s kiss gesture upon drinking it.

For those of us who are also from the ’70s, the JIB goes spectacularly well with homemade Chex Mix, or as we called it in my youth, Nuts & Bolts (see box).

Thanksgiving Cocktail No. 2 – Slow and Complicated: The Cranberry Cobra

½ oz. lemon juice

¾ oz. jalapeño rum (see below)

1½ blisteringly cold vodka

1 oz. cranberry syrup (see below)

½ oz. 100 percent cranberry juice

1 bottle Fever Tree Aromatic Tonic

Shake everything but the tonic over ice, as vigorously as you see fit.

Pour into a tall Collins glass, over more ice.

Top with tonic and stir gently.

This is a Thanksgiving riff on a cocktail called a Cobra Verde, which is frankly delicious, but pretty summery. The Midori that gives the original drink its verde has been replaced with cranberry syrup and cranberry juice. Tasty-But-Pricey Mexican pepper liqueur has been replaced with homemade jalapeño rum.

Is it delicious? Yes. Is it Thanksgiving-colored? Yup. How long will it keep you in the kitchen? Anywhere from 20 minutes to four days.

Cranberry Syrup

1 part sugar

1 part 100-percent cranberry juice – NOT cranberry juice cocktail

Bring both ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar dissolves completely — about two minutes.

Actually that’s it. You will probably want to let it cool before actually using it in a cocktail.

So, right now, if you are a thoughtful reader, you are asking why you can’t just use cranberry juice and simple syrup in the Cranberry Cobra and skip the syrup making altogether.

Seven words for you — Apple. Pie. Ala. Mode. With. Cranberry. Syrup.

Jalapeño Rum. Photo by John Fladd.

Jalapeño Rum

1 liter bottom-shelf white rum

4-5 jalapeños, roughly chopped.

Combine peppers and rum in a wide-mouthed airtight jar. Store someplace cool and dry.

Let it macerate for up to a week, but taste it after three days.

Shake twice a day, which gives you a convenient week-long excuse to leave a room. “Oh, sorry — I have to go shake the rum.”

When the rum is at the right level of flavor and heat for you, filter it through a coffee filter, bottle and label.

According to the website for the Tasty-But-Pricey Mexican pepper liqueur, they combine specially grown-in-the-moonlight ancho peppers and “pure cane spirits,” which sounds like white rum to me. Why bottom-shelf? Any subtle rum flavors will be blown out by the Angry Jalapeño Brothers.

This rum is absolutely delightful and will revolutionize your bloody marys.

1970s Era Nuts & Bolts
½ cup salted butter (1 stick)
2 Tablespoons full-sodium soy sauce
1¼ teaspoons seasoned salt
¼ teaspoon garlic salt (If there was any way to cram more salt into this, we didn’t know about it in the ’70s.)
2¾ cups Corn Chex
2¾ cups Rice Chex
2¾ cups Wheat Chex
1½ cups cocktail peanuts (Oh, wait – apparently there is a way.)
1½ cups sesame sticks
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Melt butter in a shallow pan. Stir in soy sauce, seasoned salt and garlic salt.
Add cereal, peanuts and sesame sticks. Mix until all pieces are coated.
Place on a shallow baking pan with sides.
Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
“Wait,” I hear you saying, “what about the pretzels?
Funny you should ask.
I have a theory about pretzels; it’s part of my Grand Unified Snack Theory. Take a handful of pretzels. They’re fine. They aren’t exciting, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with them, either. Now, put them in a snack mix. They immediately become the worst thing in that snack mix. Sesame sticks, on the other hand, immediately become the best part of a snack mix. It’s a mystery of science.

Featured photo: Happy Thanksgiving. Courtesy photo.

Thanksgiving and beer

The ultimate day of indulgence requires the appropriate brew

Thanksgiving is the ultimate day of indulgence — savory gravy, delicious stuffing, buttery potatoes and vegetables, sweet and rich yams and flavorful roast turkey followed by a spread of sweet, rich desserts.

And you can’t just sip any old beer on the ultimate day of indulgence.

I sort of teeter back and forth when it comes to beer on Thanksgiving. On the one hand, the food of the day is so rich, so decadent and so carb-heavy that it’s almost a challenge to try to add a similarly rich and decadent brew into the mix — but richer, maltier brews work so well with the sweet, buttery foods that dominate the day. We’ve got ourselves a predicament.

On the other hand, I find that crisp, clean brews like Pilsners or bright, tart sours can cut through the fat a bit better, and that allows you to really focus in on the food you’re eating — nothing wrong with that either.

But you don’t want to feel like you held back on Thanksgiving, so how should we handle this dilemma? That is the question and I don’t have the answer because I’ve gone back and forth on what the best move is from holiday to holiday, and sometimes even from brew to brew.

With respect to these two competing narratives, I’d like to offer a few suggestions from both lines of thought to help you drink your way through Thanksgiving.

Carry On Bohemian Style Pilsner by Great Rhythm Brewing Co. (Portsmouth)

This is crisp, clean, light and so, so easy to drink. You can enjoy this without really having to think about it. This would be a nice choice during appetizers, or honestly, really at any moment on Thanksgiving day.

Georg Munich-Style Dark Lager by Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)

While this is rich and offers layers of complexity, what stands out to me is that it’s quite dry and easy to drink. I think you get some notes of toasted caramel that would do very well alongside a piece of warm apple or pumpkin pie.

Rye IPA by Stoneface Brewing Co. (Newington)

I haven’t tried this one but I’m intrigued by this brew, in particular because I think the bitterness and the earthiness from the rye would really cut through the richness of the day. The brewery indicates this beer is “bold and malty,” which is a bit different than your typical IPA. This one seems like a good choice on turkey day.

Pandora’s Kettle #4 by Concord Craft Brewing (Concord)

This Berliner weisse is tart, bright, and quite refreshing. Brewed with apple and cranberry, this is perfectly seasonal—and a great choice to sip with the meal or right after when you’re trying to give your belly a bit of a break. At 3.7 percent ABV, you can have more than one.

Vendel Imperial Stout by Kelsen Brewing Co. (Derry)

This is the one you grab when you just decide to go all in on Thanksgiving. This beer holds nothing back. It’s incredibly rich and creamy with big notes of chocolate and coffee. Savor this one slowly on the big day.

Working Man’s Porter by Henniker Brewing Co. (Henniker)

This is dry and robust but it’s also very, very drinkable, making it a nice choice when you’re embracing the decadence of the day but not trying to go too overboard. It’s that dry complexity that I think pairs quite well with Thanksgiving fare.

What’s in My Fridge
DDH Pulp Daddy by Greater Good Imperial Brewing Co. (Worcester, Mass.)
Wow. This one comes at you with hop ferocity. The brewery states that it is its hoppiest beer — double the hops of its little brother, Pulp Daddy (which is also quite hoppy, as is the youngest brother, Pulp). This is a hop-lover’s dream: a tropical juice bomb that pulls no punches. The dry hops adds another layer of complexity and freshness that really allows this beer to stand out. Cheers!

Featured photo: Happy Thanksgiving. Courtesy photo.

Pairing beer with food

The right beer can enhance any meal

Pairing beer with food shouldn’t be that hard — but sometimes it is.

You can get as in-depth with pairing beer with food as you can with wine. I don’t, personally, but similar to wine, the right brew can elevate the overall eating experience. But it doesn’t need to be complicated.

Especially as our palates turn to richer fare, comfort food and homestyle staples, you do want to think about your beer choices and how they might impact your taste buds. For example, I wouldn’t opt for a rich coffee stout with pizza and I wouldn’t choose a juicy New England-style IPA with apple pie.

I suggest spending a minute to think about what you’re going to be eating and what you’d like to drink. I don’t think you’ll need a chef or a sommelier to break it down for you. You’ve got this.

You want to think about what you want the beer to do for your experience. Do you want it to complement the flavor profiles of the foods you’re eating or do you want it to stand on its own?

Aside from Thanksgiving, which, wow, is just three weeks away, you’re probably eating a lot of chicken wings and chili while you watch football and you’re probably enjoying more roasts and stews as the weather has cooled. Thinking about chili and wings, both of which tend to have a little (or a lot of) spice, you’ve got a few options.

IPAs, in general, such as the Hazy Rotation New England IPA by Great North Aleworks in Manchester or the Damn Sure Double IPA by Henniker Brewing, tend to stand up to spicy food, without completely overpowering your palate. IPAs tend to be able to stand on their own more than other brews, but if the food you’re eating is more subtly flavored, IPAs can take over, so be careful.

Saisons can be a versatile choice for pairing with food — they’re often fruity and spicy on their own. They also vary greatly from brew to brew — just something to keep in mind.

Pilsners and lighter brews are just fine too, but I do tend to think you’ll lose their nuanced flavor in the face of spicier foods.

With a beef stew, I tend to move toward drier stouts, such as Irish stouts or American stouts, like Stout #3 by Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, that offer complex layers of flavor but without much sweetness. I’ll save sweeter stouts with notes of chocolate, fruit and coffee, such as the Black Cat Stout by Portsmouth Brewery or Stoneface Brewing Co.’s Porter with Chocolate & Cherries, for pairing with dessert.

Brown ales, like the Paradigm Brown Ale by Kelsen Brewing Co., are another nice choice for pairing with stews and roasted meats.

Thinking about Thanksgiving, you know the fare is going to be rich, sweet and slathered in gravy. With that in mind, I’m looking for something a little lighter, like a Pilsner or a fruity wheat beer, both of which allow you to appreciate the buttery goodness of mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie and mounds of stuffing — and also turkey. Another interesting option for Thanksgiving is to explore the world of sours — the tartness from sours can cut right through rich, fatty foods.

If you really want to get it right, ask the brewer or the beer expert at your local store. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what kinds of foods pair well with their beers.

What’s in My Fridge
Relic Twenty-8 Imperial Stout by Bent Water Brewing Co. (Lynn, Mass.)
I’ve been loving the stouts by Bent Water over the past few weeks, and the Relic Twenty-8 is another tremendous choice from this brewery. This is a perfect imperial stout that is rich, fruity and complex. A seasonal offering for the holidays, Bent Water makes this with toasted coconut and blackberries and those two flavors balance each other quite well. But I’m also picking up notes of dark chocolate and maybe a little coffee, too. This is decadent and, at nearly 12 percent ABV, a brew best savored during a quiet afternoon or evening by the fire. Cheers!

Featured photo: Kelsen Brewing Company’s Paradigm Brown Ale pairs well with richer foods. Courtesy photo.

Drink ’em now

Four beers to savor this fall

A few weeks back I sat dangerously close to a heat lamp in the beer garden at Loaded Question Brewing Co. in Portsmouth, sipping and truly savoring the brewery’s Coffee Tartan, a rich, aromatic coffee porter.

I sat with a couple friends and insisted they needed to try it too, offering my glass before remembering, you know, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and maybe sharing glasses isn’t the best idea.

The point is, I was excited about the beer, which featured huge notes of coffee and a silky smooth finish. Sometimes a stout or a porter features the subtle flavor of coffee, but this was closer to a cup of decadent coffee than it was to a beer — a true coffee lover’s brew. Loaded Question blends its standard Tartan porter with “specially made cold brew from Mule Kick beans.”

In addition to the Coffee Tartan, I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a number of extraordinary beers lately, and I would be awfully selfish if I just kept them to myself. For the greater good, here are four more beers I’ve enjoyed recently that I think you will too.

Farmhouse Noir with Raspberries by Stoneface Brewing Co. (Newington)

I must admit I stepped way out of my comfort zone on this brew, which is a lively dark saison featuring very tart raspberry flavor and a little dark chocolate too. This was just a really interesting, complex beer: pronounced tartness from the raspberries and a little funkiness coupled with more richness and decadence than I’m used to with a saison. You can sip this one slowly to appreciate its vibrance and its range of flavors.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout by Bent Water Brewing (Lynn, Mass.)

This is one of those beers where you take a sip and you have to ask, “Are you serious?” This is just a bomb of rich, luscious flavor. And this isn’t a case where you can just pick up the notes of chocolate and peanut butter; the peanut butter, especially, hits you right in the face both on the palate and on the nose. I could argue the coupling of chocolate and peanut butter is one of the best combinations ever created and I could point to this beer as exhibit A. This is your next dessert beer. Bent Water beers are sold in beer stores throughout New Hampshire.

Fresh Patch Pumpkin Ale by Wormtown Brewery (Worcester, Mass.)

I know, I complain about pumpkin beers every year, and now I have one on a list of beers I think you should try. On top of that, usually the pumpkin beers that I actually like tend to be stouts and porters and this one is anything but. And yet, I love this beer. It’s not super sweet but the pumpkin flavor does stand out in a good way, probably because they brew this with hundreds of pounds of local pumpkins. While they do add a spice mix to the brew, it is not overpowering like many other pumpkin beers, This is light, pumpkin-y and very, very easy to drink. This would be a great choice after an afternoon of yard work.

What’s in My Fridge
TEN FIDY Imperial Stout by Oskar Blues Brewing (Longmont, Colorado)

I really cannot say enough good things about this beer. This incredibly rich brew just overflows with flavors of chocolate, coffee and dark caramel. This is a big beer, coming in at 10.5 percent ABV, and it’s one you can slowly sip and savor hopefully next to a crackling fire on a chilly fall night. Come next month, Oskar Blues will release its coveted bourbon barrel-aged version of this brew, which just amps up the flavor another notch with warming bourbon and sweet vanilla. Cheers!

Featured photo: Boris is a decadent chocolate peanut butter milk stout by Bent Water Brewing Company. Courtesy photo.

Dark beer season is here

Stouts, porters and brown ales are on the menu now

That first cool night in September triggers something in beer drinkers, something almost primal, instinctual, thirsting for deep, rich flavors.

OK, I’m just being dramatic.

What I’m trying to say is, when it gets cold out, beer drinkers shift from the lighter brews of summer to richer, more robust beers, like, for example, stouts, porters and brown ales. A big imperial stout that has been aged in bourbon barrels just doesn’t pair all that well with a 90-degree summer day. But it does pair remarkably well with a cool, even chilly, fall evening.

I do think now is the perfect time of year to explore darker beers, beers that might take you slightly out of your comfort zone if you’re used to lighter fare or if you’re usually more focused on IPAs.

Stouts and porters offer layers of complexity, robust flavors but oftentimes a very smooth, easy-drinking experience you might not expect from a jet black pour.

And there is so much brewers can do with the stout style. You can age it on bourbon barrels or rum barrels or maybe even wine barrels. You can add vanilla or spice or pumpkin or actual coffee to the brewing or aging process to impart even more complexity, flavor and character.

603 Brewery’s Session Stout would be a tremendous choice for someone looking to explore the stout style. This has low alcohol, features an extremely smooth and creamy texture thanks to the addition of oats, and boasts overtones of chocolate and rich malt. Really, what’s not to like?

On the other end of the spectrum is Kelsen Brewing Co.’s Vendel Imperial Stout, which is a luscious stout brewed with locally roasted coffee featuring big notes of coffee and bittersweet chocolate. At 9.4 percent ABV, this is a slow-sipper you can savor over the course of an evening by the fire. If you’re not sure, split this one with people you really, really like.

For a beer with closer to a medium body, try Henniker Brewing Co.’s Flap Jack Double Brown Ale, which is a hearty brown ale brewed with locally sourced maple syrup for just a touch of sweetness. This beer is the epitome of fall. Brown ales, in general, I tend to find just more approachable, maybe simply because visually they appear a little lighter. Nutty and roasty, brown ales are perfect for this time of year.

A little different but still quite appropriate for the time of year, Throwback Brewery in North Hampton recently released its own barleywine, which features big malt character and plenty of sweetness. Barleywines have lots of alcohol and this one comes in 10.5 percent ABV so be ready, but you’ll be rewarded with a brew featuring big notes of caramel, toffee, toasted bread and warming alcohol, says the brewery.

Honestly, I could go on and on — the list of quality darker beers in New Hampshire is a long one. With huge coffee flavor, look for The Roast from Henniker Brewing Co. later this winter. The Robust Vanilla Porter by Great North Aleworks is a perfect choice for someone trying to explore the style. Stoneface Brewing Co. in Newington features a Barleywine Roasted Almond with caramel, toffee and light chocolate notes — wow.

Be honest, your taste buds are ready to shake things up. Now is the time to grab something darker. You’ll be rewarded with a cascade of complexity and deliciousness. You’re welcome.

What’s in My Fridge
Cosmic Distortion Double IPA by Mighty Squirrel Brewing Co.
(Waltham, Mass.) This beer comes at you in a good way. This has aggressive hop character and it’s loaded with tropical fruit flavor and aroma. The pour is a beautiful, hazy, deep yellow (if that’s a thing) and I find that in spite of all the hops and the alcohol — 8-percent ABV — this finishes quite smooth with a pronounced sweetness on the finish. Like everything else I’ve ever had from Mighty Squirrel, this is tremendous. Cheers!

Featured photo: It’s the season for stouts. Courtesy photo.

The many faces of chardonnay

Not all of these wines are buttery and oaky

“ABC: anything but chardonnay!” We have all heard it — a wine that is either loved or hated. But offer someone a glass of Champagne, and you get an entirely different response!

Grown in many different countries, the chardonnay grape may be considered the world’s most popular variety and perhaps the best and most versatile in terms of the array of wine produced. This grape produces a full-bodied, dry white wine, but its flavor varies dramatically from crisp and steely to intense and tropical, depending on where it is planted, and the wine-making techniques employed. The most intensely flavored examples come from California, Chile and Australia. In France, it is the main ingredient in the production of Champagne, and just south of the Champagne region, it becomes white Burgundy. France is known for Chablis, Meursault and Pouilly-Fuissé; in Austria, we find Morillon. It can be fermented briefly in stainless steel, oak and even in amphorae (clay, or concrete containers). In its various forms from still to bubbly, alone or paired to food it is consumed cooled, but not so cold as to lose its flavor. And, never ever with an ice cube unless it is poured into a punch!

Our first wine is a 2017 Silverado Chardonnay (originally priced at $34.99 and on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet at $19.99), an estate grown chardonnay from Los Carneros, a region just north of the San Pablo Bay that straddles Napa and Sonoma counties. The Carneros region benefits from hot days and cool nighttime breezes from the bay, producing this wine, a blend from two vineyards, that has complex citrus and tropical notes, along with apple and melon. The wine has a straw-yellow shade and is noted by the winery as 88 percent barrel-fermented in French oak and stainless steel before blending. This is a wine to be sipped or paired with chicken or fish.

Our second wine is from vineyards that are planted at 4,000+ feet high elevations in New Mexico. Gruet Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature (originally priced at $29.99 and on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet at $14.99) is a sparkling wine produced in the Méthode Champenoise manner, that is the same as how Champagne is made in France, a labor-intensive operation of double fermentation. Beyond the wonderful effervescence, the result is a wine that is completely opposite from the chardonnay discussed above. The color is the slightest of pale-yellow straw. To the nose it has notes of yeast, lemon and sweet toast. Across the tongue it is full with green apples and lemon zest. It pairs well with the fattiness of lobster and can double as a dessert wine.

Our next two wines are from France. The Maison Louis Latour 2018 Pouilly-Fuissé (originally priced at $24.99 and on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet at $20.99) is a Grand Vin de Bourgogne hailing from the south of Burgundy. Pouilly-Fuissé is the name of a village in the Mâconnais region producing this highly distinctive chardonnay borne from its limestone and clay fields. It has a green-gold color with aromas of melons and pears with the slightest hint of almonds. To the mouth it is full with dried apples along with a crisp acidity to the finish. This wine will pair well with shellfish and would do well alongside a charcuterie board.

The 2018 Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis (originally priced at $29.99 and on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet at $26.99) is also a chardonnay, but from the Loire Valley in Burgundy, a region where the soils are chalky limestone and full of seashell fossils. These soils impart a minerality not found in the other chardonnays. The climate and the unique soils of this region produces a wine that cannot be produced anywhere else. Its color is yellow gold with a hint of green. The nose is bright and with citric and floral notes which carries through to the mouth. It has a refreshingly unique presence!

Thus, the chardonnay grape above many other grapes proves to be incredibly versatile and nothing short of a chameleon depending on where it is grown or how the winemaker uses it to produce a wide palette of flavors to tease our senses.

Featured photo: Courtesy photos

Fine, you can have pumpkin beer now

Who knew pumpkin beer would be such a win?

I saw a reputable brewing company heavily promoting via social media their pumpkin beer’s availability in mid-August — without irony. Seriously. OK, what I’m trying to say is, they were trying to get me jacked up about pumpkin beer while I was in the middle of my summer vacation.

It didn’t work at the time.

And, OK, we’ve all seen pumpkin creep into our lives sooner and sooner each summer and we all have to acknowledge that we as a society here in New England sort of shift to fall overnight, so breweries kind of need to be ready with the pumpkin for that first cool night.

Now that the air is crisp and cool and downright chilly at times, I’m ready to consider the universe of pumpkin-flavored beer. It’s a universe that, to me, is almost diabolical in how hit-or-miss it is. For every one that tastes delicious, you have another that is sugary pumpkin syrup. In beer form, that’s not a good thing.

Enough with the snark; there is something pleasing, comforting and delicious about a well-balanced, spicy, slightly sweet pumpkin ale. First, of course, pumpkins are seasonally appropriate but if brewers are careful with the sugar, it just works really well. But it seems it is hard to amp up the pumpkin without amping up the sweetness.

The success of a pumpkin beer is in its subtleties. You want the aroma of pumpkin and spice. You want a lingering flavor of roasted pumpkin-y goodness but there’s probably a reason why you don’t just see pumpkin juice on the shelves of your local grocery store.

I tend to like a pumpkin beer on the heavier side, like a pumpkin stout or porter, such as Harpoon’s Imperial Pumpkin or a full-bodied Smashed Pumpkin Ale by Shipyard Brewing Co. I think the earthy taste of pumpkin pairs well with rich malts and deep flavors — that way the pumpkin adds to the complexity rather than overpowering the brew.

That said, lighter- and medium-bodied pumpkin brews like Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale or Roadsmary’s Baby by Two Roads Brewing Co. are also quite pleasing. Again, for me, their success is tied directly to subtle sweetness, rather than in-your-face sugar and spice. I do not go for the cinnamon-sugar rim — not because it tastes bad — but if you go that route, regardless of the brew, I just don’t think you are going to actually taste and appreciate the beer; the cinnamon and sugar takes over.

The good news is that you have a lot of choices to work with.

Homecoming by Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. in Merrimack is a nice choice that features big pumpkin flavor but without the sometimes dominating flavors of cinnamon, vanilla and other spices.

The Toasted Pumpkin Ale by 603 Brewery in Derry, on the other hand, is another great, unique and well-balanced choice that is aged on vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks. This one has a little higher ABV at 8.2 percent, which helps the beer stand up to a little extra sweetness from the vanilla and cinnamon. The pumpkin still shines through for sure.

Of course, then there’s the Southern Tier Pumking, which is big, syrupy, and sweet, and which I should probably hate, but I love, so go figure.

I think the message here is simple: Go out and explore pumpkin beers this fall and don’t get down if you don’t like one or two. Move on to the next one.

What’s in My Fridge
Sip of Sunshine by Lawson’s Finest Liquids (Waitsfield, Vermont)
I haven’t had this one in a long time so it was almost like being reintroduced to an old friend. This is just a wonderful brew. It’s juicy and hoppy with lots of floral aromas and tropical flavors. This beer just works any time. Cheers!

Featured photo: Courtesy photos

Ice cream and beer

Like a root beer float but with actual beer

I know, you can basically taste the pumpkin in the air right now. It is as if someone fired off a giant cannon filled with pumpkin spice the second September rolled around and now pumpkin flavor has permeated every nook and cranny of existence in New England.

Doesn’t matter where you turn: pumpkin.

I went to take the kids out for ice cream last week at a local spot and I know it’s hard to believe, but there was pumpkin ice cream on the menu. (And it’s quite good, OK?)

Full stop, though: This isn’t a story about pumpkin beer.

This is a story about the magic that occurs when you pair ice cream with beer. I’m not talking about beer-flavored ice cream. We’ll get to that at some point, too, I’m sure, but I’m talking about an ice cream float with beer.

This is a thing you can do. In fact, this is a thing you should do.

Am I saying you should take your $22 four-pack of some highly coveted double IPA and make ice cream floats with the beers? No. I’m not saying that and I feel like it’s more your fault that I had to say that.

This is where a malty beer is going to shine. Something like a Guinness would, of course, be spectacular, but you shouldn’t feel limited to that. I do want you to think about porters and stouts if you decide to go down this path — or a roasty, toasty brown ale, such as Kelsen Brewing Company’s Paradigm Brown or the Flapjack Maple Double Brown Ale by Henniker Brewing Company.

You can get creative. Have some fun with it. I love coffee stouts and porters and so I will take The Roast by Henniker Brewing Co. or or the Narragansett Coffee Milk Stout and pair them with coffee ice cream. Hello. That just makes sense to me and my taste buds appreciate it.

Same goes for chocolate lovers. Grab a Chocolate Milk Stout by Great North Aleworks or the Black Cat Stout by Portsmouth Brewery and pair them with vanilla or chocolate ice cream, or coffee ice cream, for that matter.

Milk stouts, which are a little sweeter and smoother, are another great choice for beer floats. Take a Left Hand Milk Stout and pair it with some quality vanilla ice cream. That same approach would work with drier stouts, like the RVP by Great North Aleworks or the Granite Stout by 603 Brewery.

I haven’t tried it but I see absolutely no reason why a bourbon or rum barrel-aged stout wouldn’t work here, like the RIS Bourbon Barrel by Stoneface Brewing Co. or the Zwart Bos by Throwback Brewery.

Really, it’s up to you. Think about the flavors you like in a beer (and in ice cream) and make some of your own magic. You’ll never go wrong using vanilla ice cream as your base, but coffee and chocolate ice creams can add a different dimension, especially when paired with a similarly chocolate- or coffee-flavored brew.

For that matter, take some of that pumpkin ice cream I mentioned and pair it with a pumpkin porter and, well, now we’re talking.

Procedurally, the process is simple. Take a frosty mug and fill it with the ice cream of your choosing. I mean, not the whole way but pretty close. Then, simply pour the beer — very slowly — over the ice cream. Grab a straw or a spoon or both and enjoy.

What’s in My Fridge
Subhunter Imperial IPA by Flight Deck Brewing (Brunswick, Maine)
This is an aggressive beer at 9.1 ABV, but it doesn’t drink like that. It even says that it’s “dangerously drinkable” on the can and that is 100-percent accurate. This is a really nice imperial IPA that is a little more malty than you might expect. This is one to seek out. Cheers!

Beach-time porters

Drink these beers now

Look, I know, when you think beach time and summertime, you don’t think about porters and stouts. I don’t either, except sometimes I do.

From May through September beer enthusiasts are drinking and talking about beers that are crisp, fresh, light and bright, and that’s great. I’m all for it. Most of the time in the summer, that’s what I want too.

You have to shake things up, though. You just do. Sometimes things just get a little too crisp and a little too bright, and nothing resets your palate in summer quite like a rich porter or stout.

Now, OK, I’m not suggesting that you crack open a Guinness at 1 p.m. on a blazing hot summer day at the beach. You’d regret that move. Not every day is a blazing, hot summer day at the beach, though. Especially in New England — though admittedly perhaps not this summer — you have plenty of days at the beach or at the lake or in the mountains where cool breezes stand out more than the fiery sun, so seize those moments and treat yourself to something a little richer.

Imagine taking in the summer sunset on a cool, clear New Hampshire evening with a decadent coffee stout. It’s truly hard for me to imagine something more relaxing and more satisfying than that. I want that experience right now and I think you should want it too.

This notion really came to me a week or so ago when I was on vacation enjoying a porter called “Portah” by Barnstable Brewing of Hyannis, Mass. The deep richness and complexity was unlike anything I’d drunk recently and it was invigorating as I, wait for it, took in the sunset at the beach.

Here are four stouts and porters you should try this summer.

Granite Stout by 603 Brewery (Londonderry)

This is big on chocolate and coffee and I really do think that’s what the doctor ordered. I think summertime is about enjoying something a little extra. Maybe you say yes to that ice cream run on a Tuesday night because it’s summer. Or maybe you have this decadent, delicious brew instead of the ice cream. (Or you have both.) At 8 percent ABV, this is one you can savor over the course of an evening.

Campfire by Throwback Brewery (North Hampton)

This is a smoked robust porter, which, yes, makes it the perfect accompaniment to a campfire or to hearty, grilled meats and barbecue, so says the brewery. This brew is in fact robust, but at 6.4 percent ABV this is much more palatable in terms of its heft than you might be thinking. You’ll pick up smoky notes for sure, along with pronounced rich malts, but again, neither is overpowering. In addition to grilled meats, I think this would pair well with a wide range of foods.

Draken Robust Porter by Kelsen Brewing Co. (Derry)

While the roasty, toasty malts are the defining characteristic here, I think you get a bit more sweetness on this one than you might expect. To that point, the brewery says, it has flavors of dark fruit and raisins, in addition to coffee, chocolate and caramel. This one has layers of complexity to appreciate and savor.

Black Cat Stout by Portsmouth Brewery (Portsmouth)

If you get this on tap, the brewery uses nitrogen, which produces a thick, rich, creamy brew boasting big flavors of chocolate and coffee. This one is pretty dry, and I mean that in a good way. I wouldn’t really refer to a stout as refreshing but this is very easy to drink and one I wouldn’t hesitate to order on a summer day or evening.

What’s in My Fridge
Things We Don’t Say by Wandering Soul Beer Co. (Beverly, Mass.)
This was tremendous. Just one of those beers that makes you say, “Yup. That’s real good.” This is a “New England Double IPA brewed with flaked oats, white wheat, and aggressively dry hopped,” according to the brewery. It’s got the citrusy burst that you want, coupled with a balanced finish — and not overly bitter. Find this one for sure. Cheers!

Featured photo: Don’t overlook stouts and porters in summer. Courtesy photo.

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