Remembering the first beers of the year

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It’s been a great year for beer.

I have had some streaks of busy tasting and other weeks where I just took it easy.

Right now, I am unsure how the year will end, but I remember how it started.

On New Year’s Day, I took a quick ride to Union Jack’s, which is in Douglassville, Pa., the town my sister lives in and had two beers, but my were they serious beers. I had one of the grails, the Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA. You may have heard of the 60 or 90 versions, but in this one, the hops are added to the boil for two solid hours. It has a ridiculously high Alcohol By Volume of 18 percent (think Budweiser  at less than four). But I love it, because I am big into high-alcohol beers and the whole hop thing. They pour it in a nine-ounce glass, because of the alcohol.

The first beer of that afternoon was one of my all-time favorites, the Southern Tier Imperial Pumking, my favorite pumpkin beer out of about 30 I have had. This was the oak-aged version, and I found that made it much more mellow and easier to drink. I actually had to slow myself down, because it was going down so easily.

Union Jack’s is a really neat place, because it combines the feel of a hometown bar — and serves Budweiser and other products — with a quality, high-end beer bar. Knowledgable staff, nice folks.

Recipe Monday: Beef, Stout and Cheddar Stew

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It’s ambitious, but I would like to start a weekly feature of beer recipes.

I have a couple in the bank, but I could really use your help if you have something to send in.

Here’s my all-time favorite beer-related recipe.

Beef, Stout and Cheddar Stew

This one’s from my friend George, who is a professional cook, and therefore finds a recipe that requires a hunk of cooked roast beef or prime rib to be an ordinary thing.

 Ingredients

3 to 4 pounds of roasted beef (i.e. leftovers!), cut into chunks

(Of course, you can just make a roast beef to use for it)

2 to 4 whole cloves garlic. Cut up.

1.5 pounds. cheddar cheese cubes. I think the sharper the better works.

Three pressurized cans Guinness or other stout (Murphy’s, Beamish, etc), room temperature but unopened. (You get to drink the fourth).

Two large onions of your choice, diced

Salt and pepper

Personally, I add oregano and a couple of bay leaves

Steps

1. Put cooked beef chunks, garlic and seasonings into pot, adding just enough water to almost cover.

2. Bring to boil, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add more water a little at a time to keep from running dry.

3. Remove meat from water and let cool, then pull apart if possible or cut into very small pieces. Discard any visible fat.

4. Return meat to broth in pot and slowly add stout, foam and all. Add onions if you like them.

5. Bring to a boil, then set on lowest heat or place in crock pot on medium high setting.

6. Add cheese cubes and stir to mix in.

7. If simmering on stovetop, simmer for about one hour, stirring frequently.

8. If using crock pot, after the initial stir, let alone for one or two hours then stir before serving.

9. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

NOTE: Even if you skim the broth ahead of time, the cheese will cause a layer of fat to form on top. Skim or not, your choice. This will get VERY hot, so eat carefully.