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Grilled Apricot Saison Shortcakes with Ginger Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Grilled Apricot Saison Shortcakes with Ginger Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Grilled Apricot Saison Shortcakes with Ginger Mascarpone Whipped Cream3

I have to show my cards when the very glaring hole in my beer resume is revealed the moment I am forced to admit that I don’t brew. I’m not a brewer, I’m just here for the beer. I’ll stick to what I’m good at and leave that to the pros. There is enough mediocre beer in the world without my adding to it. But don’t forget that every industry has more jobs that the Rock Star positions that get the focus. Music needs producers, PR people, engineers, designers, writers. So does beer. I’m not sure if I have the patience or disposition for the time, failure, cleaning, and re-working that brewing demands. I’ll contribute in a way that I can, and just spend my days imagining what I’d make if I get another chance to get behind a brew kettle with one of those pros.

Grilled Apricot Saison Shortcakes with Ginger Mascarpone Whipped Cream4

I always have a bit of a list of beers that I’d brewed if my imagination was able to take the solid form of a bottled beverage. Right now, I’d brew a Saison. I’d use matcha and peaches. Or apricots and butter. Can you brew a beer with butter? I have no idea. Yogurt, I know that’s possible. But butter? My talents don’t reach those avenues. But if you do brew, and you make a Saison with matcha and peaches, or apricots and butter, please let me know. I’ll want to get my hands on that.

Grilled Apricot Saison Shortcakes with Ginger Mascarpone Whipped Cream2

Grilled Apricot Saison Shortcakes with Ginger Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Yield: 8-10 shortcakes


    For the Shortcakes
  • 3 ½ (420g) cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
  • ¼ cup (65g) granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into cubes
  • ¾ cup (187mL) Saison beer
  • 1/3 cup (74g) buttermilk
  • For the Filling:
  • 12-16 ripe, fresh apricots
  • 1 tablespoon (16g) brown sugar, packed
  • 8 wt oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger, finely grated with a microplane


  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. In a processor add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
  3. Pulse to combine. Add the cold butter, process until well combined.
  4. Add the beer and buttermilk, process until just combined.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop about ¼ cup balls of dough onto the parchment, evenly spaced.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown and cooked through.
  7. Cut the apricots in half, remove the pits. Add to a preheated grill, grilling until grill marks appear, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, slice, add to a bowl and sprinkle with brown sugar, toss to coat.
  8. Add the mascarpone to a bowl, beat until light and fluffy. Add the heavy cream, beat on high until soft peaks form. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla and ginger, stir until combined.
  9. Split the shortcakes, fill with mascarpone whipped cream and apricots.
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Grilled Apricot Saison Shortcakes with Ginger Mascarpone Whipped Cream1

Chili Beer Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa + Best Summer Beer Tub Beers

20 minute dinner: Chili Beer Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Chili Beer Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa1

Stocking a beer tub for a summer party is as important as planning the food. Beer sets a tone and fuels conversation.  It’s as much about offering your friends their favorites as it is about introducing them to new ones.

 When planning the brew menu keep in mind the types of drinkers you’ve invited as well as how far you want to push their palates. Offer your guests safe choices, slight pushes in new directions, and a few more extravagant options for the fearless few who want to try something new.

Keep in mind that while you may be drawn to the bold punch of a triple IPA, don’t forget that long summer parties pair better with lower alcohol session ales to keep your guests (or yourself) from becoming a cautionary tale or a viral YouTube video. Keep most of your offerings below 6% ABV to help your guests stay in control.

Wheat beer: This is an important addition to your beer tub. The low hop profile is perfect for the "craft beer is too bitter" guy. Most wheat beer is very low on the bitterness scale and a common gateway for those new to craft beer. Wheat beer is also insanely drinkable and pairs easily with a wide array of foods.

Recommended: Allagash // White,  Bell’s // Poolside AleDogfish Head // Namaste , Widmer//Hefe, 21st Amendment // Hell or High Watermelon,

Pilsners: Pilsners are having a moment in the craft beer scene right now. Pilsners are about balance, no one ingredient takes center stage. They are hoppy but aren’t the hop bombing  IPA’s or the malt saturated Belgians on the other end of the spectrum. Pilsners are a crisp, drinkable introduction to hops with nice carbonation for summer drinking and burger eating. They are also the perfect way to show Macro Beer Guy that he might actually love a crisp refreshing beer that has a kick of flavor to it.

Recommended: North Coast // Scrimshaw, Breakside // Liquid SunshineVictory // Prima Pils

 Session IPA’s. Given that you’ll be the host for a mass beer consumption, you should be mindful of ABV. While many-a guest might scoff at the 4% brew, and feel a manly surge of testosterone when he cracks open a 12 % beast, you know he needs to get home intact. Session beer (beer that has less than 5% ABV) has so much flavor no one will miss the alcohol, or the obnoxious behavior as a result.

Recommended: Odell // Loose Leaf, Left Hand // Good Juju, Rogue // 4 Hop, Oskar Blues // Pinner, Fort George // Suicide Squeeze 

Classic Pale Ales. These are the standards, the beers that got us into craft beer. The ones that make us nostalgic and are easy to share. It’s hard to fill a tub without a few of these in the mix.

Recommended: Sierra Nevada // Pale Ale, Stone // Pale Ale, Oskar Blues // Dales Pale Ale

Sour & Wild Ales. Love ’em or hate ’em, sours are part of the conversation and a rapidly growing style in today’s craft beer market. Grab a few for your guests, you’ll never know who is going to love them, maybe even you.

Recommended: Odell // Brombeere Blackberry Gose, New Glarus // Raspberry Tart, Anderson Valley // Blood Orange Gose,

Chili Beer Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa2


Chili Beer Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup (36g) chopped white onion
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (6g) chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) cumin
  • ½ teaspoon (1g) smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon (0.5g) cayenne powder
  • 12 ounces wheat beer, or summer ale (not too hoppy)
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • pinch salt
  • ½ tsp red chili sauce
  • juice from ½ lime
  • 12 Good quality corn tortillas


  1. Add the olive oil to a pan over medium high heat. Cook the onions until starting to brown.
  2. Sprinkle the chicken breast on all sides with salt. Add to the pan, cook on both sides until seared. Sprinkle chicken chili powder, onion powder, cumin, and cayenne. Add the beer, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to maintain a simmer (do not boil). Cover with a lid, allow to simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  3. Remove chicken from the pan, shred using two forks. Return the chicken to the pan, allow to simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from pan, add to a serving platter.
  4. In a serving bowl add the pineapple, jalapenos, cilantro, salt, chili sauce and lime juice, stir to combine.
  5. Serve the chicken in the tortillas, topped with the salsa.
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Chili Beer Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa4

Holiday Ale Candy Cane Truffle Fudge

Holiday Ale Candy Cane Truffle Fudge. Only takes 10 minutes, and it’s crazy good. 
Holiday Ale Candy Cane Truffle Fudge. Only takes 10 minutes, and it's crazy good.

Winter ales make me glad it’s December. The frozen roads, crowded stores, jam-packed schedules are the price of admission to the best month of beer all year long. We still have some fresh hop beers from hop harvest that happened a few months ago, barrel aged beers are hitting the bottle shops in full force, and winter ales have showed up to join the party.

So…what is a winter ale? Glad you asked, and the answer is both really simple and completely complicated. Basically a winter ale is a beer released in November or December that has a higher than average ABV (about 7% or higher), often maltier and sweeter than your average beer, and features spices often found in holiday meals such as cloves, cinnamon, orange, and nutmeg. Of course there are hundreds of exceptions and many people consider barrel aged stouts (that really don’t fit that definition) to fall under the category of "winter ales." People call these "winter ales," "winter warmers," "holiday ales," or "christmas ales." They make excellent sharing beers due to mostly being sold in the large bomber style bottles and having a generous dose of booze for your pint. The flavors go incredibly well with holiday food, especially if you decide to serve duck or goose as your holiday feast.

Want to try a few? Here are some to look out for, in no particular order:

Freemont Brewing // Bourbon Barrel Abominable 

Highland Brewing // Cold mountain Winter Ale 

Ninkasi Brewing // Sleigh’r 

Widmer Brothers Brewing // Brrr Winter Ale

Hopworks Brewery // Abominable Winter Ale 

Sierra Nevada Brewing // Celebration Fresh Hop Winter IPA

Maritime Pacific Brewing // Jolly Roger Christmas Ale 

Tröegs Independent Brewing // Mad Elf 

Southern Tier Brewing // Old Man Winter 

Great Divide // Hibernation Ale 

Black Raven Brewing // Festivus Winter Ale 

Holiday Ale Candy Cane Truffle Fudge. Only takes 10 minutes, and it's crazy good.

Holiday Ale Candy Cane Truffle Fudge

Yield: 18-24 pieces (depending on size cut)


  • 16 wt oz dark or semi-sweet chocolate (chips or bar form)
  • 1/3 cup (102g) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • ¼ tsp (.5g) vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup winter ale, plus 2 tbs, divided
  • 2 standard sized candy canes, crushed


  1. Line an 8x8 baking pan with wax paper; set aside.
  2. In the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water add the chocolate, 1/3 cup beer, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir until well combined and chocolate is melted.
  3. Stir in the vanilla extract and remaining 2 tablespoons beer.
  4. Pour into prepared pan. Top with crushed candy canes.
  5. Chill until set, about 3 hours.


Note: weight ounces and fluid ounces are not the same. Weigh the chocolate on a kitchen scale to get an accurate measurement, or refer to the weight ounces listed on the chocolate package.

Note: If you don’t own a double boiler, place a metal or heat safe glass bowl over a pot of water. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Bring the water to a gentle simmer; do not boil.

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Holiday Ale Candy Cane Truffle Fudge. Only takes 10 minutes, and it's crazy good.

Coconut Pumpkin Ale Overnight French Toast Bake

Coconut Pumpkin Ale Overnight French Toast Bake

Coconut Pumpkin Ale Overnight French Toast Bake 1

Every interview, radio and TV, that’ve done the past two months has involved answering questions about pumpkin beer.

I told you about the harvest question incident already, and the problem with pumpkin beer. Beer people, for the most part, see this time of year as hop harvest season more than pumpkin season. Fourth quarter has some of the most incredible beer. We have wet hop, barrel aged beer, winter warmers, holiday ales, barley wines. There is so much to explore when it comes to beer. Pumpkin beer can be fantastic but the truth is if pumpkin beer disappeared tomorrow—never to be seen again—I’d hardly notice.

Pumpkin fanaticism this time of year grows to such a fevered pitch it’s hard not to be irritated but the fascination points to a growing trend: in-season produce. That’s good news. Although the obsession gets derailed by the a spice blend that contains no actual hint of the produce other than the name, the idea is still solid. We should do this more. We should lose our minds of blood oranges in January, infusing our beer and lattes as much as possible. We should freak out over apricots in June. We should await peach harvest every summer like a kid on Christmas morning. I’m hopeful these obsessions will continue, pushing us to focus more on the produce that just came out of the ground. Pumpkin, I’m hoping, is just the start of the produce loving snowball rolling down hill.

Pumpkin beer is a great cooking beer. Especially for those who would rather drink something else. Of course it’s strange to add beer to your breakfast, but you make this the night before when finishing the remaining beer from the bottle you open is a lot less strange. The yeast and carbonation give this a slight leavening effect, they way a beer cheese dip can have a soufflé texture out of the oven. The center will puff slightly and the bread will turn slightly puffy and creamy.

And you can pair this with coffee, pumpkin spiced or not.

Coconut Pumpkin Ale Overnight French Toast Bake 3

Coconut Pumpkin Ale Overnight French Toast Bake

Yield: 6 servings


  • 1 loaf (1 lbs) Challah or Brioche bread, cut into cubes
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 can (400 mL) full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup (226g) pumpkin ale, brown ale, or winter ale
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (122g) pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup (55g) brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) white sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp (6g) pumpkin pie spice*
  • ½ tsp (3g) salt
  • (maple syrup or whipped cream for serving, optional)


  1. Add the bread cubes to an 9x13 baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over the bread.
  3. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350. Bake until the top is lightly springy and appears to have puffed in the center, about 35-45 minutes.
  5. Slice and serve warm with whipped cream or maple syrup.


(*For homemade pumpkin pie spice 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground allspice)

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Pumpkin Ale Cornbread

Pumpkin Ale Cornbread

Pumpkin Ale Corn Bread1

There is a moment in the year that every food becomes both necessary and then irrelevant.

Ice cream becomes a necessity, and absolute brilliant idea, sometime around mid-May when the weather spikes up past 80 degrees for the first time in months. When the sweaters get shed like downy feathers, and scarves feel more like a noose than a comfort, a cold bowl of sweet creamy dessert feels like salvation. And then the tide turns. A few months later, a season and a half has past, and that shed outerwear becomes vital to survival and desserts become warmer and crispier.

Then there are those foods that never turn. There is no pendulum swing. They are always welcomed, always have a place on the plate.

This is cornbread. There are summer barbecues and paper plates sagging under the weight of sticky-messy ribs and baked beans, begging for the crumbly square of cornbread to take up the space in the corner. When the summer gives way to the fall you have steaming pots of chili. There are spicy, rich, beans-or-no-beans pots of fight-over-the-right-way-to-make-it bowls that are perfect for everything from football viewing to lazy Sunday suppers.

Cornbread is as season-less as beer. It’s always a good idea.

Pumpkin Ale Corn Bread5

Pumpkin Ale Cornbread


  • 1 ½ (242g) cups cornmeal
  • ½ cup (60g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (8g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (6g) baking soda
  • 1 (3g) teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (75g) brown sugar
  • 2 tsp (6g) pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup (244g) pumpkin purée
  • ¼ cup (66g) heavy cream
  • ¾ cup (184g) brown or pumpkin ale
  • 3 tbs (38g) olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 400 with a cast iron skillet in the oven.
  2. In a large bowl stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice.
  3. In a small bowl stir together the pumpkin puree, heavy cream, beer, olive oil, and eggs.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, add the butter. Swirl around the pan until the butter is melted and the pan is well coated. Pour the excess butter into a small bowl.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan in an even layer, pour the excess melted butter on the top.
  7. Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched, 16-18 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven, slice, serve warm.
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Pumpkin Ale Corn Bread2

Pumpkin Beer Bread French Toast and The Problem with Pumpkin Beer

Pumpkin Beer Bread French Toast -2

I’ll give you a quick and easy way to tell if your favorite pumpkin beer was made with fresh pumpkins or the canned version.

Release date.

It takes weeks to brew a beer, and pumpkins reach full maturity, ready to harvest and roast for brewing, sometimes around late August. Making those beers released in July nearly impossible to brew with fresh pumpkins.

Canned pumpkin isn’t even the issue. Several breweries successfully make very complex, well-balanced beer with canned pumpkin every year. The issue is more about the impact that the early release dates have on breweries that want to use fresh. The arc of pumpkin season starts so soon, due to the canned-pumpkin beers, that by the time the fresh-pumpkin-using-breweries releases their beer, the moment has passed when it really should just be starting. A fresh brewed pumpkin beer will arrive on store shelves, at earliest, in mid-September. A much more appropriate  time for a pumpkin flavored beer to be consumed. Unfortunately, at this point pumpkin beer coverage has been going on for months, making the release of fresh pumpkin beers seem like old news.

Pumpkin beer also ages well. For this I used a bottle of Rogue Pumpkin Patch ale from last year, made with pumpkins they grow on their farms, and it was even better this year than last. The flavors round out and have a deeper, more complex flavor. You can save this years pumpkin beers for next year, if you really jones for a mid-summer squash ales.

Maybe this doesn’t bother you, maybe you don’t mind a 100 degree, mid-July pumpkin porter. Or maybe you hate it. What can you do if this does, in fact, bother you? Make a bigger deal out of fresh brewed pumpkin beer, don’t buy any before middle September,  don’t post anything on social until fresh pumpkin beers have been released, and thank the hard working brewers that not only brewed you a pumpkin beer, they also grew, harvested and roasted those pumpkins.

pumpkin ale2

Pumpkin Beer Bread French Toast and The Problem with Pumpkin Beer

Serving Size: 4 servings


    For the Pumpkin Beer Bread
  • 3 cups (360) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp (4g) baking powder
  • 2 tsp (12g) baking soda
  • 1 cup (150g) brown sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp (4g) pumpkin pie spice (see note)
  • ¾ cup (225g) pumpkin puree
  • 8 ounces (226g) pumpkin ale (or brown ale)
  • For the French Toast:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extact
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Butter
  • Maple syrup for serving
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and sugar. Add the pumpkin puree and beer, stir until just combined.
  3. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour that batter into the pan in an even layer.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven, allow to cool completely before slicing, chill if necessary (beer bread can be made a day ahead of time, cover and chill until ready to use).
  5. Slice into 1-inch thick slices.
  6. In a wide, shallow bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, brown sugar and salt.
  7. Add the slices, a few at a time, allowing to soak for one to three minutes.
  8. Preheat a skillet or griddle to medium high; melt a pat of butter to coat the surface (continue adding butter between batches when the pan looks dry).
  9. Remove the slices from the batter and allow excess to drain off.
  10. Cook in the hot pan until golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes per side.
  11. Serve topped with maple syrup and pecan pieces.


Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice: 2 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, ½ teaspoon ground ginger

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Blackberry Beer Cheesecake Tart

Blackberry Beer Cheesecake Tart

I’m sitting at a bar in Bogota, Colombia, communicating the best I can through broken Spanish. Laughing with several kitchen’s worth of chef’s, trying to convince them that, even though I nearly passed out from the altitude, and I’m in fact, not pregnant. They motion with their hands to create invisible fake bellies, then laugh. They point at my beer, "No, no! No good for baby!" we all laugh.

I’d spent most of the week with them, redoing the menus at the Bogota Brewing Company's pubs. A trip that I can’t wait to tell you more about, a trip that was nothing short of life changing. I’m sitting at the bar, finishing a Champinero Porter, one of the best porters I’ve had in a long time and I think about the choices I’ve made that lead me down this rabbit hole. I must have done something right. I’ve made strange choices in my life, some terrible, some mediocre, some harmful, but I must have done something right. Grateful isn’t a strong enough word. I can’t find the right way to express how I’m feeling, not in English, certainly not in Spanish. So I finish my beer, laugh at the implication that I’m pregnant, hug them all and thank them. It’s been an incredible trip, an unforgettable country, and outstanding people.

Blackberry Beer Cheesecake Tart--4


Blackberry Beer Cheesecake Tart


    For the cheesecake tart:
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 24 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 2 tbs corn starch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup saison beer (or wheat beer)
  • For the blackberry layer:
  • 3 cups (12 wt oz) blackberries
  • 1 cup saison (or wheat beer)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Add the blackberries, saison, powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt to a pot over medium high heat. Bring to a low boil, stirring frequently until thickened, about ten minutes. Set aside.
  3. Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Line a 9-inch spring form pan, letting the less hang over the sides. .
  4. Beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla, beating until well combined. Add the flour, cornstarch, salt and beer, stir on low speed until well combined.
  5. Add to the spring form pan in an even layer.
  6. Pour the blackberry sauce evenly over the cheesecake layer. Fold the excess puff pastry over the top of the tart.
  7. Bake at 300 for 1 hour or until the puff pastry is golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours and up to over night.
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Strawberry Jalapeno Beer Popsicles + A Craft Beer Whitewater Adventure


Strawberry Jalapeno Beer Pops-4

I’m in the middle of class 4 rapids, the yellow raft I’m in is pinned on the right side to a giant boulder, the impossibly fast current is rushing over the left side of the boat and the raft is quickly submerged. Seven of us are waist deep in cold water, trying desperately to free ourselves, knowing if the boat flips, or if any of us are tossed out, it could be fatal.

Oars rafting
“LEFT SIDE! BACK! BACK!” Our guide, known only to us as Iowa, is screaming directions at us. As the man in charge of getting us safely down the Tuolumne River, we do everything he says without thinking, hoping it works.


Jake, the firefighter from Ventura, jumps to the back of the boat, at the same time pushing hard against the boulder in an attempt to free the submerged raft. It works. With a sickening scrape, we feel the raft free itself. We slide backward down the rapids, pinging off several boulders before finding calm water and we all start to breathe again.

“Awesome job team, awesome job!” The smile has returned to Iowa’s face. “You guys are awesome.”

One mile down, seventeen to go. Let’s do this.

Oars trip 3

8 miles and dozens of rapids later we stop to set up camp on a remote river beach tucked away in the woods of Northern California, a short distance from Yosemite. I’m joined on this two day adventure by two guys from Sierra Nevada brewing, a mother and her two children on a memorial trip to honor the Patriarch of the family who passed away exactly one year earlier, a bachelor party of 7 guys up from Ventura California and two chefs from one of Northern California’s hidden gems, The Arnold Pantry. In so many ways, the perfect mix of people. Friendly, laid back, and all with their own story to tell. The ice chest with cold beer is opened up and two of the four kegs packed onto the gear boat by the Sierra Nevada crew are tapped and we all start to loosen up. It’s beer that has been hard-earned and tastes fantastic.

oars trip 4

I jump in the make-shift kitchen, set up with a little more than a camp stove under the trees, to give Chip and Jeff a hand. While I’m immersed in cooking tasks, slicing bacon Chip spent three months making and peeling black garlic, the guides have set up a beautiful dinner scene, complete with candles and tablecloth covered portable camp tables. It’s gorgeous. The sunset is throwing silvery shards of light down a calm stretch of river bent around the beach we’ve claimed as camp for the night.

After the appetizer of house-cured bacon, black garlic and yellow tomato jam on turmeric avocado toast, our dinner is served to us by raft guides turned wait staff. Crispy pork belly over risotto and pickled asparagus, with a side salad of compressed watermelon and cucumber with feta and candied pecans. For dessert, there is a biscuit bread pudding with hand-whipped cream and sweet pickled cherries. Even if you were expecting more than hotdogs and store-bought marshmallows, you’d have been blown away. Even if you hadn’t spent an adrenaline packed day dodging boulders and trying to stay afloat, it still would be one of the best meals you’ve had all year. Add in the events of the day, the keg of beer just a few feet away, the gorgeous moonlight and the sound of the river, and it becomes magical. That’s the word for it: magical. We spent the rest of the night by the campfire, trading stories and failing in our attempt to drain the kegs.

Oars rafting 2

By the time daylight rose over the mountains and we were served French toast with orange cream sauce, fresh berries and hot coffee, we felt like a small gang. Ready to tackle what the river had to serve us. Ready for another day of thrills, rapids, and laughing. And when that day finally came to an end, it felt too soon. It felt like we needed another keg, more spectacular food and more conversation.

I’m ready to go back.

For more information about the craft beer rafting trips, contact OARS. I highly recommend it.


Strawberry Jalapeno Beer Pops-1

Strawberry Jalapeno Beer Popsicles


  • 1.5 lbs strawberries
  • 1 large (or two small) jalapenos, sliced
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 12 ounces pale, summer ale or Pilsner (I used Sierra Nevada Summerfest)


  1. Add all ingredients to a blender, blend until smooth, allow the mixture to settle until the bubbles go down, about 15 minutes.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds. Freeze until set, about 3 hours.
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I was not compensated for this post, I was given a free trip without expectation or obligation. All opinions are my own.

Peach Ale Crème Brulee Tart & Let’s Talk about Peach Beer

Peach Ale Crème Brulee Tart & Let’s Talk about Peach Beer

 Peach Ale Crème Brulee Tart -1

A craft brewers excitement for the changing of the seasons and the new crop of fresh produce to play with rivals even the most innovative chefs. Mention fruit beers just a few years ago and the collective groan from most beer lovers was audible across the country.

Thanks in part to the overwhelming excitement that accompanies Pumpkin Beer Season, the inclusion of produce in the brewing process is just as exciting as it should be. We are starting to recognize that there is life beyond the orange squash.

Peach beer season ushers in spring and a gorgeous crop of beers that run the spectrum from sour brett beers to dark roasty porters. As fun as it is to play with the pumpkin beers, I’ve been rather seduced by the variety of beer peach season has to offer. And yes, Budweiser, we will keep our Pumpkin Peach Ale, you can keep your Beer Pong Lubricant.

Peach Ale Crème Brulee Tart P

Odell sent my their new Tree Shaker Peach IPA for a test drive. I love it. It’s beautiful, hoppy, and with just a hint of peach. Insanely drinkable and perfect for the summer that should already be here. Here are a few other beers to sample, some are huge peach monsters, and some lend a subtle hand. Sample a few, see what you like, and don’t forget to share. Long live innovative brewers and fresh produce.

Peach Ale Crème Brulee Tart -2

(In no particular order)

Odell // Tree Shaker IPA: nice carbonation, tropical citrus notes, big hop flavors and a very subtle hint of peach.

Terrapin// Maggie’s Farmhouse: Beautiful farmhouse ale, earthy, grassy and a nice peach flavor that’s very present but not overpowering. It’s malty but not overly sweet.

Dogfish Head // Festina Peche: It’s not possible to talk about peach beer with out this one being mentioned. It’s the Pumpking of peach beers. Many-a craft beer lover celebrate the day it hits store shelves. Year to year the peach profile changes, from big-in-your-face to subtle and understated. It’s a tart but low hop Berliner Weissbier that should absolutely be in your beer cart this spring.

Cisco Brewing // Pechish Woods: A sour that’s rounded out with some aging in a nice oak barrel. The peach is nice, present, but not overwhelming and beautifully balanced.

Logsdon Farms // Peche n' Brett: Possibly the highest rated peach beer as of yet. A saison aged in oak barrels with a complex flavor that demands appreciation. If you can find one, grab it.

Great Divide // Peach Grand Cru: A beautiful malty Belgian ale that gives you a nice kick of sweet peach flavors. A perfect addition to an evening dinner party on the patio.

Peach Ale Crème Brulee Tart


    Tart Crust:
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbs ice cold beer
  • Filling:
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • ½ cup peach ale
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar for brulee crust topping


  1. Add ¾ cups of flour, salt and sugar to a food processor, pulse to combine. Add the butter and egg yolk, process until well combined and dough gathers around the blade.
  2. Add the remaining flour and pulse 6-8 times or until all the flour has been coated.
  3. Transfer to a bowl. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the beer until completely incorporated into the dough. Dough will be very soft.
  4. Lay a long sheet of plastic wrap on a flat surface.
  5. Place the dough onto the plastic wrap, form into flat disk.
  6. Wrap disk tightly in plastic wrap, chill for 1 hour and up to 3 days.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350.
  8. Roll the tart dough into an even circle on a lightly floured surface. Line a tart pan with the crust. Prick bottom of the tart with a fork several times, adding pie weights if desired.
  9. Bake at 350 until lightly golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool.
  10. Lower oven to 300.
  11. Heat the cream and vanilla in a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook just until its bubbly around the edges but not boiling. Remove from heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
  12. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, and 2/3 cup of sugar. Whisk until frothy, about 3 minutes.
  13. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the cooled cream mixture until well combined. Whisk in the beer until well combined.
  14. Pour into tart shell. Transfer to the oven, bake at 300 for 40-45 minutes or until the edges are set and the middle is still slightly wobbly.
  15. Remove from oven and allow to cool, at room temperature, about 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator until chilled, about 4 hours. Right before serving, cover the top of your set custard with an even, thin layer of sugar (about 2 tablespoons). Slowly run a culinary torch over your sugar until it melts and turns an amber color.


Don’t brulee the sugar until you are ready to serve. After about an hour of sitting, the sugar will start to liquefy.

Slow Cooker Mushroom Winter Ale Chicken & What is a Winter Ale?

Slow Cooker Mushroom Winter Ale Chicken -1

What is a Winter Ale?

This is the time for generalities. With the Winter Ales, these seasonal favorites, it’s essential. Because you can get specific, and even technical with other beer styles, but the vast spectrum that these beers run along won’t allow for strict categorization. Winter ales are often what’s called an Old Ale, a rich amber-colored malty ale with an above average alcohol content. But of course, that’s frequently not the case. Winter ales can be stouts, Belgians, brown ales, and even IPA’s.

ABV (alcohol by volume) is a bit of a commonality among these late-in-the-year beers, most of which have an ABV around or above 8%. But, here we are again with the discrepancies. Winter Ales can be as low as 5% and as high as 20%.

Flavor seems to be the best way to round-up these beautiful beers, most of them taste like the holidays. Winter warmers (as they are often called) most commonly have flavors of cinnamon, cloves, figs, dates, nuts, toffee, and chocolate. Most are malty and low hops, but there are of course outliers, some of these beer will give you all those holiday flavors you love while still kicking you a big hop flavor, like this Abominable Winter Ale from Hopworks Beer. It’s pretty perfect for those of you IPA loving hop heads that still want to get into the Christmas Beer spirit.

So, in summation, Winter Ales are mostly Ole Ales, with a higher ABV, malty, with flavors of nuts and spice. But they can be IPA’s. Or stouts. Or have a 6% ABV. To clarify, a winter ale is whatever the brewer wants it to be, and if you’re smart, you’ll just drink it without asking too many questions.

Slow Cooker Mushroom Winter Ale Chicken



Slow Cooker Mushroom Winter Ale Chicken


  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped white onions
  • 8 wt ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh sage
  • 3 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup winter ale (or brown ale)
  • 1 tbs brown sugar (omit if using a low hop, malty beer)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan over high heat.
  2. Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear chicken on both sides in a hot pan until browned (chicken will not be cooked through).
  3. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, stir in the onions, cook until browned. Add the mushrooms, rosemary and sage, cook until darkened and softened.
  5. Sprinkle with flour, stir until combined. Add the chicken broth, beer, and brown sugar, scraping to deglaze the pan. Pour the mushroom mixture over the chicken, stir to combine.
  6. Cook in a slow cooker on high for 4 hours or until chicken shreds easily with a fork. Salt and pepper to taste. (if sauce doesn't thicken as much as you like, add to a pan over medium high heat, simmer until thickened.)
  7. Serve over rice or pasta.


Slow Cooker Mushroom Winter Ale Chicken

Pumpkin Ale Farro Roasted Asparagus Pomegranate and Goat Cheese Salad

Pumpkin Ale Farro Roasted Asparagus Pomegranate and Goat Cheese Salad 

Pumpkin Ale Farro Roasted Asparagus Pomegranate and Goat Cheese Salad

Somehow I ended up being the girl who brought salad to Thanksgiving. Not my usual holiday offering. Spending the holidays in an unfamiliar city and not being the host for the first time in forever drove me to beer up a salad. Maybe it’s caused by the stir-crazy-work-from-home madness that’s set in, a fall that’s actually cold, or the life I’m living that looks almost nothing like it did a year ago, but beer in a salad made everything seem right. I needed a little familiarity in my world, and all of my favorite salads contain pomegranate seeds and goat cheese. You can even forget the fact that this salad is red, green, gold and white, making it more festive than it should be allowed to be for a holiday salad. This is a season for indulgences: barrel aged beers, cakes, fudge, cookies, and pie. With all of these perfectly fantastic holiday foods, I give you a salad. But rest assured it’s a damn good salad, and with beer infused grains, it definitely  made the naughty list.

Pumpkin Ale Farro Roasted Asparagus Pomegranate and Goat Cheese Salad

Pumpkin Ale Farro Roasted Asparagus Pomegranate and Goat Cheese Salad


  • 1 cup whole farro
  • 12 ounces pumpkin ale
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 lbs asparagus, tripped and chopped into 1 inch sections
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tsp pepper
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 3 wt oz goat cheese


  1. Add the farro, beer, and broth to a pot over medium high heat. Bring to a low simmer. Simmer until farro is tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain off any remaining liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Add the asparagus to a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat.
  4. Roast asparagus at 400 until fork tender, about 8-10 minutes (less for thin asparagus, you still want some firmness, it’s best to under cook rather than overcook).
  5. Add the farro, asparagus, remaining ingredients to a bowl, toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.


Pumpkin Ale Farro Roasted Asparagus Pomegranate and Goat Cheese Salad