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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Love Happy Hour - Hoppy Holidays: Christmas Beers that Add Cheer

Christmas is right around the corner and luckily, select breweries are getting in the holiday spirit too with special release beers. Tip: these seasonal selections would be perfect stocking stuffers! Since most of the listed brews below are only available for a limited time, hurry up and collect as many Christmas beers as you can before it's too late.

1. Sierra Nevada's Christmas Ale

Originallly brewed in 1981, Sierra Nevada's Christmas Ale is an IPA style beer with notes of pine and citrus. This Christmas ale has gotten great reviews all around and I would definitely spike my next roast with it. ABV: 6.80%

2. Samuel Adam's White Christmas

Samuel Adams is known for it's seasonal beer and its White Christmas beer is no exception. Not only do I love the movie White Christmas, but I also have a new love for this beer. Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel, this white ale even smells great. ABV: 5.8%

3. Anchor Brewing's Christmas Ale

Available from November to mid January, Anchor Brewing's Christmas Ale has a classic label design featuring the California White Fur drawn by local San Francisco artist, James Stitt (the label and recipe change every year). 2013's Christmas ale recipe is rich, dark and laced with spices. ABV: 5.5%

4. Gritty McDuff's Christmas Ale

Something tells me Santa wouldn't mind the occasional swap of beer for milk because he has plenty of designated drivers, right? Well, if you'd like to leave a Christmas beer for the man in the red suit, then Gritty McDuff's Christmas Ale is the perfect solution. Malty in taste, this well-rounded brew is already wrapped for the occasion with Santa's mug shot right on the front. ABV: 6.2%

5. Shiner's Holiday Cheer

If you are serious about holiday hops, then Shiner's Holiday Cheer beer is right up your ale alley. Holiday Cheer is a dark, wheat ale brewed with Texas peach and roasted pecans. The finish is slightly fruity and the nostalgic label warms my heart. ABV: 5.4%

6. Abita's Christmas Ale

From the same brewery that brought you Purple Haze, Abita now makes their own version of a Christmas Ale. Abita's Christmas Ale is is an American brown ale available in November and December and pairs great with holiday foods like gingerbread or spiced nuts. IABV: 5.5%

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nigori Sake: Sayuri by Hakutsuru

By: Maren Swanson

When I try something I don't like, my mind usually stays set. Listen, I am VERY open-minded. I will try almost everything once, but like Head & Shoulders says, "you never have a second chance to make a first impression." This is how I used to feel about Nigori Sake - until last week.

I hit up my local Gelson's the other day for wine and then had a sudden urge to switch it up. I drink wine all of the time and suddenly, my palette was crying out for something new. Beer, bourbon, vodka? No. Been there, done that. So, I decided to focus on sake and of course, the sakes on sale caught my eye. I glanced at the small batch of options on the shelf and kept returning to the same bottle: Sayuri.

Sayuri translates to "little lily." The bottle is frosted pink and splashed with flowers - so feminine in its design. And where had a heard that name before? Oh, right - everyone at the sushi joint I worked at asked me if we carried it and it was the name of one the geishas in Memoirs of a Geisha (I'm a big fan of the book and the movie). In a way, part of me felt obligated to buy it for all of these reasons.

Once I had brought my bottle home, I made sure it was extra cold before I tried it, and then I started reminiscing about my previous Nigori experiences. Nigori is usually referred to as "unfiltered" or "cloudy" sake and it tends to taste sweeter than most hot or cold sake on the market. Nigori is growing in popularity right now and many sake companies are even starting to make some of them fruit-flavored (strawberry, yuzu). It's texture and color used to throw me off (milky - catch my drift?), and I don't like my beverages too sweet so, I steered clear of it for a while - no pun intended.

Now to actually tasting the Sayuri! It wasn't love at first sip, but probably because my brain was a little confused - sort of like that time I kept taking my ex back. ANYWAY…I tried it again. And then again. The flavors weren't as sweet at the Ozeki Nigori (sold at almost every Japanese restaurant) I had tried before and the Sayuri Nigori sake had a unique texture with a fairly smooth finish. The sake also had a subtle dry feel to it with some light fruit tones. Event hough I wasn't completely sold on the Sayuri that moment, I ended going back to Gelson's the next evening for another bottle. Nuff said.

According to Hakutsuru's (Sayuri's Sake Brewing Co) website, Sayori is actually coarsely filtered and I discovered that it is gluten free too. Once you open the bottle, it should stay drinkable for up to 3 months in the refrigerator. If you are planning on purchasing a bottle or Sayuri or any Nigori sake for that matter, always shake the bottle before pouring so that the rice sediment at the bottle can disperse evenly and make it cloudy. If you usually play it safe as a sake drinker, I recommend stepping out of your safe zone and giving this Nigori a chance. Kanpai!