Tuesday, December 27, 2005

How the Curmudgeon spent his Christmas holiday.

The Curmudgeon has found time to drink beer during the past few hectic days, but just barely.

During full and tiring work days the week before Christmas and yesterday (ouch! I’m getting too old for the hoofing out there on the floor), there were limited opportunities to sample the Saturnalia listed choices, and of these, I have to go with the Stille Nacht from Belgium’s Dolle Brouwers as the best.

The keg we had was at least a year and a half old, and the transformation through aging of what is always a fine, strong Belgian was a source of wonderment. The rich and almost mead-like foundation was complemented by a gentle and appropriate oxidization, lending the familiar sherry notes and a pronounced nuttiness to the palate.

Similarly, the Kiuchi Hitachino Nest New Year Celebration Ale 2005 (spiced, funky eisbock) benefited from being held for ten months after release. It remains a strange recipe, perhaps a bit too busy in the end, but it is one worth trying while it’s here.

In the end, though some were better than others, and with the exception of the spoiled Gale’s Christmas firkin, there were no duds in the Saturnalia bunch, two-thirds of which are depleted after eight business days. Several remain in transit, and with luck we’ll have a modest second wave during the first week of January.

On the personal front, many of you know that Christmas Eve is the traditional shopping day for Kevin Richards and the Curmudgeon, and despite a slight work-related intrusion on Kevin’s part, we were able to fulfill our duties on Saturday morning for the eighth year running.

“Shopping” was completed by eleven a.m., which by a remarkable coincidence was the exact time when Bluegrass Brewing Company on Shelbyville Road in Louisville opened its doors to serve us house beer and chicken wings for an ideal bargain hunter’s Christmas lunch.

BBC pub brewmaster Jerry Gnagy’s Mephistopheles and Bourbon Barrel Smoked Porter were fine accompaniments to the spicy poultry, and took the edge right off the stressful (?) morning.

After a nice chat with Becca and Pat Hagan, we departed for the busy Bardstown Road corridor and a quick, predominantly self-aggrandizing DVD and CD sweep through Ear X-tasy before pulling up tall stools at tiny Cumberland Brews for Christmas visitation with the hard toiling Allgeier brothers and a few pints of brewer Matt Gould’s Scotch Ale and Pale Ale.

Near the end of our Cumberland session, former NABC brewer Michael Borchers came through to clink glasses, proving that great minds do, indeed, drink alike.

Kevin dropped me off and returned home to smoke meat for his family gathering, and I recouped in front of the espresso machine for an hour or two prior to Mr. And Mrs. Curmudgeon’s date at Maido Essential Japanese at 1758 Frankfort Avenue in Louisville.

You’ve already read shameless plugs for Maido in these pages, and please endure another reminder that if you’ve not visited yet, make it a point to plan an expedition very soon.

For novices like me, the cuisine is best understood as Japanese tapas, in the sense of numerous options (sushi, soup, kimchee … the menu runs for pages) for assembling a large meal from marvelous, differing smaller components, and it is joyously augmented with a varied and intelligent short beer list and a dozen types of Sake.

Speaking of Sake, and closing this report, I spoke with Jim Huie at Maido about the prospect of staging a Sake sampling at some point in the future. He’s agreeable, and it would make for an educational evening, so if you’re interested in a late winter or early spring field trip, let me know.

Photo credits: Filip Geerts, BBC website, Robin Garr and the Courier-Journal.

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