Virginia is for Chocolate?

So, anyone who has ever traveled up or down the east coast has made it through Virginia at least once or twice in their lifetimes and most people have seen the God-awful State slogan “Virginia is for lovers.” While Virginians may not have a knack for State slogans, I can attest that they make one of the best coffee milk stouts I have ever tasted. AleWerks Brewing Company, in Williamsburg, Virginia, makes this rich, smooth, chocolatey wonder called the Cafe Royale (ABV 8.0%).

I discovered the Cafe Royale while on a recent Christmas-time vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. You know the kind of trip I am talking about, right? The kind of trip that sounded good on paper but, after 15+ hours in a minivan with your in-laws, soon requires multiple strong drinks. One highlight of this particular trip was a “Wine versus Beer” tasting event, which served multiple small food samples and asked if the food tasted better paired with the selected wine or the selected beer. The Cafe Royale was served with the dessert course and it was the overwhelming crowd favorite.

From the Brewer

http://alewerks.com/admin_beer/uploads/glass_14.jpg
Image source: http://alewerks.com/

“We age a stronger version of our CoffeeHouse Stout in Virginia Gentlemen Bourbon Barrels for 3 months. This aging adds layers of complexity including notes of vanilla and Bourbon to this big coffee beer. 8% ABV”

STYLE:
Barrel-aged Imperial Coffee Milk Stout

My Tasting

This beer was served only slightly cold and had very sturdy, creamy foam. As shown in the picture from the AleWerks website, the color if very deep, dark brown and, although described as a coffee milk stout, was much more chocolatey and slightly sweeter than I expected. The aftertaste really brings the chocolatey, coffee-ness of the beer right into the back of your nose.

My best recommendation for food to have with this beer would definitely be dessert. I think it would pair well with chocolate anything, but would also pair nicely with vanilla ice cream, strawberries, or custard-based desserts (a good tiramisu or creme brulee, comes to mind).

Summary

As I am writing this post in mid-April, and had this beer in late-December, I can easily say this beer leaves a lasting impression. The flavor of this beer leaves a lingering taste in your mouth for long after the glass is empty, but leaves an even greater craving to have another one tomorrow.

The most unfortunate part of this tale is that the beer is only available in and around Williamsburg, Virginia; so, I will have to wait until the next time. Civil War road trip, anyone?!


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Crock Pot Easy-Cheesy-Pasta…

This was a recipe that I made up during grad school to feed a group of gaming friends.  So I was a lot younger and could stand the high calories back then.  Well not really, but I tell myself that.  It can evolve over time and there are many more like it out there.  A lot of variations in the ingredients so you can run with it yourself and or try new things yourself.

The Ingredients

Ingredients
Ingredients… Most of them.

Here is a list of the basic ingredients.  You can make or configure it how you wish.

  • Mozzarella Cheese – 3/4-1 lb shredded
  • 1 lb Firm Pasta – Elbow used this time but have used penne before
  • Pasta Sauce – Used the Packet & Tomato Paste this time but a Jar of pre-made sauce will work.
  • Diced Tomatoes – 1 can
  • Italian Seasoning – I like to add a little more than what comes in the packet or jar of sauce
  • Hamburger – 1 lb browned

Additional/Optional Ingredients

Here are some more ingredients.  Some I think should always be there but it is based on your taste.

  • Black Olives – 1 can, drained
  • Mushrooms – 1 small can, drained
  • Minced Garlic – Not really optional in my opinion
  • Sautéed Onions – 1/2 to 1 Medium White or Yellow Onion
  • Ricotta or Cottage Cheese – Cut back on Mozzarella added to sauce
  • Cheddar Cheese – Shredded, again if you use this cut back on the amount of Mozzarella
  • Crushed Red Peppers – To taste, add to sauce when cooking, I didn’t add this time because of House Mates

Equipment Used

I used the following:

  • Pot and Strainer for Pasta
  • Skillet for Hamburger Meat
  • Large Spoon for stirring/serving
  • Crock Pot

Cooking

This dish takes a some time to cook.  Mainly because of the time for the sauce to cook before adding all the rest of the ingredients.

Last Step, Heat & Eat
Cheese added to Crock Pot

First get the crock pot out and make your sauce in it.  If you are using the packet sauce, like I did this time, mixed up like the packet says.  Then add the diced tomatoes and hamburger to it.  If you are adding other ingredients to the sauce add those too (onions, garlic, olives, mushrooms, spices, not cheese).  You want the sauce to be a little runny once cooked.  So don’t worry if it does not thickened up.  That is a good thing.

Once the sauce has had some time to cook you will want to start the pasta.  Cook the pasta until just al dente.  You want to have it finish cooking in the crock pot and to absorb some of the extra fluid of the sauce.  Once cooked add it directly to the crock pot and sauce.  Stir the pasta into the sauce and let cook for about 10 more minutes.

Finally stir in most of the cheese into the pasta/sauce mixture.  You will want to keep enough cheese out to cover the top (see picture).  If you use something other than Shredded Mozzarella or Cheddar cheese you may want to stir that in at the same time as the pasta to let it have a little more cook time. Replace the crock pot lid and let it sit until the cheese has fully melted.  Once melted it is time to eat.

Toppings

I haven’t used many toppings in the past.  It is mainly come and eat it, give me a plate or bowl kind of food.  Here are some suggestions that you might like, if you want to add something a little more.

  • Bacon, ALWAYS BACON… I actually have never done it but crumbled bacon would be good on top.  It would give it an extra crunch that might be needed.
  • Parmesan Cheese – It is a pasta dish after all.
  • Green Onions – diced

Sides

You really need to eat some veggies with this as it is really heavy, lots of cheese and pasta.  So I would suggest anything you typically have with lasagna.

  • Broccoli
  • Salad
  • Green Beans
  • Garlic Bread
  • etc.

Summing It Up

My house mate love it and has pretty much finished off the leftovers.  It makes a lot so should feed a good-sized family, especially if you have sides.  So relax, don’t worry and have ABigBeer.  I would probably drink a crisp IPA with this.


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