Before starting this article, I’d like to give a shout out to Krankies Coffee. I’m sitting here on their patio enjoying some beautiful North Carolina weather while sipping a delicious pour and munching on an apple butter biscuit. If you’re ever in Winston-Salem, you should give them a shot.
Wild Honey and Wild Yeasts
Brewing is a fantastic mixture of both artistic expression and various sciences. This mixture is what keeps me creating and pushing the bounds of my abilities. But once you’ve made beer out of probiotic capsules, what do you do next?
My first thought was how long has it been since I’ve been stung by a wasp and is this worth it? I’ll let you know once everything thaws, but I’m never one to be patient so to keep my pipeline of odd things brewing, I decided to give honey a shot. My logic being that honey is essentially bee vomit, and if it can cross-breed in such a terrifying creature as a wasp, maybe it can also cross-pollinate inside of our friends, the bees.
Craft distilling is the biggest thing to happen in the spirits industry since prohibition. In 2005 there were 50 licensed distilleries operating in the United States and in 2012 that number had climbed to 250. At first glance Middle West Spirits in Columbus Ohio looks a lot like many of the other micro distilleries that have opened in that time frame. Owned by a small group of dedicated young professionals who left (presumably) lucrative jobs in other fields to start a distillery, Middle West has the slick marketing, steep prices, and even the obligatory connection to moonshining that I’ve seen at a lot of other craft distilleries.
Once you get a little deeper into the distillery, you begin to notice the things that make Middle West different. Full sized barrels of their own whiskey aging in the corner. Sacks of grain from Ohio farms. Craft vinegar bottles ready for sampling.
Charlie and I visited with one of the owners, Brady Konya, to talk about what makes them different and recorded a great interview. We had a very interesting discussion and were even able to get a few samples of their products for review. So, here are my thoughts after being able to sit down with the Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka, an infusion made with local wildflower honey and fair trade vanilla beans.
OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka
OYO’s traditional vodka is made with 100% soft red winter wheat and is the flagship bottle of Middle West Spirits. They do two seasonal infusion with the vodka, a stone fruit and the honey vanilla bean. The base spirit is really important to the overall taste of the infusion so let me speak a little bit about what makes OYO vodka different. Most American vodka is very focused right now on being as pure and tasteless as possible which is one of the reasons I don’t really get that excited about vodka. But in direct contrast to this trend, OYO Vodka is very minimally filtered. The flavor of the grain, yeast, and natural sugars come through and it actually makes a vodka that not only has flavor, it is a really complex and pleasurable flavor. So when making infusions with OYO vodka you are not starting with a blank slate. Middle West has clearly been very thoughtful about which flavors to pair with the vodka and it shows.
And now for honey vanilla vodka itself. It has a nice body with a creamy mouth feel. The nose is sweet and floral with a clear vanilla scent. On the first taste the honey and vanilla flavors are there but they mingle nicely with more delicate notes of grass and almond. At 80 proof this is a true vodka infusion and the alcohol content is strong enough to stand up to the sweetness. The result is a peppery finish the leaves heat in the mouth but is nicely smooth going down. I really enjoyed sipping this vodka neat but the flavors would also lend themselves to mixing with citrus, pear, or coffee flavors in a cocktail.
If you want to try the Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka, I will be featuring OYO vodka and bourbon at the Local Beers and Spirits class I am teaching February 4th at Gorman Farms. I’d love to see you there and get your opinion of the Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka as well.
It’s been many a year since Christian Moerlein unleashed a brand new beer in full. Sure, the Lager House does special batches and cask offerings almost every week but the Zeppelin will be in kegs and bottles!
Here is Moerlein’s description from the bottle label so you don’t have to read that sideways:
You’ve made a discovery – a German-inspired Pale Ale lifted by creativity and crafted for the loffty flight of a Zeppelin. Christian Moerlein Zeppelin Bavarian Style Pale Ale showcases the characteristics of traditional pales, enhanced by the distinctive flavors and aromas of German noble hops. Pilsner and Munich malts provide a significant backbone balanced by delicate floral and fruity notes from a late kettle hop addition and dry-hopping. The result makes this Zeppelin constantly smooth and balanced in flight.
On this week’s episode of Bottoms Up, Charlie and I reviewed Domaine de Canton, a wonderful ginger liqueur from France. I was first turned onto this liqueur after having a Red Headed Stranger at Bakersfield and was so impressed I decided to go out and purchase a bottle for home. This is a very high quality liqueur that makes a wonderful bottle for both professional and amateur mixologists. It has a very clean flavor, lightly sweet and with a really wonderful ginger bite. What makes this liqueur different from others is that it is cognac based, dating back to the French tradition of making herbed elixirs with eaux de vie or cognac instead of wine or grain alcohol. Although ginger is the dominate flavor, the recipe also includes vanilla and orange blossom honey. Domaine de Canton has been well received by the critics since it was reintroduced with a new recipe in 2007. The liqueur won Double Gold Medal (Best of Show) in the herbal/botanical liqueur category at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Proof66.com designates Domaine de Canton as a “Tier 1” liqueur based on expert reviews. For tasting purposes on the show, I made Charlie a selection of cocktails using the liqueur, including a Dark and Stormier, a Red Headed Stranger, and one of my own creation that I have decided to call the Honey Buzz. It has a more gentle bite than the other two drinks and the combination of honey, ginger, and lemon are a proven winner. Try one for yourself.
The Honey Buzz
1 1/2 ounces Wild Turkey American Honey Bourbon
3/4 ounce Domaine de Canton
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled shaker, shake well and then pour into cocktail glass.
Garnish with twist of lemon and enjoy!