Sunday, November 10, 2013

Blue Point Brewery Tour + Uncle George's Local Mussels in Beer

Oatmeal Stout fresh from the brewery, Photo: NK
Don't you just love it when a plan falls into place? Actually ... never mind.

Let's try this again:

Don't you just love it when you can work BEER into your plans?

Yeah, that feels right. 

This very thing happened to us a few weeks ago when a random errand brought us to Patchogue, New York. What joy was ours when my intrepid husband remembered that Patchogue is also the site of Blue Point Brewing Company - a place we'd been talking about visiting forever. That guy continues to surprise me ... and he sure knows how to entice me into chores as well! 

Beer Tasting at Blue Point Brewing Co! Photo: NK

Our little tasting session and brewery tour was a blast. Blue Point tasting room is kinda like visiting your best friend's basement - if said basement was filled with tasty beers, cool t-shirts and other merch, a fridge full of freshly filled growlers, and a super friendly staff of knowledgable beer mavens. 

Now, wait for it ... you can taste three kinds of beer FOR FREE. Seriously, how friendly can you get? 

Sufficiently buzzed from a tasting of Blue Point Oyster Stout, Oatmeal Stout, and the limited release "Wet Hop Experiment," it was the perfect time to take a little tour of the facilities. While most of the production of Blue Point beer takes place in Upstate New York, there's still some action at their original Patchogue hub, and we got to see it all. Michelle, our tour guide, was both funny and adorable. She shared a wealth of information on Blue Point's origins, as well as on brewing in general. Among the many facts we picked up (like that home-brewing was illegal until Jimmy Carter legitimized it - thanks, Prez!), I learned that hops are related to the marijuana plant (no comment:)) and that for much of the past century, the crop of hops that had been readily available in the Northeast were blighted by disease, which is why most of today's brewers ship their hops from the West Coast. 

The good news is that our Northeastern soil is starting to bounce back, and as a result, the future looks brighter for locally sourced hops. Want proof? Look at the autumn crop that my BFF, Natalie (one of the original urban farmers for the better part of the last decade), grew at her parent's gorgeous farm in Pennsylvania: 

Black Krim Tomatoes, a Red Pumpkin, Chilies, and Dank Hops (foreground)
Grown By & Photo By: Natalie Brickajlik

She's talented, what can I say? 

Upon leaving the brewery, my head was spinning. For the usual reason, to be sure, but also, for others; all I could think about was cooking with beer, preferably Blue Point Beer. And then, just like that, an opportunity presented itself:
Toasted Lager, Photo: NK

I returned to our weekend home to find that our neighbor had stopped by to drop off some freshly harvested Mussels that he plucked from the local bay. Using what I had on hand, and of course, some widely available and uber drinkable Blue Point Toasted Lager, I came up with the following recipe that I hope you'll enjoy. 

Very special thanks to my Uncle George and his wife, my Aunt Freddie for being super sweet and thoughtful - the mussels were delicious and the freshest I've ever had. I hope I did them justice. Enjoy the recipe!

Spicy Mussels Cooked in Blue Point Toasted Lager and Thai Chilies + Lime and Cilantro, Photo: NK 

Uncle George's Local Mussels Cooked in Toasted Lager
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a light appetizer

2 Pounds fresh scrubbed and debearded Mussels
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1/2 a large White Onion, chopped
2 large Garlic Cloves, sliced
1/2 cup Cilantro, roughly chopped, plus sprigs for garnish
8 Ounces (2/3 bottle) Blue Point Toasted Lager (or other dark beer)
3 dried Red Thai Chilies,(or other) finely chopped (discard seeds if you don't like extra spicy)
1 Tablespoon Lime Juice 

1. Heat butter in a very large pot over medium-low flame. Next, add the garlic and sauté until slightly golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes, taking care not to burn.

2. Add the chopped onion and sauté another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add the beer and chilies and turn up the flame to medium to bring the liquids to a boil. 

4. Put the mussels in the pot, cover, and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes. 

5. At this point, mussels should begin opening. Remove them from the pot one by one as they open and place in a large, communal serving bowl. Take care to remove them as they open so they do not become tough. Discard any mussels with broken shells or those that have not opened in a reasonable amount of time. 

6. Add the tablespoon of lime juice to the broth remaining in the pot. Taste for seasoning and add a tiny bit of salt and pepper if needed (mussels should have plenty of natural saltiness already so taste before you add!). Pour the broth over the mussels and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve immediately and enjoy! 

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