Hellfire II: Scorched meat, bitter brews

Warm weather finally is becoming a more regular visitor here on the East Coast. For the most part. Just as I’m typing this, our local weather forecasters are warning that the weekend might not be so awesome. Eh, what can you do?

But last weekend was a different story, and it was prime time for some grilling, something I love doing. And like a dork, I eschew gas grills, preferring the archaic charcoal method. Not sure why. I think’s it’s because I like the smell of burning charcoal. When it gets closer to fall, I use some beer-soaked wood chips too, making my backyard smell like a campground. I do cheat a bit, buying the easy-light coals that only require you ignite them with a lighter, because I don’t trust me with lighter fluid.

So, as noted, since last week was a nice one and we were rewarded with a stretch of warm, sunny weather, we decided it would be a fitting time for a grilling doubleheader: Steaks on Saturday; burgers on Sunday. Pretty easy, right? Of course, but also a ton of fun. We even took an extra-long drive out to the fairly new Settler’s Ridge Giant Eagle (a good 45 minutes from where we live) to buy some freshly cut steaks from the you’re-not-rich-enough-to-shop-here butcher shop. We made the sides simple, with baked potatoes, steamed veggies and baked beans. We were stupidly excited driving home, and I even buckled and didn’t make my wife listen to the new Batillus twice, instead mixing in new ones from Low and Marissa Nadler (hers is out in June, and it’s pretty different from her other work). We didn’t have anything special planned drink-wise, though I did pick up a few bottles of choice brew for Sunday, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

The only real problem with Saturday’s steak grilling was that we used Kingsford Match Light mesquite charcoal, and it burns like total shit. The actual mesquite chunks sort of chuckle at you when you try to light them because they’re total assholes, so it took some time to get the grill hot enough to make the steaks, and once it got to the right temp, it dropped pretty quickly. Usually I’ll grill each side of the steak 5-6 minutes, but I had to do them about 8 minutes each to even get them medium rare. They were fine – my wife likes hers pretty damn rare, so she was happier than I – but I won’t use the mesquite stuff again. We followed with strawberry cupcakes with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, so yeah, can’t really complain.

Sunday was a little better. After a nice 2.5-mile walk (where my wife decided we needed a detour to go see our friendly neighborhood greyhounds … good choice, by the way), it was back for more grill action. I put on Darkthrone’s “The Cult Is Alive” (am I the only person who doesn’t hate that album?) and lit up some regular, normal Match Light charcoal. Went up in a total blaze with no problem, and it heated up properly and maintained its temperature. We used simple ground sirloin and combined it with chipotle-seasoned sweet potato fries. My burger, pictured moments after I hastily took a bite, was topped with cheddar cheese and thick cuts of turkey bacon. Pretty damn fine burger, and I’m excited to have another go at it soon. Just probably not this weekend since we’re looking at a ton of shitty rain.

I did mention finding some beers at the Giant Eagle, and it’s one I haven’t had before. Southern Tier Brewing makes a ton of interesting brews, and you can research them at the link below. I’ve had their excellent Choklat Stout, a seasonal brew available in November through the winter. It’s a potent 11 percent ABV formula, and it’s a really sweet-tasting brew. Some people have complained it’s too sweet, but I didn’t feel that way. I’m actually sad I can’t find it again for many more months. But I was able to land their spring choice Jah*va Imperial Coffee Stout, itself 11 percent ABV. I love coffee-based beers a lot, especially strong ones, so I couldn’t wait to get these chilled so they could be consumed. And that said, I was a little bit disappointed. It’s bitter, which is a plus for me, and dark, and strong, but it doesn’t really have much of a coffee kick. Tried as I might, I could detect anything other than a pleasantly bitter beer wash. Eventually, I put in a splash of vanilla vodka, to see if maybe it would have sort of a creamer effect, and that DID work. It also fairly rocked me, as the beer’s already strong, and the vodka is 80 proof, so you know … I do have another bottle, and tomorrow night I’m going to give it another shot.

For more on Southern Tier and their 52,000 beers, go here: http://www.southerntierbrewing.com/beers.html

Not sure what’s on the menu for this weekend yet. We plan to do some Record Store Day shopping, and tomorrow we’ll have a preview of some of the metal goodies available Saturday. So come back! There’s a lot of quality releases coming your way, and I know I’ll return home that afternoon a little lighter in the pocket.

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