The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Introducing Collaboration 29

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Though rarely made explicit, an underlying theme of this site’s content is community collaboration. The Charlottesville 29 exists, after all, to celebrate the Charlottesville food community. And, perhaps the defining characteristic of our food community is that it is in fact a community. While cutthroat competition can plague food cultures of other cities, Charlottesville, warts and all, is different. “The community really does function in an interconnected way,” Splendora’s PK Ross once explained. “And that has so much to do with the love that everyone has for what they are doing.”

I see this each week in Five Finds on Friday, when one member of the food community rejoices at the chance to showcase others. I see it in the way that the success of one stands on the shoulders of so many others. I see it in help the less fortunate among us receives to lift themselves up. I see it in the determination with which our food community feeds the hungry. And, most of all, I see it when someone has a need. Others rush to fill it.

Introducing Collaboration 29

And so, yes, when Reason Beer invited me to collaborate on a beer, much of my excitement stemmed from my fondness of beer and Reason. When I started this little website six years ago, I never imagined it might one day lead to making a beer with the former head brewer of Maine Beer Company, one of the country’s most acclaimed breweries. Just a year old, Reason has already earned its own national praise.

But, what made the invitation so special is the beer’s stated aim. The purpose, Reason said, would be to celebrate Charlottesville’s food and drink community — the very thing this site has done since its founding.

Later this month, Reason will release Collaboration 29 – “a juicy, tropical love letter to our home town, brewed in partnership with Beer Run, Murphy & Rude, Kardinal Hall and The Charlottesville 29.” At 5.5% ABV, Reason brewer Fulton describes Collaboration 29 as a “very sessionable IPA featuring a delicate blend of tropical, citrus, and pine notes.” Having sampled a test batch, I would describe it as delicious. Fulton says that he strives towards perfection, knowing he can never reach it, but hoping to get closer each time. Wow, this one may be as close as it gets.

What may sound like an odd group of collaborators, to Fulton made perfect sense. Fulton chose The Charlottesville 29, Beer Run, and Kardinal Hall because he wanted “to work collaboratively with some of our earliest supporters in Charlottesville.” Their support, he says, “has been incredibly helpful in establishing Reason Beer in the local beer scene.” Meanwhile, in true community spirit, the inclusion of new local malting company Murphy & Rude was to pay it forward. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to share the spotlight with another fantastic Charlottesville startup who also helps put our region on the craft beer map,” Fulton says.

Release events are planned later this month at Kardinal Hall (June 28), Beer Run (June 29), and Reason (June 30). Check back for details. Meanwhile, read on to learn how we made Collaboration 29. Thank you, Tm McGovern, for capturing the images.

The Collaboration

If you are not familiar with how beer collaborations work, they can run the gamut. In some cases, they are true collaborations, with brewers sharing and tweaking ideas, crafting a product together. In other cases, one brewer runs the the show, and they are little more than an excuse for folks to get together and talk about (and drink) beer. Ours was closer to the latter.

Yes, we all provided input. But, Fulton drove the process. This made sense. Fulton, after all, has brewed legendary brews like Mo, Lunch, and Dinner. I brew . . . coffee?

Still, Fulton did include us. The group’s initial idea, Fulton says, was “to create a drinkable summer IPA that will satisfy hop heads while not alienating the hop-adverse.” Next, Fulton asked me about my favorite hop varietals. I told him I am not sure I have a single favorite — I like so many — but I did name a few that appear in many of my favorite beers. The final hop profile includes Mosaic, Amarillo, and Simcoe.

To begin making Collaboration 29, we ran Murphy & Rude malt through a mill. Murphy & Rude is the area’s first malting company, creating malt from local grains. We used their Crystal 40, made of violetta barley from Brann & King Farms, and Wheat, made of soft red winter wheat from Bay’s Best farm.

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The milled malt was then transferred to a vessel called a “mash tun” where hot water was added, creating mash, something many brewers say is one of their favorite smells. I can see why. The heady aroma took me back to childhood memories of my father making warm malted milk from Horlicks.

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The milled malt sits in the hot water and creates wort. To the wort, we added salts and minerals to enhance sugar conversion and also aid the finished product by creating a more rounded mouthfeel and flavor profile, as well as better head construction and glass lacing.

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Next, we removed a wort sample to test that the pH was the magic number we were looking for.

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Meanwhile, a process called vorlauf circulated the liquid in the mash tun, running it off the bottom through pipes and circulating it back to the top, which helped to clarify the wort, removing malt sediment. A window in the piping allowed for monitoring the improving clarity.

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After the wort was sufficiently clear came runoff, diverting the wort from the mash tun to the kettle, where more hot water was added. This required turning on the heat in the kettle. It was a great thing I was there for this vital step. Here I am turning the switch from the “Off” position to the “On” position.

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Meanwhile, Fulton removed the leftover malt (“spent grain”) from the mash tun, which local farmers use as feed.

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In the kettle, the wort boiled for a hour.
There’s lots of down time during brewing. Fortunately, Devon kept our glasses full.

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And, there was plenty of time to talk over beer.

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Soon, it was back to work. We weighed out hops . . .

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. . . and added them to the kettle.

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Lots of hops.

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Finally, the wort was pumped from the kettle to a vessel called a fermenter. There, Fulton climbed high and added yeast to begin fermentation, transforming wort to beer.

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Next week, Fulton will add more hops to the beer – “dry-hopping.” And the following week, our beer will be ready. The dream team:

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Thank you to Mark Fulton and the Reason team for creating this project, the first and only beer named after The Charlottesville 29. It is a great tribute to the Charlottesville food and drink community. And, the beer is just outstanding. Stay tuned.

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Five Finds on Friday: Jill Myers

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Jill Myers, the certified Olive Oil Sommelier who does a great service for Charlottesville by bringing us some of the world’s best olive oils, from places like Umbria, Greece, Spain, Sicily, and Tuscany. Find these rare gems at The Spice Diva, Foods of All Nations, JM Stock Provisions, Beer Run, Mona Lisa, Greenwood Gourmet, Gabriele Rausse, Chestnut Oak Vineyard, Keevil & Keevil, C & O, MarieBette, and Lampo. “Each one has a story connected to it,” says Myers, “and a producer who is practicing stellar methods at every point of production.” For a deeper look at olive oils, save the date – July 15 – for a special seminar and tasting at The Spice Diva. Stay tuned for details. Myers’ picks:

1) Charcuterie Board and 2010 Petit Verdot at the Library at Barboursville Vineyards. “At the Library at Barboursville Vineyards, I love the elegant wine flights, charcuterie boards, and seasonal appetizers accented with estate grown vegetable and herbs. The warm Italian-style hospitality created by Alyson Foldvary and others at the Library makes this an incredibly unique and memorable experience.”

2) Dreams of Beirut Tea at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. “I love to cozy up during the cold winter months with a pot of Dreams of Beirut tea, a sweetened black tea with nuances of cloves and pepper. During the heat of summer, I like a rose milkshake garnished with petals on the quiet patio in the back. The drurrie/kilim pillows and the Middle Eastern style transport me to another place.”

3) Fromage Plate with Spanish Red at C & O Restaurant. “Although the bar for a cocktail is at the top of my list, the C&O patio is another favorite of mine. Dinner on the patio would include the fromage plate to start, followed by tuna crudo or beef carpaccio and ending with creme brulée. Wine, coffee or a digestive will never disappoint at the C&O.”

4) Viognier and Tim’s Fresh Bread with Olive Oil at Gabriele Rausse Winery. “The fresh bread that Tim Rausse bakes daily, paired with high quality Sicilian olive oil, while sipping Gabriele Rausse wines is a simple, yet beautiful tasting. This is a setting that causes one to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of good food and wine. I will return often.”

5) Qabuli Palow and Firnee at Afghan Kabob Palace. “I was introduced to this restaurant by Gabriele Rausse and have returned a number of times. The food is delicious. The bolanee kadu, maust-e-khiar soup, and naan are great for appetizers, followed by qabuli palow, chicken kofta and lamb tikka kabobs, and then firnee, a rose water and cardamom custard. My children love this restaurant and ask to finish up with the doogh, a yogurt shake garnished with mint. Writing this tonight, we may return this week!”

Guys’ Night in Charlottesville: A Guide

Guys’ night in Charlottesville is easy.  Here’s how to do it.

First, procure muffuletta bread from Albemarle Baking Company. You will need to call in advance to request it.

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Next, from JM Stock Provisions procure Tasso ham, and from Feast! procure thinly sliced salami, mortadella, provolone, and emmental, as well as olive salad.

Go home, slice your bread in half, and brush each half with olive oil.

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Add salami.

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Add Tasso ham.

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Add provolone and emmental.

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Add mortadella.

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Stir your olive salad . . .

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. . . and apply with more cheese.

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Voila.

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Now take your sandwiches somewhere, slice into sixths, and serve.

Beers.

The rest is choose-your-own-adventure. Play pickle ball, like we did. Or, play cards, golf, or another game you like. Or, if you prefer, talk politics, tell jokes, or discuss what it means to be a good man, a good husband, and a good father. Talk about your successes and failures, your friends’ successes and failures, and the guy who fell in the creek on the fifth hole.

Laugh. Eat. Drink.

Learn.

Five Finds on Friday: Kerrie Pierce

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Kerrie Pierce of Vitae Spirits, which has just released this year’s batch of Poptails — five different Pierce cocktails served frozen as popsicles in a tube. Collab & Cream, for example, is an astonishingly delicious blend of Collab #1 beer spirit, Orange liqueur, coffee vanilla syrup, milk, and malted milk ball pieces. Meanwhile, on June 21, Vitae is throwing a party to celebrate release of their Distiller’s Reserve Barrel-Aged Rum Batch #1, a blend of rums aged for over two years in Keswick Vineyard’s 2014 Cabernet Franc barrels and Smooth Ambler Old Scout bourbon barrels. Pierce’s picks:

1) Apricot Danish at Albemarle Baking Company.  “I enjoy devouring many things at Albemarle Baking Company, but this pastry is my top favorite and I will snag one every time I walk through the door. It was my favorite pastry when I was in France, and I love that I can get one whenever I want right here in town. Crispy, flaky pastry dough, creamy custard and a little poached apricot without being overwhelmingly sweet. What’s not to love?”

2) Moules Frites at Public Fish & Oyster. “You can’t beat perfectly cooked mussels in a delicious broth with frites and a glass of wine. A friend and I are making our way through all the broth options. It is a delightful quest, and a lovely way to spend an evening with a friend.”

3) Papas Bravas at MAS Tapas. “I order this every visit as long as they aren’t out! Pure comfort food. Sizzling hot yukon gold potato with aioli and grey sea salt? They disappear  too quickly, and then a little bread is needed to mop up whatever is left in the skillet.

4) Branzino alla Griglia at Tavola.  “I find it difficult to explore the rest of the menu because I want this every time. Tender and flaky sea bass with a parsley root puree, baby arugula and fennel with preserved lemon. The flavors all work so perfectly together and I could eat a giant bowl of the parsley root puree with a spoon it is so good.”

5) Tamales Oaxaquenos at La Michoacana. “One of my favorite dishes at Michoanaca, which again is difficult to pick because everything they make is so tasty! The masa is cooked perfectly and the mole sauce is one of the best I’ve ever had. I’ll always order a side of fried yucca if they have it on special too.”