Tag alcohol

Silicon Valley Beer Week Celebrates Changing Tastes

Beer on the BarSilicon Valley Beer Week is already underway! Having started on Sunday, July 28th, this festival highlights the best craft beers in the region. Delicious brews and bites can be found through Saturday, August 3rd. Can’t you already hear the contented sighs? Actually, craft beer is becoming quite the hot commodity. In recent years, beer sales have been dropping as craft beer and hard cider sales are steadily growing. This consumer trend suggests that more drinkers are willing to pay a little more for higher better quality booze. The New Yorker published an article and an interactive craft beer map last month about the amazing country-wide boom in the craft beer industry. Although California (particularly Northern Ca) boasts the number one spot for craft beer production, other regions are beginning to jump on board.

What does this mean for the beer drinkers? Time Magazine claims that the dramatic increase in craft brewers is stimulating variety and competition. Hello, better beer. The brews that make big it have to be good because the consumer is now too knowledgeable to accept anything mediocre. New brewers have to explore new tastes and varieties, and we get to be the lucky tasters!

So what about those who don’t like beer — craft or otherwise? Interestingly, the growth in craft beer sales is lumped with cider sales. As if they were the same thing… Ha! It seems like cider may be the next big drink in the US. In 2005, CC Mangers cider debuted in European markets and kick-started the demand for premium alcohol like “craft beer” and ciders. Reuters suggests that the tiny cider industry may soon be a contender for even the wine industry —  world-wide! Although rather small at the moment, the cider industry is having a profound effect with various flavors that range from dry to sweet, clean to peaty. Depending on what you like, there is likely a cider for you. This range makes it a great option when out at a bar with a bunch of beer drinkers. Also, as cider frequently contains no gluten, it is a great alternative to beer for those with a gluten intolerance.

BeerHaving spent the last six months in the British Isles, I can safely say that cider is one of the top drinks of choice. Almost every pub I went into had at least two varieties of cider on tap. Personally, I prefer the Irish Bulmer’s or Swedish Rekorderlig varieties. The crisp dry flavor of a Bulmer’s Original does not hint at the idea of  ‘grown-up’ apple juice. This is a drink for an adult despite its popularity among the younger crowd. It is much harder to find these brands here, though the US has a number of cider brewers carving out their place in the cider market. Food and Wine highlights a number of the top cider crafters in the states.

Also exciting to note is the emergence of cider bars. If you happen to be in Seattle this weekend, check out Capitol Cider, the newest cider bar.  What do you think, are craft beer and cider just fads, or are they here to stay? If craft beer isn’t your thing, go out and try a cider this weekend. Otherwise, bring on Silicon Valley Beer Week!

The Secret to Surviving (and Spiking) the Office Holiday Party

It’s December, and you know what that means: decorated trees, holiday lights, and so many sweets you actually start to crave vegetables. There is another nearly inevitable event to expect in December –the Office Holiday Party. (Cue intense, high-pitched music). While some people may live for these events (Ahem, Parties That Cook team members who shall remain nameless), others might feel a bit uneasy about interacting with coworkers after work.

For those of you in the second group –heck, even for those who work from home –you’re in luck! Alcohol-infused treats are becoming increasingly popular these days. Not to worry, 60-75 percent of the alcohol is lost when the alcohol is stirred into the batter. And supposedly, depending on the baking time, only 25 percent of the alcohol remains after baking. I know some of you out there are a little bummed by those facts! Still, spiking your baked goods and other sweets with alcohol adds another dimension to the flavor, and puts a nice twist on the usual holiday goodies (without making the room spin).

A couple of years ago, the hip thing to drink was any cocktail made to mimic dessert. With the recently published Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone’s Booze Cakes and Lucy Baker’s The Boozy Baker, it is clear that the roles have been flipped. Desserts are not invading your drink as prominently as in previous years, but now alcohol is invading… pretty much everything.

Enter, Tipsy Truffles, Humphry Slocombe ice cream, and the rising star The Baking Lab. Located in Las Vegas, Tipsy Truffles is a family owned business that focuses on Tipsy Truffle Cakes and Tipsy Truffle Drops (meant for dissolving into drinks like hot chocolate). San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe might just have a cult following for its Jesus Juice (Sorbet of Red Wine and Coke) and Secret Breakfast (Bourbon and Corn Flakes) flavors. In Chicago, you select the alcohol, and The Baking Lab’s Labettes get to work on creating the perfect dessert.  Rebecca Denton and her Labettes cater events and can even pass around their baked goods for you (might as well just bring them to the party, too)!

Now you are armed and ready for your holiday office party with a new weapon of choice. Show up with any of the items mentioned in this blog and you’re sure to be a smash(ed) hit! To check out some Holiday Parties that are guaranteed to be blast -with or without the alcohol -go to the Parties That Cook Cooking Parties page! Desserts like our Spicy Gingerbread Cakes with Warm Brandy Sauce and Mexican Chocolate Pudding with Kahlua Caramel Sauce keep Parties That Cook a step ahead of the next big thing.