The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival was a couple of weekends ago. Without question, this is one of the best beer festivals I’ve been to in California. Brewers pour, amazing beers flow, and food abounds. Dark Lord, Eclipse, and Black Tuesday.. don’t mind if I do.
The best beer of the day? That’s a tough call. Saison du Prick from Fifty Fifty was amazingly refreshing for the 100+ degree day. And then there was The Bruery’s Grey Monday – nutty, boozy deliciousness. But my favorite? I can’t say no to a sour, particularly the Toronado 25th Anniversary Ale by Russian River.
While the Festival was incredible (brewer camping = genius and a bit too much fun), the drive down the Central Coast made the trip. Andrew and I stopped at just about every beach town, visited a number of breweries, and said hello to more than a couple of cows along the way.
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. in Buellton was one of the highlights – they’re incredibly friendly and the Paradise Rd. Pilsner, with its honey notes, was a perfect mid-drive snack. Oh, and the Stagecoach Stout.. a roast forward oatmeal stout that goes down smooth. They even tapped a specialty keg that was brewed in conjunction with a nearby winery, a Belgian Dark Ale with Grenache wine.
And then, there it was.. U Pick Blueberries. While driving down Route 101 we found a blueberry farm. Why not?? We were in no hurry to get home. We filled our pails, threw a blueberry or two or ten at each other, and ate even more than that.
Our blueberry haul inspired this recipe – a dense, moist, tender crumbed cake spotted with lemon zest and blueberries and lightened with beer and ricotta. It’s divine. But don’t take my word for it..
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup lemon or citrus forward ale such as an IPA or Saison Used in this post: Citra Session IPA
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature + more for buttering the loaf pan
1 cup ricotta cheese, whole milk
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tbs. lemon zest
1 cup fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat the inside of a 9×5″ loaf pan thoroughly with butter to prevent the cake from sticking to the sides or bottom.
In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Beat the butter, ricotta, and sugar together until fluffy – this is best done with an electric mixer on high for 3 to 5 uninterrupted minutes to incorporate as much air as possible. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, mixing for a minute or two in between each one. Fold in lemon zest and vanilla extract. The batter will look a bit.. weird.. at this point, almost as though it has curdled. Do not fear!
Stir dry ingredients into curdled looking batter in 3 or 4 additions, mixing just until incorporated – try not to overwork the batter. Fold in blueberries.
Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan; drop pan on a hard surface a few times from a few inches in the air to even out (Cold Stone taught me this when I was 16 and responsible for making brownies), or you can use a rubber spatula to smooth the top.
Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If the top browns too quickly, cover with foil.
Allow to cool for a minimum of 15 minutes in the pan. Run a knife along the sides; remove to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving. Serve with a spread of ricotta cheese and drizzle with honey or a slathering of cream cheese.