Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Me likey beer that gets creative with ingredients. Some of these beers are the new-fangled brain children like Craftsman Brewing Company's Cabernale that is made using Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and The Bruery's Trade Winds Tripel made with Thai Basil. Some other beers with funky ingredients harken back to older traditional styles and days of yore.
Take Heather Ale for instance. Having origins that date back to 2000 b.c., this is a delicious and delicate style from Scotland that uses, you guessed it, heather instead of hops to provide balance to the malt. Heather is one of Scotland's most prolific plants, growing over millions of acres as ground cover. Sweet, fragrant and strong, the Scots used this prolific plant instead of hops, which wouldn't grow in Scotland's climate.
And as is the Scottish way, there are many legends, poems, myths and folklore surrounding this ancient beer style. One story is that the first whisky was accidently made when heather ale was distilled by warming over a fire...and you know how I love the Scotch!
Pict tribe, found a Pictish father and his son by a cliff. The King, who wanted the secret recipe for the Heather Ale tortured the father and his son for it. The father finally agreed to reveal the secret if the King would kill his son quickly. The King agreed and threw the boy's body off the cliff. He turned to the father but he said, "But now in vain is the torture, fire shall never avail, here dies in my bosom the secret of the Heather Ale." Then he threw himself at the King and they both fell from the cliff. Isn't that heartwarming?
If you feel like trying this rare style of beer and being part of Scottish history, you should start with the Fraoch (pronounced FRAY-OOK) from The Brewery Craigmill in Lanarkshire, Scotland. This delightful beer is a light amber ale with floral peaty aroma, full malt character and a spicy herbal flavor and dry wine like finish. 5% abv.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I'm not sure if I've already mentioned this in blogs past, but I pretty much hate Valentine's Day. In my opinion, more than any other day (including 'Take Your Kid to Work Day') Valentine's Day is the single worst day of the year. Elaborate or casual, with boyfriend or single, rich or poor, Valentine's Day has always been one huge disappointment. I hate the cards, the cheap chocolates, the doilies, the flying fat babies with arrows, all of it! As far as I'm concerned, Valentine's Day can kiss it.
It's times like these, when the dark spectre of Cupid rears his ugly head on the horizon, that I turn to the one thing that doesn't disappoint me...my one true love, craft beer. Thankfully, some great brewers also know that V-day sucks and make us beers that will help us through this difficult time. Here are my beer picks for poopy, stinky Valentine's Day. (It is completely intentional that some of these beer picks are sour or bitter!)
My Bloody Valentine - Alesmith Brewing Company - San Diego CA
Released shortly before Valentine's Day, My Bloody Valentine is Alesmith's bolder, stronger cousin of their great Halloween specialty ale, Evil Dead Red. Caramel sweet malt is delicately balanced with floral American hop varieties for a truly unique drinking sensation. A deep mahogany red color and a big, aromatic hop profile are the signatures of this seasonal ale -with an evil 6.66% abv.
The Dissident - Deschutes Brewing Company - Bend, Oregon
Because I say nay to Valentine's Day, I am a dissident, breaking from the Hallmark and Sees Candy establishment. Deschutes makes a beer to celebrate this spirit of dissent. Brewed with candy sugar and Montmorency cherries, this beer is huge at 8.8% alcohol. This beer also uses two types of brettanomyces (wild fermentation) which means that this beer has good and sour notes. Because its aged for 18 months in oak wine barrels, this beer also finishes nice and dry. Think chocolate and sour cherries, with molasses and wood. A great beer with which to tell V-day to eff off.
Honesty Ale - Craftsman Brewing Company - Pasadena, CA
The Dissident is a sour cherry ale, more in the lines of a Flandres Brown Ale, but Craftsman Brewing Company's Valentine's Day seasonal Honesty Ale tastes like a true Lambic. Sour and funky with a fruity cherry finish, this beer is more tart than sour. Clean, crisp with a big nose of fresh cherries and citrusy finish, this beer goes really well with that sour feeling that is left after Valentine's Day. 5% abv.
Stone Brewing Bitter Chocolate Stout - Escondido, CA
Who me? Bitter? Okay, maybe. But sometimes there's nothing better than bitter and this Bitter Chocolate Stout from Stone Brewing Company is a prime example of that. Brewed for Stone's 12th Anniversary, this beer pours a deep engine oil black. Roasty, malty and chocolaty in the nose, this beer uses unsweetened and unprocessed cacao from Chuao Chocolatier.
This beer has coffee and licorice accents and a thick, rich, creamy, silky mouthfeel from the oatmeal used. This one also packs a wallop at 9.2% abv. So if you're feeling as bitter as me, this is the beer for you.
Oh, and a Happy Effing Valentine's Day to you all!
Written by The Beer Chick, February 14th, 2009
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