Category Archives: Interdisciplinary Drinking

Wine meets beer, beer meets wine. Also: mead, spirits, saké (nihonshu), and, occasionally, cocktails.

Cooking with Beer: Aged Gouda and Doppelbock Fondue

Not long ago I went on one of the more stellar culinary journeys of my life. Mortadella and bowls of tagliatelle di ragù in Bologna. Mounds of culatello and Parmigiano Reggiano in Parma. Vitello tonnato and carne cruda all’Albese in Alba. Every kind of snail dish imaginable in Cherasco, home of the Cherasco Worldwide Institute of Snail Breeding. (Bet you didn’t know there was one).

And, of course, several liters’ worth of wine from Barbaresco and Barolo to round out all the wine we had drunk in the Emilia Romagna region. We did have a few bottles of beer as well, including some prima ones from Birra Balladin (Piedmont) and Birrificio del Ducato (Parma) — but those are worth another round of words.

So what does Italia have to do with Doppelbock and aged Gouda? While we were on our adventure in search of the fine cheesemakers at San Pier Damiani in the Parma countryside, I got to thinking about recipes that combine beer and cheese. And what better way than to put the two together than in a fondue? The recipe below doesn’t feature Parmesan cheese for a few reasons. Parmesan doesn’t melt as well as many other cheeses. I also haven’t had a chance yet to experiment with Parmesan to finish fondues. Last but not least, I just so happen to have this old tried-and-true recipe kicking around that’ll help you stave off the evening chill of these autumn evenings.

Brechtian moment: I know it requires a bit of lateral thinking to get from Point A (northern Italian wines and cheeses) to Point B (northern European cheese and Bavarian beer) to Point C (fondue), but I’ve been looking for a way to work my Italy trip into a post for quite some time now. At any rate, it’s probably not the worst writing sin I’ve committed. And what’s not to like about Italian food and wine?

Before we get to the recipe itself, some beer and wine pairings:

  • Aged Gouda is a distinctive cheese, and melds seamlessly with both the Doppelbock and nutty sherries like Oloroso or Amontillado.
  • Stouts and porters match aged Gouda’s nuttiness and notes of caramel.
  • The “cru” Beaujolais wines from communes such as Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Morgon, and Chiroubles balance fruity elegance with enough staying power to counter the cheese.
  • If you can find something like Birra Baladin’s Nora or their Elixir, you’ll be in for a treat. Nora is a rich and spicy “Egyptian” ale redolent of dates and candied orange peel, and Elixir is a cornucopia of honeyed figs, rum-soaked cherries, Demarara sugar, and plums accented by Belgian yeast aromatics.

At San Pier Damiani, one of many artisanal makers of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

And now for the recipe:

Doppelbock Fondue (Serves 4-6)


  • 0.75 lbs. aged Gouda
  • 0.3 lbs. Gruyère (the Swiss versions have more character)
  • 0.2 lbs. Emmenthal (ditto)
  • 1 500 mL bottle of Doppelbock (you’ll only use about 300 mL, but you can drink the rest)
  • 2 tbsp dry Amontillado or Oloroso sherry
  • 1 tbsp Moutarde de Meaux (or other suitably grainy mustard that isn’t too sharp or hot)
  • 1 tbsp shallot, finely chopped (a bit less than half a shallot, depending on its size)
  • 2 tbsp flour, divided
  • pinch sea salt, pinch cayenne, pinch nutmeg
  • 1 loaf sourdough bread or rye bread


Cube the bread and grate the cheese. Mix in about a handful of flour into the grated cheese. Heat the beer till it bubbles, add shallots, then slowly incorporate the cheeses. Add the pinches of nutmeg and cayenne. Meanwhile, mix the mustard with the sherry. (If the fondue doesn’t appear thick enough as the cheese melts, dissolve the remaining flour in the sherry-mustard mix). Once the cheese has melted, finish with the sherry-mustard mix. Test for salt, and add sea salt if needed.


For the beer, I use Weihenstephan’s Korbinian Doppelbock, which is suitably rich and complex. You could also try other malt-forward beers like Scotch ale or British barleywine. Weihenstephan’s Vitus or Schneider Weisse’s Aventinus could also be interesting options.

Sourdough bread goes particularly well with this fondue, as do vegetables such as mushrooms and parboiled cauliflower.

Grappa: perfect digestif after a rich fondue.

More Tempest posts to help ease you into winter:

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Dining Down the Holiday Stretch: Choucroute à la Gueuze

Images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.





Tankards Everywhere: Tempest’s Beerscapes of 2016


Fermentation in progress, Weihenstephan

I was at Schloss Belvedere a few days back, the famous Viennese museum that houses the even more famous Kiss by Gustav Klimt. Alongside some of his other iconic works such as Judith und Holofernes hung several paintings dating from the year of Klimt’s death in 1918, all containing the word “unvollendet” (incomplete) somewhere in the title. Like Schubert’s 8th Symphony –– Die Unvollendete –– Klimt’s incomplete works gesture tantalizingly toward what would have been.

The same cannot be said for my growing stack of paper and metaphorically bulging computer file filled with work in various stages of incompletion: inchoate thoughts on everything from the German Purity Laws to the perennial debates about canning and canons of taste; travelogues that set out on a journey with no end; and the myriad attempts to turn aroma and flavour sensations into transcriptions of my imbibing pleasures.

One aspect of my attempts to put pen to paper on a regular basis has remained relatively constant since I arrived in Vienna: I get side-tracked too easily by all there is to see and do in Vienna, in Austria, in Central Europe, and elsewhere on this continent. The desire to post regularly has remained just that. I have to admit that I considered putting Tempest on ice on more than a few occasions, but the sheer enjoyment of writing about all things fermentable keeps drawing me back to the keyboard.


The Speyside Way in the Scottish Highlands

Almost every one of my trips over the past three years has involved the cultural history and contemporary moment of drinking up. This year alone I walked 15 km from one distillery in Aberlour to another in Ballindalloch along Scotland’s Speyside Way.


Kloster Andechs. I suspect that most of the visitors aren’t here to attend mass.

I followed in the footsteps of thirsty pilgrims in search of spiritual and corporeal solace at Kloster Andechs.


A local beer from Carinthia’s Loncium at the Dolomitenhütte

I hiked up a mountain for a view of the Austrian Dolomites and a much-deserved local beer at the top, and cycled with friends along the Danube in Austria’s Wachau region during the height of the grape harvest.

And that’s not all. As I began to gather my thoughts for this piece on the occasion of Tempest’s third trip around the orange orb, I realized that it’s been quite the ride since this time last year.

České Budějovice (Budweis), Plzeń (Pilsen).

Polished coppers at Pilsner Urquell

Polished coppers at Pilsner Urquell

Austria’s Innviertel.

Bogner, makers of some of the best Hefeweizen in Austria

Bogner, makers of some of the best Hefeweizen in Austria

Brussels and Flemish Brabant.

You really can't go wrong with a wheel of lambics.

You really can’t go wrong with a wheel of lambics.

Munich, with its expansive beer gardens and lively beer halls, and Ayinger a half hour away. img_8346

A top-notch hop museum in the Hallertau and several museum exhibitions in Munich commemorating the 500th anniversary of the German Purity Laws (Reinheitsgebot).

The German Hop Museum in Wolnzach (Hallertau)

The German Hop Museum in Wolnzach (Hallertau)

Oktoberfest in Munich, and a hop harvest festival in Freising, home of Germany’s oldest brewery.

You won't go hungry in Bavaria.

You won’t go hungry in Bavaria.

And Scotland! Edinburgh’s majestic pubs.img_0722

The search for a 60 Shilling ale which proved about as fruitless as trying to sight the Loch Ness Monster. And drams of whisky to chase whatever Scottish ale I did find.img_0902

So here we are. Some of the notes and fragments detailing my adventures will see the light of day in due time, but in the meantime I offer you a few words’ worth of images, a visual down payment on writing to come.

Cheers to you, my fellow imbiber, for accompanying me on my journey these past three years! It’s you who keeps me writing.


Check back in a few days for my write-up about the outstanding beer I cracked to celebrate three years.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.





’Tis the Season for a Mug of Mulled Beer

’Tis the season, once again. Chances are you’ve warmed yourself with a cup of mulled wine at some point, especially if you’ve been to Europe around this time of year. But mulled beer?

Last year I related the story about my first sip of Glühwein (mulled wine) in the western German city of Saarbrücken. Aromas of baking spice, roasted nuts, and pine boughs drifted fragrantly in the bracing winter air, leading me to the Christkindl market in the main square and setting me down the path of annual Glühwein parties and get-togethers.IMG_5371 A few decades on, I did what might well come naturally to a catholic imbiber like myself: I heated up a bunch o’ beer and spiced it. Turns out the whole endeavour isn’t without historical precedent.


Mulled beer, Glühbier, call it what you want: It’s definitely not a tradition of contemporary vintage in any of the beer-consuming countries I’ve visited. The rather incredulous glances I encountered from my Austrian colleagues last week merely confirmed the fact when I brewed up 25 liters of the stuff for the Wien Museum’s annual holiday season party. But warm beer has a history –– and not just as a pejorative reference to twentieth-century British beer.


“The earliest ale and beer songs were Christmas carols,” writes W.T. Marchant in his classic work, In Praise of Ale of 1888, and the drinks that inspired these Twelfth Night, Wassail, and New Year’s festivities were not untypically served warm.IMG_0283 Even if we now associate apple cider-based drinks with those who went a wassailing, Marchant’s encomium reminds us that not all these drinks were cider-based. Writes Marchant, “In some remote place, the yule-log still blazes in the chimney of the rustic at Christmas eve. […] The wassail was regularly carried from door to door fifty years ago in Cornwall; and even now, a measure of ale, *flip, porter, and sugar, or some such beverage, is handed round while the yule-log is burning.”

*A “flip,” for those who might be wondering, is a cocktail, warm or cold, to which egg has been added.

Before giving you a recipe for mulled beer, a toast! And what better way to celebrate the season than with an excerpt from a merry toast dating back to 1642: To “All You That Are Good Fellows” (and all you good women, too):

All you that are good fellows;

     Come hearken to my song;

I know you do not hate good cheer,

     Nor liquor that is strong.

I hope there is none here

     But soon will take my part,

Seeing my master and my dame

     Say welcome in their heart.

This is a time of joyfulness,

     And merry time of year,

When as the rich with plenty stor’d

   Do make the poor good cheer.

Plum-porridge, roast beef, and minc’d pies,

     Stand smoking on the board;

With other brave varieties

     Our master doth afford.


Come fill us of the strongest,

     Small drink is out of date;

Methinks I shall fare like a prince,

     And sit in gallant state:

This is no miser’s feast,

     Although that things be dear;

God grant the founder of this feast

     Each Christmas keep good cheer.

Cited in W.T. Marchant, In Praise of Ale (London, 1888), pp. 66-67.

Glühbier (serves 8-10)

Whether you’re making mulled wine, mulled beer, or wassail, the basic process is simple: heat it all up and let it simmer for a few hours so that the flavours meld. A number of the basic ingredients are similar, too: spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; some form of citrus juice and/or peels; sugar or some other sweetener such as honey; and a spirit like brandy or rum. However you formulate your recipe, remember these simple tips. Don’t let the mixture boil. Add sugar or honey if your concoction is too acidic or tart. Add spirits to go the other way and dry things out. Beyond that, there are no rules. Spices give you a chance to get creative. Don’t shy away from spices like juniper berries, peppercorns, or cardamom. Ginger can also give your Glühbier or Glühwien a welcome zestiness.IMG_5423

Amounts for each ingredient will depend largely on how much Glühbier, Glühwein, or wassail you want to make, and how spicy you want it. The cooking process drives off plenty of the alcohol, so don’t worry about knocking your guests out –– unless, of course, you choose to spike your warmed drinks with a fresh shot before serving. And that’s not a bad thing to do.

  • 5 bottles (500ml each) of dunkles Weizenbier or similarly non-hoppy beer with a good malt presence. (Doppelbocks, Scotch ales, and Belgian dubbels are all good candidates.) I chose a dark wheat beer for its ester profile (cloves, bananas, and a hint of vanilla) and its brown sugar malt character.
  • 3 mandarin oranges (peel and pulp)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • ¼ nutmeg ball, grated
  • 2 shots bourbon
  • 2 shots cherry juice

Combine the beer and honey in a kettle over medium heat, then grate the ginger into the mix. Wash the outsides of the oranges, and then peel them straight into the kettle. In a separate bowl, muddle the orange wedges with a wooden spoon, and then add it all to the kettle.

Add your spices as the mixture is heating up. With cinnamon sticks, crush them lightly before adding. Break up the star anise into pieces as you’re adding them to the kettle. In the case of whole nutmeg, grate it straight into the pot. If you’re pressed for time, you can also use ground spices.

Add 1 shot of the bourbon at the beginning of the simmer. Taste now, keeping in mind that cooking will drive off the harsher alcohol. Add the last shot near the end. (Be careful with hard liquor around an open flame, lest you end up with a more fiery version of your Glühbier than you bargained for.)

Give it all a good stir, and then bring the mix to just below boiling point before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for a few hours. After about an hour-and-a-half, taste the mixture. If it’s too sweet, add more bourbon. If it’s not sweet enough, add more honey. Adjust any other spices. When it tastes fine to you, strain it before your guests arrive and keep it simmering over low heat on your stovetop.

And Bob’s your uncle. Now your home will smell like the market squares in Central European cities at this time of year!

Glühwein, not Glühbier. But the spices are similar.

Glühwein, not Glühbier. But the spices are similar.

Happy Holidays!

Related Tempest Articles

For those interested in mulled wine as well, check out the holiday article I wrote last year entitled Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer.

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Winter Nights and Warming Barleywines from Sussex, Texas, and Québec

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Serving Up a New Tradition at the Finger Lakes Cider House

Twelve years off and on in Ithaca, NY, has given me plenty of time to observe the beer, wine, and food scene of the Finger Lakes region change and evolve. Wine has been going strong for the past few decades, craft beer has enjoyed an impressive growth in popularity, and the occasional craft distillery graces the landscape. Add to that all the local honey, fruit, bread, meats, cheese, and the like, and you have a veritable moveable feast to take with you as you explore the lakes of the region. FLX CiderHouse - glass

And now we have something new to add to our picnic baskets: artisanal cider. Or should I say new again. Cider was a staple of the early U.S. colonies, and enjoyed a three-hundred year run before Prohibition put a cork in the jug. Sound familiar?

But as with craft beer, so, too with cider. Between 2008 and 2012, hard cider production in the U.S. increased by roughly 73% per year. And just as the rise of craft beer in places like Upstate New York has spawned ancillary industries such as grain and hop cultivation, the prodigious growth in cider production has sparked a renewed interest in apple cultivars suitable for making quality cider. Orchards growing apples for cider now dot the shores and slopes of the Finger Lakes where vineyards once reigned supreme. Lest we forget all those budding enthusiasts on the consumption side, shelves and walls of cider have also become more prominent fixtures of local bottle shops.

* * *

I’ve had my share of ciders over the years, but have only recently turned my attention to the finer points of this particular “genre” of liquid sustenance. If you’re in a similar situation, a taproom dedicated to cider is just the place to visit. Fortunately for me, Finger Lakes Cider House opened its doors in May 2015 at the Good Life Farm in Interlaken, NY –– right in time for my summer visit to the region.

The Cider House is not the first regional establishment to provision thirsty travelers with cider. Perched on a ridge overlooking the western shores of Cayuga Lake, Bellwether has been producing hard ciders amongst the wineries for about as long as I’ve lived in the area. But Finger Lakes Cider House is uniquely appealing, for it brings together five cideries under one roof to sell their wares: Eve’s Cidery, Black Diamond Cider, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Good Life Cider, and South Hill Cider. IMG_3767Set amid bucolic meadows, a working organic farm and orchard, and the occasional vintage farm implement, the Cider House is a charming addition to the Cayuga Lake beverage landscape. Tastings at the sleek wooden bar get you 5 samples for $4, while flights (not to be confused with tastings) go for $12 and feature more substantial pours (5 X 3oz.). Ciders run the gamut from still to sparkling, and bone-dry to lusciously sweet, with the occasional fortified cider and ice cider making an appearance. All ten that we sampled were fermented in the British or northeastern American style, with none of the funky wild fermentation notes that characterize some French or Spanish ciders.IMG_3761

The dry Rabblerouser from Black Diamond Cider features rare red-fleshed apples, is leesy, chalky, reminiscent of quince, and finishes pleasantly tannic. Their Hickster, redolent of spiced stewed apples, vanilla, and a hint of that Normandy muskiness, is another good choice. South Hill’s semi-dry and Bluegrass Russet brings with it aromas of pear and spring blossoms, and is lightly musky with a touch of mint on its crisp palate.

One of the most compelling ciders was one I thought I wouldn’t like: Redbyrd Orchard’s Wickson-Manchurian Crab. Pressing the apples after freezing them in the cider barn concentrates the sugars enough to balance the native tartness and acidity of the crab apples.IMG_3766 The result is a medium-dry cider that evokes peach, ginger, and lime, with a pleasant balance of tartness and residual sugar rounding out the palate.

When it comes to cider, I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and Good Life’s Honeoye offers up plenty of ripe red apples, a dusting of baking spices, and honeyed unctuousness. Not to be outdone, Eve’s Cidery’s Ice Cider contains a hefty 15.5% residual sugar (compared to the 5% residual sugar in the Honeoye), and is homemade apple pie filling in a glass –– sparkling, of course. Apples-and-spice aromas of nutmeg, allspice, and vanilla blend seamlessly with honeyed baked apple, all lifted by a crystalline acidity reminiscent of a late-harvest Riesling.

Last Drops

*Opt for the $5 tasting if you’re interested in tasting a wider variety. And make sure to order the charcuterie plate featuring a seasonal selection of locally crafted delectables –– a steal at $10. Our spread came with salami, rillettes, cheddar, pickled garlic scapes, cherries, rustic bread, and farm-fresh butter.

*Cider is a versatile beverage that will appeal to craft beer lovers and wine aficionados alike. If the battle lines are fairly firmly drawn in your respective circles, split the difference and head to a cider house. IMG_3807Related Tempest Articles

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

New York’s Finger Lakes Region: A Back-Road Craft Beer Tour

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion


Finger Lakes Cider House glass/logo:

Remaining images: F.D. Hofer

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Five Recipes for Your Cocktail Hour

… And now for a change of pace.

Sure, beer cocktails are all the rage these days. But there’s more to imbibing than beer. Sacrilege, I know. But in the spirit of expanding our flavour and aroma horizons, how about an evening cocktail?

Depending on your fridge, pantry, and bar stocks, you could make these right now. If your cupboard looks more like Mother Hubbard’s, then these recipes will get you heading to the supermarket or bottle shop in search of some new ingredients to sample.

Setting Up the Bar

First up, if you don’t already have the tools of the trade, you’ll need to procure them or rig something up and make do. Cobbler Shaker

Shaker (Boston shaker or cobbler). The Boston shaker is a two-piece shaker that consists of a stainless steel container that fits into a pint glass. I prefer the Boston shaker because it holds more, and fits a finer-grained cocktail strainer that gives you more control over the amount of seeds and fruit chunks that get into your glass.

Strainer (for Boston Shaker). Bonus: These kinds of strainers don’t clog as easily as the outlets on a typical cobbler (pictured).

Measuring glass. Ideally, you want one that measures in ounces, milliliters, tablespoons, and teaspoons.

Muddler (for mashing up fruit or herbs). If you don’t have one, the back of a spoon will do.

Bar spoon (for stirring drinks that aren’t shaken). A regular spoon is fine, but isn’t always long enough. Chopsticks work better if you have them on hand. I use a glass stir stick. IMG_0588

Shopping List

Fruit and herbs. Use fresh fruit when you can get it. If not, frozen fruit (especially berries) work in a pinch. For fruits that make it to North American supermarket shelves less frequently, look for purées from companies like Goya (good for passion fruit, guava, mango, and the like). Always use fresh herbs.

Fruit juices. Avoid the mixes and juice your own fruit. Almost every cocktail recipe has some sort of acidic/sour component for balance and crispness, with lemon and lime virtually ubiquitous in cocktail recipes. Citrus fruits with thinner skins yield more juice. Let your citrus come to room temperature before juicing. Bottled cranberry juice or canned pineapple juice work well.

Simple syrup. This is easy to make, and adaptable. You can infuse it with anything from lavender to peppercorns to chilies. Simmer a one-to-one ratio of granulated sugar and filtered water until the liquid begins to thicken slightly. Stores well in the fridge.

Bitters. You can find Angostura bitters just about anywhere, but grab some Peychaud’s bitters or Regans’ Orange No.6 to spice up your cocktails if you can find them. Fee Brothers also produces a wide range of bitters, including celery bitters.

Spirits and other liquor. Do some experimenting. You might find that you prefer Gordon’s to Beefeater or Tanqueray. Sometimes a ten-dollar bottle of vodka will do the trick. I use saké quite often in my cocktails, but I don’t add anything more expensive than your standard Gekkeikan.IMG_1957 When it comes to vermouth, though, I find that the few extra bucks on something like Noilly-Prat is worth the expense.

Ice. Ice is one of the most important ingredients in your cocktail kit. When I first started making cocktails, I used to just toss the ingredients together haphazardly and then wonder why my drinks tasted so damned harsh. Cocktails need water to smooth out the rough edges and release the esters of the spirits. If you drink Scotch or Bourbon, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. Larger ice cubes are better, as they release water more slowly during the shake or stir than smaller cubes or hollow cubes. Too much water is just as bad as too little.


And now for the drinks!

The Procrastinator

This drink came to me one late spring afternoon while contemplating an essay that stubbornly refused to let itself be written. Why force things? I went into the kitchen and kept on contemplating. The result of my ruminations is based loosely on the Mojito. Adjust the sweetness to match your taste.

  • 4 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 0.75 oz. honey
  • 1.5 oz. lime juice
  • 1.5 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 oz. saké
  • 2 oz. white rum
  • Soda

Muddle the first two ingredients in the bottom of a mixing glass and continue to muddle while adding the next two ingredients. Add ice and the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good shake. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice, top with soda, and garnish with mint and a wedge of lime. *A note on the honey: heat it up and dilute it with a little bit of filtered water so that it pours more easily.

Cool as a Cucumber

Perfect for long, sunny afternoons that stretch imperceptibly into evening. This cocktail pays tribute to springtime in Montreal. I first had the drink that inspired this recipe at Decca 77.

  • 2.5 oz. saké
  • 1 oz. Hendricks Gin
  • 0.5 oz. lime juice
  • 0.5 oz. simple syrup
  • 3 cubes cucumber
  • Soda

Muddle the chunks of cucumber at the bottom of a shaker glass. Shake all the ingredients together and strain into a highball glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint. *Note: You can use other brands of gin, but this is one occasion where a particular brand (Hendricks) improves the cocktail.

Hill Country Sunrise

I had just bought a bottle of Fee Bros. rhubarb bitters and was looking for something to do with it. The perfect occasion for experimentation presented itself when an old friend turned up with his family en route between Dallas and Toronto. He pulled out a bottle of spicy Texan vodka, we found some nicely ripe peaches at the local supermarket, and voila.

  • Half of a white peach, cubedIMG_0591
  • 1.75 oz. Dripping Springs Texan Vodka
  • 1 oz. rosemary-infused simple syrup
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3-4 dashes rhubarb bitters

To make the rosemary simple syrup, crush a few rosemary needles in a mortar and pestle, then let stand in a shot or two of simple syrup for about half an hour. You can also make a more involved version by infusing a batch of simple syrup with a few sprigs of rosemary.

Muddle the peach well until it has transformed into a pulp. Add ice to the mixing glass along with the other ingredients, and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass for a more “refined” drink, or pour the whole lot into a rocks glass. Garnish with mint and a slice of peach.

Chili Passion

The first time I had a cocktail with some heat in it was at the West Village’s Perry St. restaurant. The bartender mentioned Thai chilies as the heat source, but in recreating this cocktail I used a three-way blend of half a dried ancho, a third of a dried chipotle, and one whole seeded chile de arbol to infuse my passion fruit simple syrup with a subtle smokiness.

Start with equal proportions simple syrup and passion fruit purée (about one cup of each). Chop up the dried chilies and infuse them in the liquid until you get your desired level of heat. Strain. Don’t let the mix infuse for too long, or the smokiness of the chipotle will overpower the passion fruit. You can use the strained chilies in one cup of simple syrup for an interesting infusion that contains a hint of passion fruit. Regardless, you’ll have plenty of chili-infused passion fruit simple syrup left over, so experiment away on other recipes.

  • 1.5 oz. gin
  • 2 oz. chili-passion fruit infusion
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. simple syrup
  • Soda

Add ice to a mixing glass and build the drink. Stir or shake. Serve in a highball glass or flute and top with a float of club soda.

Old Fashioned

You might not feel like traveling all over hell’s half acre in search of some of the ingredients needed to make the cocktails above. And that’s no problem. Chances are you already have everything you need to make this classic cocktail. The Old Fashioned first turned up on Bourbon Country at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY, in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some dispute exists as to whether club soda is appropriate. I’ve had good results with just a splash, but I prefer a long stir to release some water from the ice. For an interesting twist on this classic, use kumquats sliced into discs or quarters.

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 orange slices, one cut thickly
  • 3 oz. bourbon
  • 2 maraschino cherries

In the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, soak the sugar cube with the bitters. Muddle this together with the thickly-sliced orange (or three kumquats sliced into discs and seeded) and one of the cherries. Add the bourbon. One large ice cube is ideal. If you don’t have large cubes, just add a small handful of ice cubes. Give it all a good stir while counting to thirty. Garnish with the second orange and cherry.IMG_0590

Two cocktail books worth your money:

Dale DeGroff, The Craft of the Cocktail (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2002).

Gary Regan, The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2003).

Related Tempest Articles

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

With the exception of the cobbler shaker (Wiki Commons), photos by F.D. Hofer.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Beeronomics: An Interview with Trey Malone

I just got back to my desk with a bottle of smoked imperial porter from Tennessee to fortify me for the evening of writing. Looks and smells great, and reminds me of a welcoming fire in a log cabin on a snowy winter night.IMG_1884

As much as beer is sustenance on a frosty evening, and as much as the warming elixir in my glass is a rich tapestry of memories, craft beer also pulsates with an economic life intertwined with its socio-cultural life. The smoked imperial porter from Tennessee that reminds me of childhood visits to the Yukon involved a choice I made to purchase it on a drive between Kentucky and Oklahoma. Regardless of whether I agree entirely with what some economists think motivated my decision to purchase that particular beer distributed to that particular liquor shop, the economics of craft beer production and consumption is becoming an increasingly prominent and high-stakes game –– so much so that the Brewers’ Association has seen fit to employ a full-time economist, Bart Watson.

The economics of beer. Beeronomics.

Enter Trey Malone, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University and aspiring beer economist. Trey and I met several months ago when he started attending our local homebrew club meetings. Trey’s research in applied economics dovetails with a field of research about which we’ve been hearing a fair amount of late: behavioural economics. Why is it that we consume what we consume? (An NPR segment from October 2014 detailed how a group of foodies were tricked into praising a plate of hors d’oeuvres for their “fresh” and “pure” taste. The tasty morsels? Re-presented McDonald’s fare.)

But studies emanating from the intersection of economics and psychology can also have implications that fuel unreflective consumption. Can’t decide between all those beers on that extensive tap list? Something hoppy, maybe? Or local?IMG_1881 Inquiries into consumer behaviour start with these and similar sets of assumptions about what consumers want or need. The resulting market research erects a hall of mirrors that subsequently confirms consumer desires, a simulacrum akin to the dystopian shopping mall reality of Don DeLillo’s White Noise. A retailer looking to build a tap list just has to look to all those sets of aggregate data to determine what the consumer apparently wants. (My guess: more IPAs, more sour beers.) The potential implication: a feedback loop that, through its intensification of the desire for particular products, is inimical to diversity.

Inasmuch as I have reservations about some aspects of contemporary economic thought, applied economics has been a boon to the craft beer industry. It has shone a light on the tangible benefits that breweries bring to communities, both in terms of employment and income generated through tourism and entertainment spending. This research helps shape policy regarding alcohol regulation and taxation. Applied economics can also help craft beer brewers and retailers discern what appeals most to the consumer, right down to the finer details of labeling and packaging.

For his part, Trey is hard at work figuring out what makes us beer drinkers tick.

* * *

Tell us about how your research relates to beer. What does your research involve on a day-to-day basis? Do breweries or retail outlets (bars, pubs, liquor stores, etc.) approach you to conduct research for them?

I focus on applied economics at OSU. Applied economics is sometimes said to be the study of unintended consequences, with any economic choice we make likely causing some level of fallout for someone else. For example, by trying to promote healthy lifestyles through limiting alcohol availability, policymakers might negatively affect total state revenue.

The majority of my dissertation research entails field experiments, and at this stage of my research I’m developing and expanding my network of contacts within the industry.Zannotti I am currently finishing a paper with my dissertation advisor using data from many state agencies as well as the Beer Institute in order to study the role of state-level legislation on growth in the craft beer market. I’m also in the process of conducting field experiments with various restaurants in the Stillwater area such as Zannotti’s Wine Bar, where we changed the number of beer options and the style of menu. My hypothesis is that consumers need different ways to mitigate the large number of beer options in the modern marketplace. I’m testing this reasoning by conducting an experiment where we doubled the number of beer options to see if people would be more or less likely to purchase a beer relative to another option on the menu.

What are some of the most exciting aspects of your personal research? Did you have any inkling when you first started your undergraduate studies that you’d be working toward an advanced degree relating to beer?

For me, the most exciting part about applied economics is the economic paradigm itself. Because the study of economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources, I feel like I see research questions everywhere.TreyMalone - Mtn

As an undergraduate, I fell in love with economics but had no idea what that really meant. My undergraduate advisor does beer research from an economic history perspective, so he was my first exposure to anything like what I do now. I can remember drinking a Boulevard Pale Ale with one of my good buddies when we were all deciding what to do for graduate school, and I told him I had no idea. He laughed and told me he thought I’d probably end up doing beer research exactly like my undergraduate advisor. I told him that was ridiculous… and here I am. My Master’s degree focused on the economic development potential for local food systems, so it was a natural transition back to craft beer for my doctoral work.

Do you have to be an expert on beer to conduct your research, or do you just have to have a certain degree of research acumen and know how to do math and statistics? Is sensory training relevant to your work? Beyond the numbers, how much of what you do involves interacting with consumers and producers of beer?

I would say you could do this kind of research with no sensory training at all. In fact, it might almost be easier to taste beer like a layperson if you are trying to understand consumer preferences. I think what is more important is understanding the marketplace: in other words, being an active participant in making decisions based on your preferences, and talking with other people who are making the same sensory decisions. I don’t think you have to be an expert on beer tasting; rather, you need to be an expert on beer buying.

TreyMalonePwrPt - DrinkPrefAgeTo truly understand how a market interacts, though, I think it is important to gain a level of understanding of all players in the marketplace. For example, it is important not only to understand the consumer of a given product, but also the producer, the distributor, and the retailer. Each participant operates with specific objectives in mind.

Generally, economists tend to be introverted and prefer office hours to field hours, but experimental economics demands a keen devotion to understanding people at a deeper level. I love to sit at a bar and observe how people make their orders. I’m fascinated by what drives them to make the selection they do. Is it because the offering is local, or is it because a friend recommended it?

Based on your research to date, what do you perceive to be some of the biggest challenges facing the craft beer industry in this period of rapid growth?

Increasing the number of participants in the market improves quality in the market through competition, but I would imagine that the increased competition might change what has historically been a “compatriot” culture in the marketplace. Oftentimes, craft brewers perceive the competition to be “Big Beer” and frequently work together on collaborations or help each other out as if they weren’t competing for the same consumer dollars.TreyMalonePwrPt - BreweryCapita 2012 I think once we reach a higher number of breweries in the marketplace, we might start to see some of that helpfulness in the marketplace deteriorate and turn into firm competition of the kind we see in other marketplaces.

Self-distribution legislation is a crucial step for states who would like to encourage local producers, along with tasting rooms and growler laws. Legislators need to remember that craft brewers are more interested in quality control and receiving compensation that is in line with the higher quality product they produce than they are interested in selling high volumes. That means they are far more interested in educating the consumer about why their beer is as good as it is, and why consumers should be willing to drink a higher-quality product but drink less of it.

What kind of advice would you give to craft beer enthusiasts who think that your line of work might be appealing?

The door is wide open for compelling beer research. Craft beer is a relatively new market, and most academic research lags behind this rapidly evolving industry. That said, doing what beer drinkers do on a regular basis is a great first step.

Formalizing the experimental drinking process that we all regularly participate in is the next step. In other words: data collection that minimizes experimental error. Obviously, chemists and brewers have labored for years minimizing experimental error, but there are a surprisingly small number of published sensory analyses of craft beer that actually discuss what the layperson perceives when he or she drinks a beer. I think the French expression, “à chacun son goût,” is misleading, as I believe there is accounting for taste. While we might not be able to justify why we might like something, people can generally order their preferences in a way that maximizes their happiness.CraftBeerInfographic Cost (huffpost sept 2014) That order might change with the weather or my mood, but at any specific point in time, I am just like any other person in that I can tell you what I want.

Given that I believe we as craft beer fans tend to be a little more experimental in our preferences than the general population, it would be wonderful to start understanding what we like and are willing to pay for. Craft- and home-brewers clearly understand how to make a quality product, but if the craft beer market intends to continue its steady growth, I think it is important to move the discussion into a more analytical framework. Numbers and statistics are what will ultimately earn the beer market credibility with policymakers, and the way we can grow those numbers is by being sure to bring a product to market that is not only high-quality, but also appealing to a large number of drinkers.

What’s your favorite Oklahoma beer? If stuck on a desert island and a genie appeared offering you one beer and one beer only, which one would it be?

My favorite Oklahoma beer right now is the Coop DNR. I love the complexity. If stuck on a desert island? As corny as this is, I would ask for a Boulevard Pale Ale. That has been (and probably will always be) my go-to beer. I’ve heard people talk about how songs transport them to different times and places. Boulevard’s Pale Ale does that for me. Just a sip takes me back to the first time I found out what beer could taste like.

Related Tempest Articles

How To Become a Beer Liaison: An Interview with Genesee’s Sean Coughlin

The Industry Series: Tasting Tips from Cornell Flavour Chemist, Gavin Sacks


Winter flowers and Dark Horse aquarium: F.D. Hofer

With the exception of the Zannotti’s Wine Bar logo ( and the Craft Beer Cost Infographic (Huffington Post), all remaining images courtesy of Trey Malone.

The Craft Beer Cost Infographic is from Joe Satran’s “Here’s How a Six-Pack of Craft Beer Ends Up Costing $12,” Huffington Post, September 12, 2014.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer, Trey Malone, and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

Anyone who lives in or has been to Central Europe at this time of year has likely warmed him- or herself with a mug of spicy mulled wine (Glühwein). I remember well my first encounter with this aromatic winter elixir. The gray sky hung low over Saarbrücken, and an icy drizzle coated the paving stones leading to the Sankt Johanner Markt in the center of town. But something was different about this day.100-2705_IMG Aromas of baking spice and roasted nuts mingled with grilled bratwurst and pine boughs. I rounded the corner and was greeted by a cheerful panorama that seemed to defy the dark afternoon: my first Christkindlmarkt. The square had transformed itself into a collection of open-air stalls decked out for the season, many selling Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers and other handmade wooden toys, some selling Lebkuchen and candied almonds, and others selling beer and Glühwein to wash down the Fleischkäse, sausages, and other delectables. It is a winter scene that plays itself out all over Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and parts of Alsace and the South Tyrol.

Since that day in Saarbrücken in the early nineties, Glühwein has become an annual holiday tradition wherever I happen to call home. And since I’ve never been known to leave a perfectly good recipe be, I’ve cooked up several variations over the years. Why not a tankard of mulled beer in place of Glühwein?LiefmansGluhkriek (www-bier-deluxe-com) After all, every now and then you’ll find a Christmas market stall selling Glühbier. And the Belgians, too, are no strangers to warm beer, having once enjoyed a popular holiday concoction of old lambic, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and beaten eggs. Recently, producers such as Liefman’s have revived the tradition with Glühkriek meant to be served warm.

Before giving you my recipe for Glühbier, I’ll start with the process for making Glühwein. Whether you’re making Glühwein, mulled beer, or wassail, the basic ingredients are simple: red wine, beer, or cider; some form of citrus juice; sugar (or some other sweetener such as honey); spices; and brandy. Amounts for each ingredient will depend largely on how much Glühwein or Glühbier you want to make, and how spicy you want it. The cooking process drives off plenty of the alcohol (along with about ten percent of the volume), so don’t worry about knocking your guests out.

* * *

*Red wine. Four bottles of wine (3 liters) should keep about ten of your friends happy. The same rule of thumb that applies to cooking wine also holds true for Glühwein: You don’t need to waste your fine bottles of wine on something to which you’ll be adding plenty of sugar, spice, and other things nice, but nor do you want to use a wine that you wouldn’t also want to drink while you’re making the Glühwein.100-2679_IMG A good Syrah or Grenache should do the trick. For now, just keep the wine aside until you’ve made your tea mix.

*Tea. For your Glühwein, you want something like Earl Grey, or a subtle herbal tea. For four bottles of wine, I make about two cups (500mL) of tea with about five teabags. Once you’ve made your tea, pour it into the large pot you’ll use to cook the Glühwein and bring it to a simmer. You’ll add all the ingredients to the tea, starting with the sugar, followed by the oranges, spices and, finally, the wine.

*Sugar. You’ll need more than you think you need. I add sugar by the handful. Start by dissolving it in the tea, and then add to the wine over the course of cooking. Figure on using a half cup or more.

*Oranges. Mandarin oranges work best. Wash the outsides, and then peel them straight into the kettle. In a separate bowl, muddle the orange wedges with a wooden spoon, and then add it all to the kettle. I use at least six oranges in a pot of Glühwein.

*Ginger. Optional. I’ve used it once or twice, and it adds a nice zing. Peel and grate straight into the kettle.

*Spices. Here’s where you get to play around a bit and put your own stamp on your mulled wine. The key is to make sure that you start with whole spices. Cloves and cinnamon are de rigueur, but you can add nutmeg, allspice berries, peppercorns, star anise, even juniper berries or green cardamom. Remember that a little goes a long way when it comes to cloves. With cinnamon sticks, crush them lightly before adding. In the case of whole nutmeg, grate it straight into the pot. If you’re pressed for time, you can also use ground spices.IMG_2070 Three cinnamon sticks, about eight cloves, and about a third of a whole nutmeg (or two to three good pinches of powder) makes a good starting point.

Now you can add the wine! Stir it all in, and then bring the mix to just below boiling point before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for an hour or more.

*Brandy. You can use any kind brandy, or Kirsch if you have it. Add the brandy at the beginning of the simmer, just a splash at a time. Taste now, keeping in mind that cooking will drive off the harsher alcohol. By the time all is said and done, I will have added about one to two ounces of brandy. (Be careful with hard liquor around an open flame, or you may end up with a more fiery version of Glühwein than you bargained for.)

After an hour, taste the mixture. If it’s too sweet, add more brandy. If it’s not sweet enough, add more sugar. Adjust any other seasonings. If you needed to adjust it, let it all simmer for another twenty to thirty minutes. If it tastes fine to you, strain it before your guests arrive and keep it simmering over low heat on your stovetop.

Voilà. Now your home will smell like a Christkindlmarkt!

Glühbier (Serves ten to twelve)

  • 6 bottles (500mL) of a rich and malty beer like Bock or Doppelbock
  • 6 mandarin oranges
  • 3 tsp grated ginger
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 8 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • ¼ of a whole nutmeg, grated (or two good pinches of powder)
  • 1 to 2 ounces dark rum

Follow the same procedure as you would for Glühwein, omitting the tea.

Happy Holidays!

Related Tempest Articles

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Winter Nights and Warming Barleywines from Sussex, Texas, and Québec

With the exception of the Liefman’s Glühkriek (, photos of Potsdam, Berlin, and Glühwein spices by F.D. Hofer.

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

The Industry Series: Tasting Tips from Cornell Flavour Chemist, Gavin Sacks

Close your eyes for a moment and think about what the ideal job might entail. If it involves tasting wine or beer while working, read on.

Meet Gavin Sacks, Associate Professor in Food Science in Cornell University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), a person who spends plenty of time with a glass in one hand and a pen in the other.IMG_0950 Sacks teaches courses that comprise part of Cornell’s interdisciplinary major in enology and viticulture, including Wine and Grapes: Analysis and Composition, and Wine and Grape Flavor Chemistry. With the teaching day done, Sacks gets down to the business of analyzing the flavour and aroma components of grapes and wine.

In this inaugural piece detailing careers within the beverage industry, Sacks––a flavour chemist who works closely with the New York State wine industry––tells us about how his work and research can enhance our appreciation of beer and wine. For those of us in search of tips about how to develop our palates, Sacks also spells out intriguing practical suggestions. And lest the beer-committed homebrewers among us despair at all the wine flowing early in this interview, stay with us for the ride. A greater awareness of the aromas that surround us can enable us to identity what went wrong––and what went right––with our beloved concoctions.

* * *

I first met Gavin several years ago at a wine-tasting he had organized at the home of a mutual friend, and have had occasion since then to sit down to a meal, a few bottles of wine, and, from time to time, beer.Gavin Sacks - Faculty Page What struck me very early on was his focus on the flaws he perceived. But not only that: it was the words he used to describe the flaws. Hitherto, wine appreciation for me had usually involved grasping after an elusive vocabulary to describe what was pleasant about the wine. Occasionally, it was about trying to pin what was objectionable with words such as “oxidized” and “corked.” Sure, pungent cat odours intruded upon polite conversation about the gooseberry and boxwood character of many a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but this is as far as things went. Describing wine with biochemical terms like esters, fusels, and phenols? It took some getting used to. If memory serves me correctly, the first time I heard the word “Brettanomyces” was when Gavin uttered it apropos of a particularly funky wine from the northern reaches of the Côtes-du-Rhône. A problematic beast, this bug called Brettanomyces

* * *

A Tempest in a Tankard: What kind of research do you do? What are some of the most exciting aspects of your personal research, and what are some of the promising new directions opening up for your field in general?

Gavin Sacks: My research program focuses primarily on wine and grape flavor chemistry, and particularly on cultivars that are popular in New York State and other cool climates. Some very recent research projects by the lab include the following:NYS WineRegions (www-grapesandgrainsnyc-com) determining factors that limit extraction of tannins during winemaking, especially in cool climates; determining the cause of sulfurous off-aroma appearance during bottle storage; and developing easy and inexpensive tools for measurement of sulfites and volatile acidity in the winery.

We have also performed research in collaboration with viticulturalists to understand how growing practices affect flavor chemistry. For example, it’s well-known that precursors of the compound responsible for the “kerosene and petrol-like” note of Riesling will increase if the grapes are highly exposed to sunlight. We have determined that the critical window for this exposure is just before veraison (color-change). This may be useful to a producer interested in avoiding or increasing the petrol character of their wine.

As far as future directions, one of the hottest topics right now in wine chemistry is understanding the interaction of wine and trace levels of oxygen during storage. Enologists have a good grip on what happens if wines are exposed to large quantities of oxygen (namely, oxidation and wine spoilage), but the effects seen with exposing wines to more typical levels encountered in barrel, tank, or bottle are harder to predict.IMG_6216 Why do some wines improve in qualities such as color and mouthfeel following oxygen exposure, while others immediately brown, even though their chemical composition appears nearly identical? There are now storage tanks and some closures (not to mention micro-ox units) that allow in specific amounts of oxygen. That sounds great, but that’s only useful if a winemaker knows what to expect.

TT: Tell us a bit about your career trajectory. Did you have any inkling when you first started your undergraduate studies that you’d be working with the wine industry?

GS: When I completed my Ph.D. in chemistry, I had no expectations of working on wine for a career. I had a love of both teaching and research, and had planned to apply for traditional faculty positions in chemistry departments. I liked wine, but from a wine appreciation perspective. On a lark, I did a brief stint in a vineyard before starting a post-doc, which opened my eyes to the subject of wine and grape science. A few years later, when I saw that Cornell was advertising for a wine chemist, I thought “why not?”.

TT: How close are your ties with the wine industry of the Finger Lakes and the rest of New York State? Do wineries approach you/Cornell, or do you let it be known that you/Cornell can help them out?

GS: All of the Cornell enology faculty have close ties to Finger Lakes wineries as well as wineries in other New York State regions (Lake Erie, Long Island, etc.). My colleagues with extension appointments will work much more closely with commercial wineries on a day-to-day basis. This consultation work includes operating a wine and grape analysis lab with discounted rates for New York State winemakers, and organizing frequent workshops and short courses.

Although I do not have an extension appointment, I still work with wineries in the region, especially as part of collaborative research projects. For example, in a recent project, we were interested in understanding the persistence of a particular pesticide (elemental sulfur) on grapes that could lead to off-aromas during fermentation. We developed an easy technique to measure the pesticide, and distributed measurement kits to wineries. We then compiled results and presented them at winemaker conferences. Regional winemakers also host field trips by Cornell classes, provide guest lectures, and employ our students following graduation. IMG_1142TT: How much actual smelling and tasting do you do over the course of a given day or week?

GS: That will vary. In some of my spring classes, we may taste four to six wines per lecture, and if I’m also guest lecturing for other classes, and need to evaluate candidate wines ahead of time to confirm their appropriateness, that may mean a few dozen wines per week. I may also participate in a tasting session with other faculty and students, or else a local winemaker may drop by with some odd samples, all of which can mean another two to twenty wines in a day.

However, there are some weeks where the only wine I taste is what I drink with dinner. In sum, I think I taste fewer wines than many sommeliers or other wine professionals. But I probably taste a lot more weird and faulty stuff.

TT: How much of your research involves precision instruments, and how much of it relies on our notoriously capricious senses of smell and taste?

GS: It will depend on the project, and where we are in the project. A lot of wine research, my own and that of others, focuses on off-flavors. This isn’t because we like bad wine, but the reality is that most funding is available for fixing or avoiding problems. When was the last time you went to doctor because you were feeling great?

Many off-flavors are due to the presence of one or two chemical compounds in gross excess. Often, the initial work enologists do is to identify or confirm the identity of the offensive compounds, and then set up an instrumental method for their analysis. Subsequently, we use the instruments to see what factors affect the compound(s). Instruments offer better reproducibility, and don’t mind working through the evening, so they do the bulk of analysis. But at the end of the day, whether it’s a desirable or undesirable flavor, it’s important for us to use sensory panels to establish the initial target, and to confirm results once sample analysis is complete.

TT: Here’s a related question. How well do instruments quantify “smell” and “taste”? I’m assuming that they pick up on aspects of an aroma profile that we humans might miss at first.

GS: There are some things that can be predicted rather well by instrumental analysis. Sourness, for example, can be very well modeled in dry wines simply by determining the acid concentration via titration. The intensity of off-flavors can also often be modeled rather well, since these usually can be related to the presence of one compound in excess. There may be some variation in individual sensitivities to these off-flavors, but we can talk about averages for a population of wine consumers.

However, many aspects of flavor are hard to model from instrumental data. For example, “red fruit” and “black fruit” aromas arise from the presence and absence of lots of compounds, and predicting the intensity of these aromas is not easy. The same thing goes for a number of other wine terms, such as body. An added complication is that sensory panelists, even if they are wine professionals, often have a hard time using some sensory terms in a reproducible fashion. “Minerality,” for example, is notoriously difficult to get panelists to agree upon. Beer Flavor Wheel (www-beerflavorwheel-com)TT: What kinds of overlap is there between the flavour and aroma compounds of beer and wine (and other spirits)? Can you give some examples of the chemical compounds, along with how we might describe their flavour and aroma?

GS: To my knowledge, there are no flavor compounds unique to wine. Anything that can be found in wine can also be found in beer (or spirits, or coffee), and vice versa. Wine and beer differ in chemical composition quantitatively, not qualitatively. If you spend enough time and money, any wine compound could be detected, if only in extremely trace concentrations. Some examples of compounds common to both beer and wine:

  • Diacetyl: “buttery” aroma, desirable in some wine styles like barrel aged Chardonnay, but often undesirable in crisp lager beers
  • 4-mercapto-4-methyl-pentanone: “cat pee / grapefruit” aroma, important to the varietal character of both Sauvignon blanc wines and some hoppy IPAs
  • 4-ethylguaiacol and 4-ethylphenol: “clove/phenolic/barnyard” aroma, produced by Brettanomyces yeast, essential to the character of many Belgian farmhouse ales, but often considered a fault when they dominate wine

Also, flavor chemists use the word “flavor” as a general term to describe smell, taste, and mouthfeel.

TT: What kind of advice would you give to craft beer enthusiasts or budding wine connoisseurs who want to get the most out of their tasting sessions?

GS: Never, ever taste a single wine or beer at a time. Humans are lousy at doing sensory evaluation on a single product in a vacuum; we’re much better at doing comparative studies.

The other recommendation I’d give is to remember that there are no unique flavor compounds or flavors to be found in wine or beer. So, try to smell and taste lots of things, not just wine or beer. Go to a perfume shop or a candle store or an auto parts store and sniff everything. Buy a bunch of obscure fruits from the local Asian market and taste them. You will have a lot more “aha” moments as a result.

TT: Do you have any suggestions on putting together home flavour and aroma kits so that people can expand their sensory horizons?

GS: As I mentioned above, smell and taste everything around you, within reason. Kits are okay for faults training, but a lot of real aromas aren’t very stable, and the kits do a so-so job in reproducing them (and they get worse during storage). If you smell something interesting, track it down, and figure out what the cause is.

TT: In one of our conversations, you mentioned a grant proposal that you’re working on for a hop analysis lab at Cornell University. Can you tell us more about what you and your colleagues envision for this lab, and why you think it’s important for both the hop industry and brewing industry?

GS: The proposal would be for a lab at Cornell to perform malt, hop, and beer analysis for the growing industry. We have a similar lab for wine and grape analyses.IMG_0466 Currently, there are a lack of regional alternatives for these analyses for small and mid-size operations. For example, there is an interest in using New York State hops, but brewers want to know the concentration of alpha-acids, which will eventually lead to bitterness. Having a nearby lab to make these measurements with a fast turnaround time will help both regional growers and producers in the craft beer industry.

TT: What do you see to be some of the biggest challenges facing the Finger Lakes/New York State wine industry and the exploding craft beer industry? These industries are quite different, but perhaps there are some common challenges, or challenges unique to each industry.

GS: On the growing side, the humid conditions of our state take a toll in the form of fungal diseases for grapes, hops, and malting barley. In the wineries or breweries, smaller operations have the challenge that the winemaker/brewer may have wear a lot of hats: janitor, microbiologist, analytical chemist, accountant, sales and marketing guru, tasting room staff, human resources manager, and the like––all in the same day.

TT: What kinds of things are these industries getting right, in your opinion?

GS: I love the spirit of collaboration and openness among New York State winemakers and vineyard managers. They are almost invariably willing to help each other out with advice and accumulated knowledge, not to mention the occasional loan of equipment. For the most part, they recognize that their competition is with the rest of the wine world, not with each other, and that they need to work together to raise the profile of New York State wines. I don’t know the craft beer industry as well, but I expect that they have a similar attitude.

TT: It’s the end of the day and you want a drink. If it’s wine, what kind? If it’s beer, do you prefer the flavours and aromas of malt, or are you a “hophead”?

GS: Right now, since it’s late summer, I like refreshing and not too heavy. So, lower alcohol, crisp, balanced. So, for beer that means Kölsch and well-made Pilsner-type lagers; for wine, that may mean Riesling or dry rosé. Lots of malt and hops and oak and dense fruit and high alcohol have their place . . . just not right now.

TT: Are you able to sit down and just enjoy a glass of wine or beer without thinking of the chemical compounds, or without critiquing the flaws?

GS: That can be an occasional problem, especially if we’ve been focusing on faults in class. What I’ve learned to do is if I am really trying to enjoy wine or beer, I will buy a product type that I know nothing about. That way, I don’t the run the risk of getting too critical!


Related Tempest Articles in the Industry Series

How To Become a Beer Liaison: An Interview with Genesee’s Sean Coughlin

Beeronomics: An Interview with Trey Malone

Further Reading/Viewing

Gavin Sacks featured on NPR/PRI’s Science Friday (January 2014)

Beer Judging Certification Program (BJCP)

BJCP Beer Fault List

Cicerone Certification Program


Cornell clock tower: F.D. Hofer

Gavin Sacks: Cornell Department of Food Science (CALS)

New York State Wine Regions:

Gewürztraminer in Mendocino: F.D. Hofer

Vineyard near Keuka Lake, NY: F.D. Hofer

Beer Flavour and Aroma Wheel:

Hops at Climbing Bines, Senaca Lake, NY: F.D. Hofer


©2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.