Tag Archives: Beer Blogging Friday

The MaltHead Manifesto

A spectre is haunting the craft beer world –– the spectre of Sir Maltalot. Laid low by a tsunami of IPA, the wild yeasts have set in to consume his legacy. Extreme beerists have entered into an unholy alliance with sharp-fanged sours, enlisting sturdy barrel-aged beers to confine Sir Maltalot within their cavernous depths. Buried under layer upon layer of rum, oak, bourbon, and peppers, his spirit lies in wait.

Like an illumination of the darkest night, the repressed memory of Sir Maltalot’s lush aromas has begun to stir. Lovers of Scotch Ales and Doppelbocks, aficionados of lagers light and dark, let us band together to fight for a craft beer world in which value is not measured by the bitterness unit,IMG_0152 in which a hundred IBUs does not automatically equate with one-hundred Beer Advocate points! A revaluation of values! A world in which brown ales are not cast aside for their seeming ordinariness!

Maltheads, conceal your views and aims for not a moment longer! Emerge from the shadows and proclaim with unfaltering voice your affinity for Munich malt, crystal malt, Maris Otter, Pilsener malt, and Golden Promise! And let the lovers of the Seven Cs tremble at the prospect of a Malthead revolution. Maltheads of the world, unite! Come together to break the bitter tyranny of the IBU imperium. We have nothing to lose but our scythes.

PostScript

Installment #94 of The Session comes to us courtesy of Adrian Dingle at DingsBeerBlog, and inquires after our perceived role in the beer scene. Friday took me by surprise,Session Friday - Logo 1 as did December in general, so I wanted to write something short that was playful yet pointed at the same time. Hence my Malthead Manifesto.

I love sitting down to a rich imperial stout (as a matter of fact, I’m drinking one with chilis as I write), and my fridge is stocked with Belgian sours, American wild ales, and all sorts of beers containing ingredients that would make the crafters of the Reinheitsgebot roll over in their graves. But I do think that some styles have gotten short shrift in recent years. Lager of just about all stripes springs immediately to mind, along with other styles that don’t push the proverbial envelope in any appreciable way.

Anyone care to join me for a glass of Munich Helles later?

High ABV, high IBU, intense sourness, and anything else “extreme”: these are the discursive markers that dominate the contemporary North American craft beer landscape. What’s more, these markers have become conflated with quality. (A glance at any of the “best-of” lists making the year-end rounds quickly bears this assertion out.) People new to the community enter a world of predetermined codes, a canon of taste that prescribes which beers are worthy of attention, and which ones aren’t.

Anyone up for grabbing a six-pack of brown ale this evening?

Aside from the pleasure I derive from writing about the stuff I like to drink, I suppose one of the main reasons I approach writing about beer in the manner I do is because I’d rather not see our choices diminished by powerful taste trends. There’s a certain irony here: Our current range of beverage choices in North America could not be more extensive, but with increasing competition for shelf space and tap lines, I’m wary of a consolidation that favours the dominant tastes I mentioned above. And I’m wary of perfectly good beer styles –– beer styles excellent in a subtle way that doesn’t call forth a cascade of adjectives to describe them –– being eclipsed by certain styles deemed “better” merely be virtue of having higher this and more intense that.

Maybe we can order a few pints of Scottish ale when we’re done with our English mild.

I drink with a catholic embrace. I drink wine, bourbon, Scotch, and tequila. And I drink saké. I even drink my share of IPA. Better yet, make it a double IPA. But when we’re in Berlin, let’s head to a pub in Neukölln instead of lining up at Stone’s new location.

The first round of Hefeweizen is on me.

Related Tempest Articles

Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.3)

Every Day Is Craft Lager Day at Kansas City Bier Company

Celebrating Craft Lager Day with a Landbier from Kapsreiter

Drinking Lager in an Age of Extreme Taste

Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons

Brown Beers Get No Luvin’: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.2)

Becoming Munich Dunkel.

Becoming Munich Dunkel

With the exception of The Session logo, images by F.D. Hofer.

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

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

Nose, nose, jolly red nose / And what gave thee that jolly red nose?

Cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg, and cloves / And that’s what gave me that jolly red nose.

At the beginning of his chapter on warm beer, W.T. Marchant expresses regret that “some of the more comforting drinks,” such as wassail, had waned in popularity over the years. “When beer was the staple drink, morning, noon, and night,” he continues, “it was natural that our ancestors would prefer their breakfast beer warm and their ‘nightcaps’ flavoured, hence the variety of their comforting drinks” (599).

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Marchant’s undeservedly obscure 1888 classic, In Praise of Ale, is much more than a “compendium of songs, ballads, epigrams, and anecdotes relating to beer, malt, and hops.” It is, rather, nothing less than a compendium of traditions, gender roles, social relations, and the customs of everyday life. I will leave all that richness to the side for now, save for the following observation: If the past is a foreign country, it is one in which the inhabitants drink warm beer.

* * *

Before heading off on my most recent road trip, I spent some time perusing the list of upcoming topics for The Session, that monthly virtual symposium that gathers together beer writers from across the interwebs. For June’s edition, the scribes behind Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog suggested that we take a deeper draught of traditional beer mixes. No beer cocktails, they admonished. Instead, they proposed experimenting with some classic two-beer mixes of times past, inspiring us with a few examples:

  • Lightplater–– bitter and light ale.
  • Mother-in-law—old and bitter.
  • Granny—old and mild.
  • Boilermaker—brown and mild.
  • Blacksmith––stout and barley wine.
  • Half-and-half––bitter and stout, or bitter and mild.
  • B&B––Burton and bitter.

Alas, I was not able to participate in this exploration of what remains a more vibrant aspect of British pub and tavern culture than of North American craft beer culture, but the idea traveled with me this summer.

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A few weeks back, I spent some time with Marchant’s gem during one of my trips to the rare manuscripts reading room. Leafing through this old 600-odd page tome, I found myself drawn to the chapter on warm ale; as it turned out, a few days previous I had come across another reference to warm beer in the library’s catalogue:

A Treatise of Warm Beer, Wherein is declared by many reasons that Beer so qualified is farre more wholesome than that which is drunk cold (1641).

What’s up with all this warm beer, I asked myself? Marchant even had a reference to this 1641 treatise on warm beer in his work published more than two hundred years later.Dauphin - Francis (Wiki) These deep concern with the iniquities of chilled beverages reminded me of my Swiss grandmother, who used to give my brother and me grief about drinking our soft drinks ice-cold in a hot summer’s day, muttering vague prognostications to the effect that our stomachs would perform some grievous trick like turning somersaults. A similar fate seems to have befallen “the Dolphin of France, son to Francis the French King,” who, “although he were a lusty strong gentleman, yet he being hot at tennis, and drinking cold drink fell sick and died” (cited in Marchant, 601).

But maybe they were on to something, my grandma and those critics of the dolphin tennis players of the mid-1600s.

Even if no one I know has dropped dead upon knocking back a cold one after mowing the lawn, nowadays we tend to drink our ales far too cold, and our lagers, too.Bourdieu - OutlineTheoryPractice For the most part, the notion of an ice-cold beer is so culturally ingrained as to be a part of our habitus. It would strike many of us as odd––even some of the craft beer enthusiasts among us––to even begin to contemplate drinking our beer at cellar temperature, let alone at room temperature or warmer.

* * *

To my pleasant surprise, as I read on about the deleterious effects of cold beverages, I found not only a discussion of the benefits of warm beer to health, countenance, and constitution, but also a collection of recipes for beer cocktails of yore.

Marchant was well-versed in the kinds of traditional beer mixes that Boak and Bailey bade us try, but his account of beer’s versatility as a bit player in a panoply of curious drinks reveals yet deeper layers of possibility for the mixologist with a zymurgical bent. Marchant cites a seventeenth-century traveler to England who wrote the following: “In the evening, the English take a certain beverage which they call buttered ale, composed of cinnamon, sugar, butter, and beer brewed without hops” (612).

Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene’s Elizabethan-era stage play, A Looking Glass for London and England, provides another indication that beer played best in concert with other foodstuffs:Crab Apples (Wiki Commons) “Mark you, sir, a pot of ale consists of four parts: imprimus the ale, the toast, the ginger, and the nutmeg” (604). Marchant is quick to point out that these lines leave out the roasted crabs. Crab apples, that is; for “to turn a crab is to roast a wilding or a wild apple for the purpose of being hissing hot into a bowl of nut-brown ale, into which had previously been put a toast with some spice and sugar” (605).

* * *

And so, here are a few recipes for your historical cocktail hour, straight from the pages of In Praise of Ale. Try some of these now, or tuck the recipes away for the winter holiday season or for your harvest wassailing.

The Crafte for Braket [Braggot]:

When thou hast good ale, draw out a quart of it and put it to the honey, and set it over the fyre, and let it seethe well, and take it off the fyre and scume it well, and so again, and then let it keel a whyle, and put thereto the peper, and set him on the fyre, and let him boyle together, with esy fyre, but clere. To four gallons of good ale put a pynte of fyne tried honey and a saucerfull of poudre of peper (606).

Flip:

Keep grated ginger and nutmeg with a little fine dried lemon peel rubbed together in a mortar. To make a quart of flip:––Put the ale on the fire to warm, and beat up three or four eggs with four ounces of moist sugar, a teaspoonful of grated nutmeg or ginger, and a quartern of good old rum or brandy. When the ale is near to boil put it into one pitcher, and the rum and eggs, &c., into another; turn it from one pitcher to another till it is as smooth as cream (607-608).

Cool Tankard, or Beer Cup:

A quart of mild ale, a glass of white wine, one of brandy, of capillaire, the juice of a lemon, a roll of the peel pared thin, nutmeg grated at the top (a sprig of borrage or balm), and a bit of toasted bread (608).

Warm Ale Cup:

One quart of ale, one glass of brandy, two glasses of sherry, and a quarter of a pound of lump sugar. Spice according to the palate. Boil the sugar in half the ale, and then mix the whole together (608).

Purl:

This is a beverage which is held in high estimation in many places. It is made with a mixture of beer or ale (formerly amber ale was only used), and gin and bitters, or gin bitters. The gin and bitters are put into a half-pint pewter pot, and the ale warmed over a brisk fire, and added to it, at the exact warmth for a person to drink such a portion at a single draught (609).

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Bonus: Best Title for a Beer Book Ever

Thomas Tryon. A new art of brewing beer, ale, and other sorts of liquors: so as to render them more healthful to the body, and agreeable to nature; and to keep them longer from souring with less trouble and charge than generally practiced, which will be a means to prevent those torturing distempers of the stone, gravels, gout and dropsie. To which is added, the art of making mault, &c. and several useful and profitable things relating to country affairs. Recommended to all brewers, gentlemen and others, that brew their own drink. The third edition, with many large additions never printed before. By Tho. Tryon, student in physick, who hath lately published rules physical and moral for preserving of health, with a bill of fare of 75 noble dishes of excellent food. Price bound 1 s. Licensed and entred according to order (London: printed for Tho. Salusbury, at the sign of the Temple near Temple-Bar in Fleet-street, 1691).

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Reference

W.T. Marchant, In Praise of Ale, Or, A Compendium of Songs, Ballads, Epigrams, and Anecdotes Relating to Beer, Malt, and Hops, with Some Curious Particulars Concerning Ale-Wives and Brewers, Drinking-Clubs and Customs (London: George Redway, York Street, Covent Garden, 1888).

Images

Title Page: F.D. Hofer

Francis of France (Francis III, Duke of Brittany), Painted by Corneille de Lyon: Wikipedia

Bourdieu: Amazon

Crab Apples: Wiki Commons

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

 

A Rodenbach Grand Cru in the Fridge, Or a Six-Pack of Lesser Beer Down the Hatch?

Addendum (24 August 2014):

When I read the theme for September’s edition of The Session, it seemed an ideal occasion to share something I had written earlier this summer. September’s Session topic, My First Belgian,Session Friday - Logo 1 comes to us courtesy of Breandán and Elisa of Belgian Smaak, a blog dedicated to Belgian beer and chocolate.

While the piece below isn’t, technically, about the first Belgian beer I ever had––that honour goes to the several Tripels I mistook for Pilseners on my first night in Bruges in the early 1990s (hey, I was young)––it is, tangentially, about my first sour beer. Hopefully the piece will serve as encouragement for those who are still sitting on the fence about these intriguing beers.

* * *

To age a sour beer, or not to age it? How long will a sour beer keep?

Say you’re at your local bottle shop and standing in front of a shelf and spy a few Belgian sours that have been marked down. Should you buy them?

Recently I received a note from one of my readers asking questions along those lines. After re-reading my response, I thought that some of it might be useful for other readers. What follows is a slightly altered and expanded version of the response I sent XYZ, posted with his permission.

*Note: I employ the term “sour” in the broadest sense, without making distinctions between Flanders Red, Oud Bruin, Gueuze, Lambic, Gose, Berliner Weisse, or any sour that would fall vaguely under the rubric of “farmhouse ale” or North American wild ale. Though united by their sourness or tartness, the different processes associated with each style produce beers that are entirely unique. Not all of these beers are suitable for aging.

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dear tempest,

my local bottle shop has a deal on bacchus sour ale, $3.99/bottle, which they say is very low (they say it’s usually $8 a pop, the internet says it’s usually $6 a pop). these are probably at discount b/c they were bottled late fall 2011. tried a bottle, seemed tasty, but maybe i was in a good mood. how well does sour ale keep, is this a good deal or should i pass on buying more and go straight for the duchess or the petrus pale ale at $1-2 more a bottle? or should we destitute graduate students give up on the pretensions of one fine beer a week, and go for six shitty buds instead? which produces a better dissertation? which produces a faster dissertation? does that distinction matter?

yours, XYZPetrus Oud Bruin (brouwerijdebrabandere.be)

Dear XYZ,

As soon as I saw the word “dissertation,” I put two and two together – which, as I’m sure you know, equals five. Notes from Underneath the Weight of a Dissertation. I’ve been there.

Anyway, Bacchus: I haven’t actually had the Bacchus sour yet. As far as the price goes, it compares favourably with beers such as Duchesse de Bourgogne and Petrus. In terms of bottle age, I’d be inclined to take the chance––certain sour beers can be reliable candidates for cellaring. I don’t have much experience in this field myself, but I have laid down a few Gueuzes for the long term, and once managed to save up three different vintages of Goose Island’s Sofie for a vertical tasting. (Tasting notes here.) Incidentally, a few weeks back I had the pleasure of tasting two vintages of Choc’s Gose from their Signature series: a 2012 and a 2013. I hadn’t thought of Gose as a style that age would flatter, but the 2012 had developed fuller, more complex flavours and a more intense but nuanced sourness. How – or whether – these flavours will develop over the long term, though, is anybody’s guess.

Before I go any further, here’s a caveat and an anecdote. First off, the caveat: sour beers tend to be lower in ABV (alcohol percentage); typically, beers lower in alcohol won’t stand up to cellaring as well as, say, barley wines or imperial stouts. But even at their lightest – a Lambic or Gueuze, for example – sour beers are the product of an interesting cocktail of “domesticated” and “wild” yeast (most predominant being Brettanomyces), usually acting in concert with bacteria (such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus) that would contribute otherwise undesirable aromas and flavours to other beer styles––acetic acid, or a lactic or citrusy tartness, for example. What’s interesting, though, is that different strains of Bettanomyces yeast and different kinds of bacteria will express themselves at varying stages of the aging process, adding nuances along the way. Introduce a bit of barrel aging, and you have a whole new layer of complexity. If you want a baseline for comparison with a “similar-but-different” variety of farmhouse beer, here’s an interesting article from Draft Magazine on aging Saisons.

And now for the anecdote. It was early spring and, like you, my dissertation held me firmly in its clutches. In need of a much-needed break, I went to the bottle shop with a close friend who was also in the process of expanding his appreciation of beer.HarvestStrawBalesSchleswig-Holstein (commons-wikimedia-org) Both of us had plenty of experience with wine and spirits, but we weren’t quite prepared for what awaited us in that small bottle of Gueuze on which we had just dropped northwards of twelve bucks. BrockhausEfronEncyclopedicDictionary_b35_043-0 (Wiki-Commons)Man, it smelled rankly pungent. Bandaid! Old hay! Horse blanket! Barnyard! It even smelled vaguely like washed-rind cheese. And it tasted, well, sour. And somehow not quite right. At any rate, we didn’t taste much of the beer, for by the time we had smelled it, we were already plenty convinced that this bottle of beer had given up the ghost. Back we went to the bottle shop.

Why am I relating this anecdote? Well, the Gueuze in question was vintage-dated, and had a few years of age on it. The only thing I knew about these kinds of beers at the time is that they were supposed to develop with age. But bandaid and barnyard? I protested loudly, and demanded a refund. The folks at the counter suggested – very diplomatically, given the circumstances – that perhaps this was a style of beer that would take some getting used to. To no avail.

Eventually, though, I learned that Gueuzes and Lambics (and the various other sour beers I’ve tasted since) have their own distinct charm. But it took some time for me to appreciate these beers and their potential for aging.

So buy those Bacchus sours. Taste one now, and lay one down. If you have the extra cash, get the Duchesse and a Petrus and do a tasting with all three. If you had to pick one over the others – and I suppose the issue of choice is a component of your question – I’d go with the Duchesse, but only because it’s one of my favourite beers. If you’ve had the Duchesse already, the different beers that Petrus offers are, for the most part, excellent too.Rodenbach-Grand-Cru (belgianbeercafe-net-nz) You can’t go wrong with Rodenbach’s Grand Cru either – even as a destitute grad student. Even better: splurge on a Rodenbach Vintage if your bottle shop carries it and crack it when you’re done your dissertation. And while you’re spending your hard-earned graduate stipend, don’t forget about some of the excellent producers of sour beers and farmhouse ales that have sprung up on this side of the pond, such as Crooked Stave, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Jester King, Prairie Artisan Ales, and Jolly Pumpkin, just to name a few.

Which brings us to your final set of questions: the relationship between drinking fine beverages and finishing that dissertation. I don’t know what you’re writing about, but I’d be willing to wager that one Rodenbach Grand Cru in the fridge is worth far more than any number of Buds in your gullet. The Rodenbach might cost more than a flat of macro brew, but hey, that’s what being a pretentious grad student’s all about – assuming, of course, that you uphold certain pretenses. So drink the better beer when you can afford it. Doing so might not produce a better dissertation in the end, but chances are you’ll feel happier basking in the glow of an imperial stout buzz when your writing stalls than you’d feel after downing a 6er of Bud and trying to fill that blank page with sage thoughts.

Better versus faster: the only good dissertation is a done dissertation. I’m sure you’ve heard that before.

Cheers,

Tempest

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Related Tempest Articles:

A Twist of Sour: New Belgium’s La Folie and Verhaeghe’s Duchesse de Bourgogne

Three Vintages of Goose Island’s Sofie

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Images:

Petrus: brouwerijdebrabandere.be

Harvest Straw Bales in Schleswig-Holstein: Wiki Commons

Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary: Wiki Commons

Rodenbach: belgianbeercafe.net.nz

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