Saturday, February 24, 2007

More on St. Patrick's merch branding mania

At a Shrove Tuesday gathering earlier this week, while fattening up on all variety of pre-Lenten pancake goodness with a handful of Brits whilst ELO rocked the hi-fi, conversation turned (as it has before, and likely will again) to the beauty and mystery of Marmite. With recent developments in the Marmite world such as the new Guinness branded version for St. Patrick's Day, this classic spreadable brewing by-product is obviously looking to keep itself relevant (Guinness being no stranger to adventures in marketing). Inevitably, though, as our agrarian demeanors demand, talk turned quickly to trying to make the terrifying stuff in the comfort of your own home.
After all, as sustainability-conscious homebrewers, there are only three things we need to worry about as waste products at the end of the day - spent grains, cooling water, and trub. And while the spent grains and water can go straight into use in the garden, the trub is a little trickier, unless you've got pigs around who need a vitamin B boost. So why not try your hand at converting that stinky caked pile of death into something darker, stinkier, and spreadable on toast?
Here's why not: the process is a secret. With the two largest food manufacturing products in Burton-on-Trent being beer and beer-making waste (to quote Wikipedia: "this gives the area a distinctive smell"), we're left only with the knowledge that the trub from those deliciously gypsum-addled ales makes its way in lorries across town to be "processed" into that tarry paste so beloved by the Brits. But what happend in that process remains a bit of a debate amongst the inquiring masses. So it appears to be a waste of energy better suited for baking breads and growing shitake mushrooms from your spent grains. Just put the trub in your compost pile, hippie. As far as uses for Marmite in homebrewing, however, I'll just leave that topic for another day... [We'll miss you, Karen!]

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Black and tan and beer for dessert

It must be St. Patrick's Day branding season already.

Black and tan for the new dad. Whoo.
I don't know why, but this new ice cream flavor that in all respects is trying to emulate one of the finer fireside pub quaffs of British-emulating Americans (complete with layered strata and cream head) also brings to mind memories a summertime treat that can't be beat: Tokyo Fog.

A discovery made in college by a friend who had gotten his hands on a 1960's "bachelor-style" cookbook (something for the boys and a little something special for the ladies), there isn't a lot to be said about Tokyo Fog that can't be summed us thusly, but it would be a treat if we could get a scan of the decidedly Lileksian recipe book posted online. [Merchant, are you out there?]

Of course, merging the flavors of beer and ice cream is nothing new. Even our local pub serves up a "porter float" (although I'm quite taken with this Leffe version). But while the Irish press is up in arms over an ice cream that they'll likely never see isle-side, they get to enjoy this while we Yanks cry in our Americone Dream... Just be careful we don't get all riled up and try to serve it to one of your cats.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Barely time for barley wine

If you haven't made it down to Toronado's annual festival of the wine that is not of the vine but of the bine, you might want to head down there ass-app, as the flow be gettin' low. Historically, the best stuff is gone by Saturday (the judging panel on Friday night gets firsts dibs, as it were), and as we trundled down on an especially busy Monday evening, nearly half the taps had run dry. So while we'll never know what was on taps 6, 12, 13, 17, 24, 29, 30, 33, 48, 50, and 51, nor will I know the joy of Glacier's French oak-aged Big Woody, Pelican's nobly hopped Storm Watcher, or San Francisco Brewing's 13-month old Ginsberg tribute Howl.

But there were others, and lo, did we taste them. If you're quick enough to catch them, here are some worth the $1.75 price of entry:

North Coast Old Stock 2005 - Des' pick of the year. NCBC is a perennial favorite, with their Old Stock being one of the only ales I routinely cellar for vertical tastings, and the 2005 batch is no exception. Exquisitely balanced and well-rounded, without a hint of oxidation for its age, and with a surprisingly long-lasting hop finish.

JW Lees Harvest Ale - We disagreed on this one. I picked it as my favorite of the year because it was just so anomalous to the rest of the showings. A truly British concoction with but the faintest whiff of carbonation and nary a hint of hops, Des summed it up thusly: "Smells like butterscotch, tastes like butterscotch". But yet I loved it so.

Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2005 - This was last year's favorite and it's still a stand-out. Intensely perfumed with wet hop dry hop whatever hop action, this extra-strength Mirror Pond could easily be renamed an Imperial West Coast Pale Ale.

Big Sky Old Bluehair - From the folks who brought you the Drool, this is a finely tannic, wickedly bitter, bourbon-tinged delight. All hail the barrel-agers!

Mad River John Barleycorn 2006 - I keep coming back to this one, the prickliest one of the bunch. While it might mellow with age, it's a joy to drink it young and while its characteristics have yet to marry, piney and resinous hops making for a somewhat unrefined and American Primitive experience. I could make some rude, punny metaphor about that, but I won't. Fahey in a glass.

Go forth! As ephemeral as all good craft beer is, you're not likely to find these on tap again any time soon. And sorry, no photos. Just imagine a really crowded bar with tons of teeny tiny glasses strewn all over the place, and a handful of dogs (including a Weimaraner, but I didn't see Wegman anywhere).

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Monday, February 19, 2007

There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.

So sayeth big Ben. Happy President's Day, everyone. Just one more day of vacation, I promise. It's been a wild ride the past month or so, but there hasn't been any shortage beery goodness of which to speak.
In the meantime, a little article on the true architectural grandeur of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello - the brewery!

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