Monday, May 25, 2009

Reserve Wheat Ale Berliner Weisse ~ Telegraph Brewing

I know one thing: if the telegraph hadn’t been invented, I very well may not be here preparing to sup on the Reserve Wheat Ale Berliner Weiss from the Telegraph Brewing Company. It’s mind-boggling and infinitely fascinating when I stop and think about all the little threads which connect the various scattered dots throughout history. I make sure not to think too hard about though lest my head starts to hurt. Some things are meant to intrigue and fascinate, but not to ever be truly fathomed. On the other hand, I get to fathom the heck out of this Berliner Weiss, a rarity on this side of the ocean. A bit of Germany in my glass goes a long way towards supping bliss.

She poured a hazy, blanched straw into my glass with a billowing cloud of white foam. She is quite the treasure, and lingers long into the finish. Her hazy white hue is spot on, and the tart, zesty, puckering nose that follows immediately behind is exactly what I would expect from an authentic Berliner Weiss. In Germany, it would not be uncommon to have it spiked with a fruit or herbal extract to take the edge off her sour bite, but I like my sour, so hold the extract please. Candied sugar much like one would find coating the outside of a sour lemon drop leads into a hard sour candy inside. Tart peaches, tangerines, and nectarines all on the verge of ripeness, but not quite. Crunchy acidic skins are included, of course. There is a touch of soft wet hay that billows in the background, but always as an afterthought. Mm… now that my olfactory senses have been satiated, tis time to quench the thirst. Bright, zippy, zesty, and full of the sour spice of life. Sugar-coated lemon drops, crunchy un-ripened peaches, nectarines, and tangerines dance atop my tastebuds while a soft undercurrent of creamy wheat keeps her true to her origins. The top of my tongue continues to tingle and tickle long after each quaff. I imagine myself in a field blooming with spring, sun shining down on my face, and a glass of tart, playful Reserve Wheat Ale Berliner Weiss in my hands. Bliss. Tight, pin-point carbonation holds all her flavors together as a touch of soft banana starts to peak through in the finish. Key lime joins the fray and a full blown party is in the works. Refreshing, invigorating, and exactly what I was hoping for.

A minimal thanks to history is possibly due, but even more importantly, thank you Telegraph Brewing Company for giving me a little taste of a German tradition with your Reserve Wheat Ale Berliner Weiss. May I have another, please?

(every monday i will post my beer review for the week. so... here is the first one)

Cigar City Offerings

so far, Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, FL have released two beers in the bottle for retail resale and purchasing pleasure:

Big Sound Scotch Ale

$110K + OT batch 2 ~ I.R.I.S.

the next beer in the works is a Saison brewed with Guava.
wait with bated breath and a puddle of drool. i know i am.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Saint Somewhere Saison du Fleurs

nothing on their website yet, but at the Orlando Beer Festival, Saint Somewhere Brewing out of Tarpon Springs, FL released their brand-new beer:

Saison du Fleurs

i am hoping for bottling news soon, but i haven't received any word yet. as soon as i know, i will of course update.

Fun Beer Facts

  • The oldest beverage known to mankind, Beer is traced back as far as 5000BC, and furthering evidence suggests Beer may go back as far as around 7000BC-8000BC.
  • New studies provide further evidence that one of the main reasons mankind evolved from a hunter-gatherer race to one of agricultural and settled means was the harvesting of grains for sustenance, especially Beer.
  • Long before the actual science behind fermentation was discovered and understood, Beer (and spirits in general) was considered to be a magical gift and blessing from the heavens above. A miraculous event, one which was not lost on religion and politics.
  • The history of the United States of America would be quite different if the Mayflower had landed in New York, its original destination. Instead, it landed in PA because its supplies were running low, especially Beer.
  • Our founding fathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were all avid Beer enthusiasts and avid homebrewers. Many a day spent planning our revolution and writing our Declaration of Independence was spent over a pint at home or at their local pub.
  • Beer may seem a silly reason to land sooner than later, but the modern convenience and marvel of clean, safe, and plentiful water is very new. For millennia, Beer was one of the safest beverages to drink because the boiling of water during brewing produced a sanitary, germ and virus free beverage. Besides being a safe source of refreshment, Beer was also highly nourishing, invigorating, and soothing during oft-times very harsh living conditions.
  • The oldest written recipe is a poem written to the Goddess of Brewing, Ninkasi, praising her gift from the heavens, Beer, while also at the same time recording their native recipe for all times.
  • The first unequivocal evidence of Hops being used in Beer as a flavoring, bittering, and preservative agent was recorded by the Abbess Hildegard. It describes in detail the use of and positive qualities of Hops in Beer.
  • For centuries and throughout various civilizations and cultures, Woman was the brewer and purveyor of that thirst-quenching beverage known as Beer. Commonly known as a Brewmistress or Ale Wife, it is one of the earliest positions of power, control, and influence that Woman had. She could barter, sell, trade, and control her wares: Beer. Man, in his jealousy of the power Ale Wives and Brewmistresses held, revoked their right to brew and deemed that brewing be a profession of man, not woman. Today, brewmasters are both man and woman, with women enjoying a growing presence in the Beer brewing scene.
  • In spite of or because of the near-death of Beer diversity in the face of universally mass-marketed, watered-down, adjunct riddled pale lagers, Beer is now enjoying a huge revival in styles, variety, and taste. Beer is truly the final frontier of fermentable beverages which enjoys a horizon with no end in sight.
  • Beer does not taste like “Beer”. Beer can have aromas and flavors that run the gamut of sweet, sour, tart, dry, heavy, light; chocolate, coffee, tropical fruits, freshly squeezed lemons and limes and oranges, berries, plums, prunes, raisins, and dates, licorice root, spices and herbs, roots and vegetables, freshly baked breads, butter rolls, sweet rolls, vinous acidic notes, fields of grain, leather, saddlebags, barnyard funk, champagne-esque delicacy and pin-point carbonation, oats, and far more than I can list. Beer encompasses the best tastes of all the flavors in the world and then some, all conveniently packaged in a 12oz bottle, 220z bomber, or corked 750ml champagne bottle.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cuvee de Cardoz ~ Brooklyn Brewery

Our brewmaster is fond of pointing out that his closest peers, after other brewers, are chefs rather than winemakers. Brewers, like chefs, start with an idea and then build that idea into a reality through the use of ingredients and technique. A few years ago, Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver, an avid home cook, attended a class on spicing conducted by Floyd Cardoz, the Executive Chef of the justly famed Indian-inflected New York City restaurant Tabla. And a few new beer ideas started to form…

Raised in Bombay and Goa, Chef Cardoz trained in India and Switzerland before moving to New York City. After a five-year stint at the venerable restaurant Lespinasse, he opened Tabla with restaurateur Danny Meyer in 1998. Since then he’s earned a boatload of accolades (including three stars from The New York Times), not only for his Indian cooking but also for his ability to infuse Western cuisine with Indian spices and soul. In 2006, Chef Cardoz he published his first cookbook, One Spice, Two Spice.

Now chef and brewmaster have combined their inspirations to bring you Brooklyn Cuvée de Cardoz. This golden wheat beer starts with a base of malted barley and unmalted wheat and then builds upon it a delicate balance of exotic spices selected by Chef Cardoz and then toasted and ground in the kitchens at Tabla. Ginger, tamarind, mace, black pepper, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and chilies are added in the kettle, and then the beer is infused with toasted coconut after the fermentation. Combined with our yeast and light hopping, these spices give the beer a gentle, complex perfume, a full fruity palate, and long, drying finish with a very faint prickle of heat.

Beyond being delicous, we think it’s also one of the coolest beers we’ve ever brewed. It's very nice with chicken dishes (especially since the spice blend is inspired by an Indian chicken dish called Xaccutti), salmon, red snapper, pork, barbecue, Indian and Thai cuisine and robust salads.

Malts: Canadian two-row pilsner malt, Madsen white winter wheat (unmalted)

Hops: German Hallertauer Perle

Additional Sugars: White brewer’s sugar

Spices and Infusions: Ginger, tamarind, mace, black pepper, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, chilies, toasted coconut.

Yeast: Our special Belgian strain

OG: 18.2° Plato

ABV: 8.0%

Rogue Spirits Hit Florida Shelves

Rogue Spirits, a craft distillery division of Rogue Brewing, is now available in limited quantity and limited distribution here in the sunny state of Florida.

Specifically, look for:
Rogue Dead Guy Whisky

Rogue Spruce Gin
Pink Spruce Gin

Rogue Hazelnut Spice Rum
Rogue Dark Rum
Rogue White Rum

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Beer Styles 101: Lambic

Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Not to a Belgian Lambic brewery and the Lambic brewer. After all, cleanliness is no godliness, and woe be upon he or she should they disturb the centuries old micro-flora climate that has established its domain in your brewery. Nay, the cobwebs are to be left undisturbed and dust is not to be dusted. From the old, drafty rafters to the worn racks and time-tested barrels to the abandoned broom in a dark, dank, musty corner, every part of a lambic brewery is a living marvel not of mankind, but nature. A living beer needs a living environment in which to survive and thrive.

Man may live within nature, possibly with even the blessing of nature, but when it comes to creating the miraculous Lambic, there is an occultist aura of sacredness. From its simple beginnings to now, not much if anything at all has changed in how brewers work with nature to give the gift of life to Lambic. We are no more in control of how Lambics are brewed as we are in control of nature. Instead, centuries past, around the 17th century to be exact, the stubbornly prideful citizens and brewers of a small region in Belgium discovered a beer style unlike no other. Choosing to understand and work with nature, Lambics are at their heart a very down-to-earth beer which, as we all know, results in one of the most intriguing and invigorating beers to be supped.

It didn’t take long for our Lambic forefathers to learn how to work in union with the whims of nature to eek out a wee bit of control over the wild beers they were brewing. Fast-forward from the first Lambic to now, 2009, and not a single thing has changed. There is more variety and diversity in ingredients used, but the method of brewing, aging, and blending Lambics has not changed. If it aint broke, don’t fix it.

Lambic – "Unlike conventional ales and lagers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, Lambic beer is instead produced by spontaneous fermentation."

That is the textbook definition of Lambic.

If I have learned anything over the years though, there is usually very little meat of any worth to a textbook definition.

Let’s break down what Lambic means heart, body, and soul.

Everything and everyone has a beginning, and for Lambics it all began about 400 years ago in the small area of Payottenland in Brussels, Belgium. Follow a small river known as Zenne further south and one will come across a little town known as Lembeek. As the hometown of Lambic, it is only right that their beer should be named in their honor. No matter where you are and whom you may be drinking with, that Lambic you hold in your hand is a living testament to the artisanal brewers of Lambeek, Belgium, past, present, and future. Not too shabby for a tiny country in the middle of Europe which has had more usurpers and rulers than it would care to remember. Belgium is a free country now, but for centuries that was not the case. Would that make Lambic a beer of rebellion against oppression?

As the oldest recorded fermentable beverage of mankind, beer traces back to 5000BC and possibly even further, yet the beer we drink today is nothing like the beer of our early ancestors. We may be able to analyze preserved evidence of drinks past and brew a modern approximation of the popular beer of that day and age, but a momentary revival is not the same as a continuous living heritage. Lambics are very unique in that in the 400+ years since they have been brewed, the Lambic has changed very little, if at all. Midas Touch from Dogfish Head is a delicious historical beer, but it is still a modern replica. The Lambic may very well be the real deal; four centuries of continuous brewing is nothing to sneeze at.

The Belgians have immense pride in their culture, their country, their history, and their beer. Lambic is one of the few long-standing examples of living beer. Their living nature and personalities are owed greatly to one very fascinating example of nature at work:

Brettanomyces Lambicus and Brettanomyces Bruxelensis.

These are the two main Brettanomyces (Brett) yeast strains desired in the creation of Lambic. Lactobacillus is also highly welcome along with upwards of 200 different strains of Brett. Within Mother Nature’s diverse melting pot, these work tirelessly to breathe life into your Lambic. It is the Brett family of yeast strains that Lambic brewers respectfully desire in their wild, living beers. Wild because the yeast strains are not test-tube babies, but instead natural products of nature and nurture (remember, don’t disturb the cobwebs or the dust). Living because even after boiling, fermentation, maturation, and bottling, the Lambic in your loving care is still living, breathing, and working it’s magic to reveal its age with finesse and care.

Remember those dusty rafters and faded windows? Good. Your grist (wort), the collected recipe of your beer has been measured and boiled and is now ready for fermentation. A gentleman of great standing once said that man makes wort; yeast makes beer. No simpler statement could be so grandiosely significant. Yeast is Mother Nature giving her blessing to the beer we desire to create and to sup. In a modern marvel of hospital-grade stainless steel and sterility, that yeast is a prisoner of mankind’s singularly thinking machinations. That isn’t to say that I don’t drink great beer on a regular basis from modern craft and import breweries, but there is something to be said for the wild frontier of uninhibited Lambic brewing. Or maybe it’s akin to creationism? From the air to the dust to the cobwebs new and old to the barrels in which Lambic matures, life flourishes. We are humble stewards of a craft which proudly boasts of its acidic, sour, complex nature in defiance of modern trends.

When the grist, or wort, is ready for those wonderful bugs of nature to eat their fermentable sugars and to create the sacred beverage known world-wide as beer, a modern medical grade brewery would open their freezer drawers and dispense of their test-tube yeast, as volatile and valid as their wild brethren, but bridled and predictable. Lambic thrives in the wild. It makes sweet sudsy fermentable love to the wild. Just as Mother Nature has given the breath of life to Brett, so too does Brett return that favor by giving the breath of life to Lambic.

Romantic? Maybe. But then, that is at least half of the appeal of Lambic. The Lambic breweries and brewmasters of Payottenland, Belgium and abroad must be doing something right because 400 years later the Lambic is still thriving. In fact, it would seem that the American craft beer scene is starting to catch the Bretty bug, which is all fine and dandy with me.

Notable Belgian Lambic Breweries:
  • Cantillon
  • Lindemans
  • Drie Fonteinen
  • De Ranke
  • Fantome

Notable American Craft Breweries Brewing with Brettanomyces:
  • Port Brewing/Lost Abbey
  • New Belgium
  • Ommegang
  • Russian River
  • Jolly Pumpkin

Lambic is the designation familia for a rustic, endearing beer style, and within the Lambic family are various offshoots of Lambic styles. All can be brewed to a variation of tastes and styles based on the brewery, brewer, and the Brett micro-flora that have established their domain in the brewery. American craft brewers rely more on Brett inhabited barrels then the whole brewery to create a Lambic or Brettanomyces influenced beer. The latter is the most common example of Lambic influenced American craft sour ales, though there is a slowly growing trend towards brewing more traditional lambics. Currently, if you want a traditional Lambic, go to Belgium. If you want a well crafted, Brettanomyces influenced sour ale, go to America.

Within the familia Lambic, there is the Geueze, Oude Lambic, Unfiltered Lambic, Faro, and Fruit Lambic.

Geueze/Gueze – In simple terms, a blend of old and young Lambic. It tends to have a bit more carbonation in its body than a straight Lambic, but it is still far from heavily carbonated in comparison to what the majority of mass-market consumers are used to. The overall ratio of young to old is determined by the blender so it can vary from brewer to brewery to batch. Each young and old batch of Lambic is going to mature and age differently in subtle and major ways. It is the skill and desire of the blender how he wants his marriage of batches to work together. Like all good relationships, there needs to be an open understanding of flexibility and camaraderie.

Straight Unblended Lambic – For the true lover of tart, acidic, and complex beers, this is for you. Very few breweries release a straight, unblended lambic. Cantillon is one of the few and could possibly be the only one. Typified by virtually no carbonation, its clean, bracingly tart and acidic complexity lends all the uplifting character its palate needs.

Blended Straight Lambic – Am I confusing you yet? The difference between this and the two listed above is that the Lambic is blended with no specified ratio of young to old. It could be young to young, old to old; it’s all up to the blender. It may even spend some time in a barrel after the blend to create additional layers of complexity and character. Lambics are really all about blending. Establishing an intimate relationship with your micro-flora climate, Mother Nature, and the nature of the beer itself allows a Lambic brewer to combine all aspects of each batch of Lambic, good and bad, to create an exquisite masterpiece like no other.

Faro – A Lambic, most often a Guerze, that is traditionally sweetened with dark candy sugar, or with a sweet fruit extract, the latter more commonly done in the glass.

Fruit Lambic – After the Brett bugs have performed their magic and you have a Lambic ready to barrel and age, one has the opportunity to create a beer that blurs the lines once more between beer and wine. Today, Fruit Lambics come in many varieties, but traditionally they Kriek, Framboise, and Peche. Or, respectively, black cherry, raspberry, and peach. One can also now find Muscat Grape, Cassis (Blueberry) and Pomme (Peach) as common additions to the Fruit Lambic portfolio.

All Lambics will have to varying degrees notes of musty earthiness, wood, leather, barnyard funk, tart acidity, sour lactose, bright tropical sweetness, citric esters, and more. How all of these varying factors are laid out for your tastebuds and palate to savor is a combination of the house micro-flora replete with dozens of Brett yeast strains, grist/wort, and barrel-aging. These factors are guided and watched over by a skilled brewmaster. I would like to think that it is one of the most enduring examples of harmony between man and nature.

I have no doubt that 400 years from now, Lambics will still be brewed in the same loving, time-honored way possible under Mother Nature’s watchful eye. Why have I brought Mother Nature into this so much? In an age of too many temporal modern conveniences, we run the everyday risk of losing our touch on the pulse of Life. It may seem simple, petty, or stupid to include beer, specifically Lambic, in that fragile pulse of Life, but is it? At the end of the day, what will last longer: 400 years of brewing tradition, pride, and gourmandian pleasures, or the newest blog entry that will be passé before it is even posted?

I write this, ironically, as a blogger myself. It could be my way of willfully living on the edge between temporal and tangible, ever careful not to lose my touch on the pulse of Life. Or maybe not. As I pour myself a Cantillon Vignerone, my eyes drift close as I willfully lose myself upon her wild and crazy trip.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)