Archive for April, 2009

Zephyr
April 30, 2009

Sometimes I’m hard pressed to find things to celebrate, but not today.  I finished writing a piece that’s been hanging over me; writers block has been defeated, and within a few days of the deadline.  Also, tomorrow, a show called Novel Constructions opens at the Long Beach Museum of Art featuring a piece I wrote in collaboration with artist Edith Abeyta.

So, I cracked open my little bottle of BrewDog Zephyr which I was lucky enough to get in the pre-release 330ml bottle. It features a gorgeous pink label by Joanna Basford: a 12.5% Imperial Ale matured in a 1965 Invergordon whisky cask with fresh strawberries from Martin’s grandma.

The tang of berries is evident with the first pour.  The nose is completely fragrant and tart, reminescent of Cantillon fruit beers. On first sip this sings of spring. As it warms it becomes darker, beyond pastoral bliss to something of the woodland, like the Willow Song from the Wicker Man…Britt Ekland knocking on the wall…

The fine-planed wood of a new house.  Spilled sacks of grain.  Fresh hop vines over the porch and someone inside is already baking–vanilla and toffee.  Over it all is a strawberry haze, like some girlie-kawaii dream. The sweetness in this beer is in the malt alone. It’s not twee–the berries are there as fragrant essences, a kind of “attar” flavor you find grounding good krieks.

This is a beer full of love and light and play.  Toes in the grass.  Ivy crowns.  Daisy petals counted out even, always ending in loves me. A handfasting sort of beer, to be served instead of champagne at anything  joyful.

Like today.

Black lipstick on a pint glass
April 28, 2009

Halloween decorations in the Elsinore, Whitby

Halloween decorations in the Elsinore, Whitby

If you’ve never had cider and black, can you claim to be a goth?  Though the opportunity presented itself this weekend at while drinking at the Elsinore in Whitby, I stuck to Cameron’s Strongarm, which was a very drinkable red ale, though nothing spectacular.  It was the Gothic festival and while most everyone I knew was carrying around their pink pints, I decided I would stick to ale as best I could.  I failed miserably at this on Sunday at the 80′s night in Laughtons where I devolved and drank blue WKD.  It seemed like the right thing at the time.  (I blame the corrupting influence of Mister Jack.)

The Shambles, another pub in Whitby, seems to serve the Goths begrudgingly, though the beer selection is better there. I often have had trouble getting served at the bar but I thought I’d give it a go.  I tried all of Theakston’s range they had on at the moment, the Black Bull Bitter being the most forgettable of them all and Old Peculiar remaining the favorite.  They had a Theakston’s beer on keg there, served “super chilled”:  The Smooth Dark.  Mr. Malting is a huge fan of the mild and we wondering if, at 3%,  this were some kind of re-packaging of the mild as a guinness style keg beer.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that once I had a glass of this I stuck to pints of it for the rest of the evening.  It was good.

I now regret passing up the Cooper Dragon IPA, as Rednev has said it’s amazing.  Something to look forward to next time– that is, if I can get served.

Beerversary
April 21, 2009

2433560912_60e29d1dd0_oA year ago I started this blog after the prompting of my friend Milla.  At the time I thought I would only be documenting my beery adventures in Europe and the UK for a few friends back in the US.  I hadn’t yet considered brewing my own beer.  I wouldn’t have forseen the possibility that a year in, an international group of beer hounds might be reading.

Daily I’m amazed at the traffic this blog receives, and the wonderful people I’ve met through it.  Though it was a rocky start with some surprising hostilities, I’m grateful to the beer blogging community, most notably Jeff/Stonch and Pete Brown who originally pointed readers my way.  Beer lovers remain in my mind a group of eccentric sensualists who pursue their strange love in fascinating ways.  Just when I think I’ve run out of things to say about beer, I’ll read Boak and Bailey, Mark at Pencil and Spoon, Ron at S.U.A.B.P. (He might hate this acronym) or Wortwurst and they will renew my wonder at the ways we can talk about this simple drink.

I never wanted this blog to be a list of tasting notes, or some kind of culinary meditation on the good life.  Other people do that much better than I. Beer is a forbidden fruit, something some would say that as a woman I’m not supposed to like or be seen drinking.  It’s the contrarian in me that has continued this blog even when it was unpleasant to do so.   In searching for the infinite variety of this ancient brew I’ve ventured to places I never would have found otherwise: pagan pub crawls, dodgy taverns, village fetes and even the desolate cliffs of the Outer Hebrides.  Along the way I’ve met many kindred souls who’ve made a life drinking, making, and chasing the stuff. I’m glad to know you.

Cheers!

Another way to get your five a day
April 20, 2009

Crap beer: it’s a blank canvas!  Here is a terribly blurry picture of me drinking “Garlic Beer”–one of my guilty pleasures at Garlic and Shots.  It’s basically generic lager with crushed garlic floating in the head.  I consider it a health drink.

Lime in a Corona.  A wedge of lemon in a hefeweizen. If you’re a girl, these are probably the first beers someone sets in front of you.  Maybe a shandy, if you started early.  And this is one of the benefits of being a lady– you can put stuff in your beer and no one will look down on you for it.  I mean, any more than they already are.

When I used to teach on a Marine base sometimes we’d celebrate after finals with boilermakers at the local watering hole (off the base– for some reason the Marines insisted I never set foot in the bar on the base.  To this day I regret not checking it out.)

I would consider plopping a shot of soju into a glass of Hite–a Korean “beer bomb”.  I could also see myself adding some Jagermeister to a pint of Guinness.  I might add some whisky to my Sassquash mild to give it some lifeblood.  Do you ever put anything in beer either to get you happy faster, or to improve a mediocre pint?  Do tell.

Thank you David Mitchell.
April 19, 2009

Banned Courage ad

Banned Courage ad

Don’t you hate it when someone does something stupid/insenstive/hostile and then says, “I was drunk”?  Perhaps some people like to see booze as some Jekyll potion, but drink can’t create something that wasn’t already there.  It does, however, provide people who are jerks with an excuse for their behavior.  Which brings me to this ad.

David Mitchell takes on the courage ad in a recent Guardian piece. He also takes on some of the irrational responses of the ASA to beer advertising with his typical humanity and humor.

Like Mitchell, at first I didn’t get this ad.  The woman doesn’t look “bad” enough to explain the scenario.  Is she asking him to unzip her?  Follow her up the stairs to the bedroom?  Why is he afraid? What is going on?  Only the little tag hanging from the back of her garment helps with the narrative…oh, she just bought that dress.  And, oh, by perverse advertising standards we are supposed to see this woman as fat.

Mitchell has the optimism to see the ad as a joke on a relationship-ending mistake– the guy will be drunk enough to say, stupidly, “Your ass looks fat in that.”  Whereas, once I “got” it, understood it to mean beer gives you the courage to shame your lady (permission to be a brute– in the mode of the “Don’t Expect Help on a Tuesday” Nuts ads which feature a hapless woman getting sprayed by broken plumbing while she calls to her distracted partner reading the magazine). The ad seems to claim the guy is justified in being totally tactless because she’s a fat cow and somebody’s got to tell her, might as well be you.

It doesn’t take courage to be an ass, but the beer’s a handy excuse.

Stout Showers
April 18, 2009

heartPerhaps this is what I get for naming the Black Heart Stout after such a volatile organ.  Have you ever seen an arterial spray of beer?  I have.  After a rather Withnail and I style afternoon, I find myself covered in the stout I brewed three weeks ago.  I taste and smell awesome!  If it survives my bottling antics, I have high hopes for the 43 bottles.  (I blame a dodgy stick filler for the mess.)

Luckily this time I took an OG reading.  (Every time I say OG I want to throw down my I M hand signs I’ve been working on.)  This baby is 5.08% ABV, which is right on.  I’m also happy to report that it tastes pretty darn good and has a nice full body, unlike the first beer I brewed solo which is tasty but kind of thin.  It still has that mineral tang. I’m just guessing that’s from the hard London water as well as perhaps being from the DME (according to my friend Bob that’s a common issue).  There is a faint hop character showing up here which makes me excited about perhaps brewing a hoppier stout.  The lovely, generous dudes at Brew Dog have sent me some hops– (Warrior, Chinook and some out-of-sight Nelson Sauvin which I will probably save for a single hop lighter ale maybe?) so the choice will be which one to add to the next stout.

The end-all is a have a f*ckton of beer.  Come on over.

(in about three weeks.)

Hey Laaaaady
April 9, 2009

Can you spot the laydeez?

Can you spot the laydeez?

I’ve spoken before of my love of the Ship Tavern in Holborn, and I visited there yesterday.  The celebrations of Cask Ale Week were definitely on: a Theakston Mild and Bitter being the most significant and tasty offerings. After a day of checking out dead things in jars at the Hunterian Museum, nothing satisfies like a lovely pint of bitter!

Two American friends were visiting and were drinking the mild. I tried to explain the philosophy behind Cask Ale Week but it was difficult.  While perusing the official website, I had little luck figuring out how to find a participating pub, or even what events were on, (don’t get me started on the picture of the well groomed college students on the site’s homepage.  It’s just odd.) I was guessing when I explained it was a way to celebrate a distinctive national beverage that has been coded as unfashionable.

In the US, the microbrewery revolution has changed the kind of beer most people I know drink.  The offerings at most stores are quite varied now. Many Brits who have never been to America think it’s still the land of Bud and Coors, but in metropolitan places this is not the case.  My friends ordered pints of mild without having to be coaxed to do it, and one of them was…wait for it…a woman.  That cask ale is associated with old bearded men was impossible to convey to them as we were sitting in the lively Ship, surrounded by all kinds of people who were drinking ale.  (It’s true the women were mostly drinking, you guessed it, white wine.)

My friend Laura picked up a flyer announcing the events of Cask Ale Week at the pub, one of which headlined with the pun, “femALE” day.  It addressed us as Ladies, and my friend said, “See, they’ve gone wrong right there.  Ladies?”  To an American ear the word lady is an insult.  It’s something Jerry Lewis yells.  No one wants to be addressed as a lady– which either means you are a granny, a member of the Christian Right or the recipient of some stranger’s anger.   Here it’s perfectly normal, and even polite, to refer to a woman as a lady.  I still vaguely resent it, and all the ideas that come packaged in that word–which is probably why I engage in such unladylike activities like beer blogging.

The flyer suggested we try some cask ale for £1 on the 15th of April, technically two days after Cask Ale Week is over.   Presumably we don’t have to wear a hat and gloves to partake of our cheeky half, just a pair of XX chromosomes.

Sassquash Mild
April 6, 2009

Drinking the mild I brewed four weeks ago.

Drinking the mild I brewed four weeks ago.

That moment you crack open a beer you have brewed yourself– it’s kinda magical, kinda scary.  It’s hard not to load it with harbingers of life in general (if the beer is shit does that mean I’m shit at life? What if it’s good, but not good enough?  Am I consigned forever to mediocrity?)

I am a worrier, and drink beer as a way to regulate certain personality flaws, this being one of them.  But my first solo brew is totally drinkable.  Sure, the body is thin, and there is no head to speak of.  The carbonation level threatens the delicate flavors– in short, a hyper active child only a mother could love.  And I do love it.

I shared it with friends, and we were all eating pizza and playing with a Blythe doll.  It seemed like the thing to do, as my beer wasn’t going to put hair on anyone’s chest.  It’s a shandy-like beer, a return to childhood, to the furtive sippings of forbidden stuff.   My friend noticed the chocolate malt and the biscuit, and she’s not even a beer-head.  She also said it was squash-like.  For non-Brits, squash is a refreshing, fizzy fruit drink. I don’t think it really tastes of squash but the mouth-feel is certainly reminiscent.

Sassquash.  It’s as good a name as any, and my friend is pretty darn sassy.  I realize now, just like Adam in the garden, naming things is a certain privilege.  Just so with beer.  I love the ‘in-joke’ names of home and micro brews that crown this anachronistic labor of love.

I don’t want to spend my entire brewing career churning out fizzy lifting drinks.  Now I have to figure out what exactly went wrong here, and how the next batches could be improved. But where to begin?

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