Archive for April, 2008

Raise a pint to Alice Lisle
April 27, 2008

This pint came with a crash course in West Country History. RCH Pitchfork Rebellious Bitter, named after the Pitchfork Rebellion, or Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, was the best of a tasty group of locally brewed beers we tried with my friend Camilla while visiting her in Somerset. While we shared it Camilla told us of the uprising of local farmers, non-conformists and Protestants who wanted to overthrow the “papist” king, James II. Many of the supporters were executed most brutally in the “Bloody Assizes” of Judge Jeffreys. The first to go, burned at the stake, was Alice Lisle.

Despite this particularly dark history, this beer was bright and sunny. I pictured myself drinking this somewhere off the oldest engineered roadway, the Sweet Track in the Somerset Levels– an area that was once an inland sea surrounding the mythic isle of Avalon. It would be a new Spring day where the grass had, in in more recent history, worked the bloodshed, the bodies piled high, into itself. Beer is never very far from death, being itself a fermented thing, but I digress.

Pitchfork was bottle conditioned; the cloudy sediment in my glass settling at the bottom gave the beer a refreshing and whole presence. It had a citrus-weiss front, a floral hop middle with a dry closure and some pleasantly lingering bitterness. Camilla said it reminded her of Indian beer, and it shared a resemblance to excellent IPAs I’ve tried.

To say that each glass of beer is full of history, or that England’s story is older than the national identity of the U.S. would be cliche. I wouldn’t say I drink beer looking for a past. Many American tourists do come to the UK looking for ancestral roots and this is just the solipsistic version of looking for a history. But while drinking a pint, sometimes history finds you.

Eats: Chana Batura (extra spicy)

While listening to: Melvins, At the Stake.

Pest Control
April 26, 2008

The Simulium posticatum is a small, black biting fly which inhabits River Stour at Blandford. The female requires blood before laying eggs, and prefers to bite dogs and humans– women are bitten more than men.

Fitting then that Badger should do this femme beer, adding the folk cure for Blandflord fly bites– ginger– into the brew. With a delightfully homeopathic logic the beer has it’s own “bite.”

And I do love it– candied ginger in the nose with a ginger bread middle and clean finish.

Eats: chipotle-glazed grilled halloumi

While listening to: Cramps’ Human Fly

Do Not Refridgerate
April 23, 2008

Hogs Back T.E.A.Many Brits I have met are under the misconception that the only beer available in America is lager, simply because this it what is exported to the UK. While Americans do drink other kinds of beers, these beers tend to be chilled. The first thing I had to get used to drinking beer (and soda and water) in the UK was that it was often warm.

Hogs Back Brewery’s Traditional English Ale is bottle conditioned, meaning the yeast is still active in the beer, and part of the fermentation takes place in the bottle. It is considered “live”– resembling real ale in the cask. The label clearly states “Do not refridgerate” and suggests a serving temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In California, where I am from, this would probably require chilling of some sort but in England it’s room temperature.

I was skeptical, being a beer-cheat in this one regard. I chill most beers I drink. But maybe it was the cute little pig on the label, or more likely that I was cold from carrying my beer haul home under the ominous grey skies, and I was getting my head around the idea of a warm pint.

And it was without a doubt a revelation. This ale presents you with a full-on toasted nose, a rounded malt middle with a light caramel warmth. Undoubtedly it is this delicate sweetness that would be lost first with chilling, the most charming note. Despite its subtle complexities, it’s balanced and easy to drink, even “warm” (says this American palate).

T.E.A., like it’s namesake that other English beverage, is a come-in-from-the-rain, a welcoming sort of drink. It seems to say, Don’t worry, you’ll dry.

With: springy Comte cheese on an oat biscuit with a smoosh of avocado.

While listening to: Irma Thomas’ It’s Raining

Honey is my Gift
April 22, 2008

It’s close enough to May Day that I’ve got my sandals out of storage. Despite the lingering chill and the snow from a fortnight ago, I’m in a Van Morrison sort of mood, daring Spring to come. Maybe that’s why I decided to try Wychwood brewery’s honey ale, BeeWyched.

I was feeling optimistic– I’ve never met a honey ale that agreed with me. I’ve tried Young’s endearingly-named Waggle Dance and The Black Isle’s Heathered Honey Ale among others. To my palate, the combination of the earthy sweetness of the honey clashes with the other beer-y flavors. But I will try anything by Wychwood. I confess the beer drinker part of me is stuck in junior-high, playing Dungeons and Dragons and listening to metal. Maybe that’s why I love all Wychwood brews, right down to their Dungeon Master Guide label art.

BeeWyched did not disappoint. With a nose full of flowers you dive right into amber sunlight in the first sip. There’s a ruby grapefruit-rind hoppiness that keeps it from being too cloying and feels in perfect harmony with the sweet finish. Ovid’s Flora, the Goddess of flowers, seems to float in soft white head of this beer:

“Tis I who call the winged creatures, which yield honey, to the violet, and the clover, and the grey thyme..Honey is my gift.”

With: seeded bread toasted and slathered with fresh Welsh goat cheese.

While listening to Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl