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.

Soap Opera Ale
June 25, 2008

Kind of like the mermaid in Splash, when I moved to London I watched the telly to acculturate.  I found myself addicted to Eastenders.  After a year of rationalizing my affection for the Square, I forced myself to give it up.

It’s been a couple years since I went cold turkey but the other day I watched the omnibus on the BBC iPlayer.  Real ale is featured for a brief moment when Vinnie and Shirley put on a “Best of British” party at the Queen Vic, and the whole place is decked out in British Flags (No St. George flags to be seen– so much for realism).  There’s a little cask sitting on the bar and Shirley asks Vinnie disparagingly if anyone is drinking the “Speckled whatever” he’s got on.

Later in the episode there’s a dramatic fire and the British flag is used to catch Mickey as his sister Dawn pushes him, unconscious, from the burning building.  Later, the good-for-nothing Keith actually saves his daughter while wrapped in the same flag.  I thought maybe Shirley would use the cask of Speckled Whatever to douse the flames since it wasn’t selling in the pub, but the beer was only making a cameo.

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