Monday, October 5, 2009

Revolutionary Ale

I don't do nationalism generally speaking, the idea that a culture is in some way superior to another is ludicrous in the extreme. The only thing I hate more than nationalism is blind, jingoistic nationalism where everything from one particular culture is heralded as being the best, the biggest and the most popular on the planet. It was possibly this jingoistic tone that prevented me from reading all of Maureen Ogle's attempted history of American brewing, which apparently only goes back to the likes of Busch, Pabst and other German immigrants building their massive lager breweries - and look where that got American brewing in the years before the craft brewing revolution.

Of course though, beer has been part and parcel of the American experience since the Mayflower landed desperately short on that most essential of victual. In Pete Brown's latest book there is a comment from a Frenchman about how when the English go off on colonial adventures they look for the best local beef, but bring their beer with them. A fuller history then of American brewing has to go back to colonial times and the taverns that provided a focal point for fledgling communities. Thus, when Jay came to visit, bearing gratefully received gifts of ale, I was intrigued by the three bottles of "Ales of the Revolution" from the Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia, each linked to one of the leaders of the American Revolution, including one of the three Charlottesville presidents, Thomas Jefferson.

Now, before I go on to tell you what the beers were like, I would like to reiterate my gripe with American brewers. Come on lads, tell us what is in your beer! I really like to see ingredient lists on labels, just so I can assure myself that there is none of the corn syrup/rice/insert abomination nonsense going on. Anyway, the beer.

Thomas Jefferson is someone I am learning more about, especially as his plantation, Monticello, is just outside Charlottesville. I knew before Mrs Velkyal and I moved out here that he as something of a homebrew buff, what I wasn't aware of was just how well regarded his ale was. Simply put, if this 8%ABV golden ale is even close to Jefferson's tipple then dinners up at Monticello must have been fantastic. Richly fruity and with smooth caramel flavours, this is a wonderfully drinkable ale, almost like some of the best bitters I enjoy when I go home to the UK, just with an added alcoholic glow. Why on earth one of the Cville breweries isn't making this, is quite simply beyond me. As ever, this is a beer that I would happily sit by a fire place and enjoy copious amounts of, before being poured into a taxi home.

Benjamin Franklin seems to have been one of those guys that I would love to have enjoying evenings in the tavern with, anyone with that range of talent and experience must have been one hell of a social companion. The beer that bears his name is something of strange beast, being crimson in colour and having a heady mix of pine and caramel on the nose, which carries over to the drinking. With the prevalence of pine fresh toilet cleaner though these days though, it is difficult not to think of industrial cleaner instead of the tasty, delightful beer that this undoubtedly is.

Last up, whilst watching a small segment on TV about how Samuel Adams Boston Lager is made (they do a decoction mash and lager for 5 weeks!), was the Tavern Porter, which is attributed to a recipe developed by George Washington. This porter is pretty much black as the ace of spades, but with dark ruby edges, topped off with a dark ivory head. The nose is heavy with molasses and chocolate, how I love those smells. In the mouth it is like drinking rich dark chocolate melted and lightly hopped. Yes it is that good! Another superbly well made and simple beer.

And to think this country went from drinking ales of this quality, flavour and depth to drinking Budweiser. Can anyone explain how that happened?

1 comment:

  1. It would be good to get hold of a Jefferson beer recipe and recreate it in a microbrewery. I wonder if there is one kicking about. :-)


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