Monday, November 29, 2010

A Year in the Making

This time last year I started what I hope to be an annual tradition, brewing a barleywine in late November or early December and letting it sit until the following Thanksgiving. In trying to think of a name for the beer in question, I batted about several ideas, including Vintage Velky Ale. In the end I settled on the name Samoset Vintage.


The name Samoset comes from the first Native American to make contact with the Plymouth Colony, who of course had made landfall because their supplies were running low, especially their beer (more's the pity their modern co-religionists don't share such a view of beer, and alcohol in general). According to Mourt's Relation, Samoset strolled into the Plymouth Colony, welcomed the colonists in his broken English and asked if they had any beer. When presented with a draft of finest English ale, he is reputed to have commented "this is not to style!".*


Anyway, so last November I brewed the first Samoset Vintage Ale, a barleywine which once fermentation was done, weighed in at 12% abv. In the boil I used Challenger and East Kent Goldings, I then dry hopped the beer with Cascade for a couple of months. The malt bill was simplicity itself, lots of pale dry malt extract and a pound of Caramel 40 for colour and flavour. The yeast was 1728 Scottish Ale from Wyeast. Given that last week was Thanksgiving, it was time to finally enjoy, I hoped, the beer. A quick disclaimer though, I had a bottle in June to make sure it was carbonated properly and then another when I tried not to get in the way of brewing the Pilsner with Devils Backbone.


So to the beer itself. As the pictures quite nicely show, it pours a rich dark copper, topping off with a large, off-white, rocky head that hangs around for the duration - and with a quick swirl of the glass refreshes itself.  The nose is by turns lemony, lightly piney, boozy and earthy, then as it warms it becomes quite spicy, almost curryesque. In terms of taste, the first mouthful is a hefty hit of caramel sweetness, but not cloyingly so. The bitterness of all the hops comes through in the finish to cut through the sweetness leaving a nice balance. As the bitterness fades there is a warming afterglow of booze.


The beer is quite full bodied and has a nice level of carbonation that is not overly fizzy, but not "flat" either, given the good head on the beer it is not really all that surprising that the beer left plenty of lacing down the glass.


The only downside to Samoset Vintage 2009 is that it is deceptively easy to drink. The alcohol is very well integrated and if I hadn't known the alcohol content then I would have been happy to drink my entire stash of the beer, and then wonder why my legs refused to function.


Actually, there is another downside to the beer. I only have 7 bottles left, and I was hoping to age at least a 6 pack for next year's Thanksgiving - and do a comparison with this year's, yet to be finalised, recipe. Perhaps I only need a couple of bottles though?

You could say then that I am very happy with the end result of my first barleywine, and you'd be right!

* I made that bit up.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Due South...again

Tomorrow, as I am sure you know, is Thanksgiving over here. As such, Mrs Velkyal and I drove from Charlottesville to Chimney Rock, North Carolina yesterday. Admittedly we have since driven on Columbia, South Carolina, but stopping in Chimney Rock was mainly to see Mrs V's uncle and partner as well as to deliver 48 bottles of homebrew.

Said uncle has a cleaning business and likes to give his clients a Christmas hamper of hand produced goods each year. This year he asked if I could give him some bottles of my Machair Mor Chocolate Export Stout and Biere d'épices which he had enjoyed last year. Naturally I obliged and all the beer was safely delivered last night, with a couple of bottles extra for sampling to make sure everything worked out well. Suffice to say that I am not taking any of my beer back to Virginia on Sunday!

Anyway, family duties call. So happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Porter Fruit Cake

When Mrs V and I went to Williamsburg back in October, I bought a growler of Williamsburg Alewerks' Washington's Porter. As with the best laid plans of mice and men, my original intention to drink said growler never happened, and so it sat in the fridge for the last few weeks. Wanting to both use the beer, being loathe to waste it, and also because I love cooking with beer as much as drinking it, I decided to use it for a few culinary projects.


Waking up with something of a hangover yesterday morning I decided I would make a fruit cake, which seems to be something of an acquired taste this side of the Pond. Traditional fruit cake from home starts off the night before baking with steeping the dried fruit in tea. My plan however was to ditch the tea and replace it with the porter. The recipe I used came from a small Czech language Irish cookbook I bought several years ago in Prague and I adapted it somewhat.
  • 12 ounces sultanas
  • 1lb dried black currants
  • 8 ounces glace cherries
  • 13.5 fluid ounces porter
  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • 3.5 cups plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice - cinnamon, nutmeg, clove
Firstly steep the dried fruit, sugar and spice in the porter overnight, or for 8 hours.


When the steeping is done, lightly beat the eggs and add them to the mix. Stir in the flour and baking powder to make a thick batter.


Usually you would just use a single large cake tin, but I used three disposable loaf tins, which I sprayed with oil before filling about half way.


Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 2 hours, or until you can put a knife in the centre of the cake and it comes out clean.


So there we have it, three fruit cakes for Thanksgiving, moist, dark and spicy......like a good porter!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

This week's homebrewer interviewee is the winner of many awards at things like the Dominion Cup and Virginia Beer Blitz, as well as being the person who encouraged me to join the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA).

Name: Jamey Barlow


How did you get into home brewing?

I started homebrewing back in 1996 when I was living down in Charleston, South Carolina. I guess there were two forces at play at that time. S.C. still had limits on the ABV for commercial beers back then, and brewing the beers and styles that I couldn’t buy sounded like a fun experiment. Also, I was managing restaurants back then and I still believe there are many shared personality traits between chefs and brewers. Both want to craft something special where they can show off their creativity, technical skill and, most importantly, share that with others.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

I’m all-grain brewer, but I partial-mash brewed for a long time. I’ll never disparage extract brewing because you can make some amazing beers with extract and some grains. I think it mostly gets a bad rap because everyone starts by brewing with extract and, when you are new, your first few beers can be trying because you are still getting your head around pitching rates, sanitation, the boil and temperature control. When I was new, there were a lot of things that went wrong, but you can’t blame the extract until you have a good process.


What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Most of my tasting friends (guinea pigs) would say it was one of my hoppy IPAs, but I think the best beers I’ve created are my sours. Flanders Reds can take almost 18 months to turn the corner and be drinkable. And once they do, they are amazing. But the technical skill and sanitization needed to make those beers (and not infect your other beers) is higher than your normal batch. And the stakes seem higher when you have one that takes that long to mature. That makes them more rewarding to me, right now.

What is the worst, and why?

I’ve made some bad ones over the years. One that tasted liked 5 gallons of wet cardboard always comes to mind. I think the worst was a pumpkin beer. Spices are so hard to do just right. I find you have to use half as much as you think you will need, and then I make a spice tea to blend to taste at bottling time. A made a pumpkin beer that was undrinkable. It literally tasted like liquid nutmeg and allspice.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I think it is whatever I’m making right now. In the fourteen years I’ve been brewing, I’ve never made the same batch twice. I get obsessed during the planning stage and I love the research and formulation of the recipe.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

That’s a great daydream that I have, but I think I’ve missed my window. I feel like I’ve gotten too old to take the risks, financial and otherwise, necessary to brew for a living. I’ve thought about doing the nano-brew thing a few times, but there aren’t enough hours in the week.

But I might have been a brewer in another life. I say that because I like to brew more than I like to drink beer. And I like drinking beer A LOT.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

Usually it is a nice, balanced American Pale ale, or a Berliner weisse. When the hops and malt are balanced, and the ABV isn’t too high, nothing is easier to enjoy than an APA. Berliners are wonderful, too, because they are session beers and they have a refreshing sourness to them that can pair with many things. Whether that be food, or having a cold one on your porch on a nice day.


How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

I really have to be excited by a beer in order to be motivated to make it. I’m like that about a lot of things in life. If I’m not interested, I’m probably going to do a piss poor job. If I’m hooked, then I’ll knock it out of the park. Lately I’m about challenges. I like to clone beers that I’ve never had before. I like to try unusual ingredients or styles. I’m looking to make brown ale with wild rice soon, and I want to take a swing at a Gose.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

Well, I’m known for my strange ideas, so that’s a hard one to answer. I did a coconut curry hefeweizen a few years ago that was inspired by a Charlie Papazian recipe. I used fresh ginger, fenugreek and a good friend sent me Kaffir lime leaves from Thailand for it. It was a very interesting beer but it had a slow, spicy burn to it. I called it “Bombay the Hard Way”.

My other infamous one was my oyster stout where I added actual raw oysters and their shells during the last few minutes of the boil. Although it was a challenge to get my friends to try it, it turned out great and had a mind hint of brine to it.


Which professional brewery do you look up to and why?

This changes all the time but I’ve been a fan of Jolly Pumpkin for quite some time. I’m a big sour head and they do some amazing things with their oak barrels covered with wild yeast and bacteria. I have never had a bad beer from them, and the fact that they have a sour session beer, the Bam Biere, is genius and quite inspirational.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guides, Calendars and Giveaways

It started with a simple enough request. Would I show a friend and relative newcomer to Prague some of the city's best pubs? Well of course I would. The original plan was to meet up on the nights when my friend's wife and Mrs Velkyal would have their knitting, crocheting and general craftiness nights. My friend, of course, was Mark Stewart, who had been our wedding photographer and then became a firm friend and drinking buddy.

As I pondered on the places to take Mark, I decided that I would write a pub guide to Prague, although the original working title was Prague Pubs - A User's Guide. Given that Mark is a talented photographer, I asked if he would be interested in making it a collaborative work, which thankfully he agreed to. The upshot of all this was that for the last couple of months in Prague, we spent many hours in various pubs, drinking, taking photos and taking notes.

In the process of actually creating the final document there were technical issues, mainly to do with creating a PDF file from OpenOffice, changes in the names of one of the pubs in the guide and various other little things that needed addressing. Finally everything worked out last week when I created the Pocket Pub Guide - Prague, an e-book which is available from Lulu.com.

A quick overview then of the book, information and pictures of 40 pubs in Prague and 10 guided pub tours of the city. Simple really. However, nothing is ever really all that simple. How do you choose the 40 pubs to go into the guide? The name of the book itself helps, the guide is about pubs rather than beer - I am a firm believer that a good beer selection does not necessarily make a good pub, and vice versa, some of my favourite pubs in Prague have shocking beer. Hence there are some well known and historic pubs which are not in the book, simply because I don't like them as pubs - perhaps the service was awful, perhaps the atmosphere was crap. Whatever the reason, I didn't like them so they didn't make the cut.

I am sure some will look at the pubs that are in the guide and wonder why I am advertising places that sell Staropramen or Kozel? Firstly let me assure you that the only money that passed hands during the creation of the guide was from my pocket to the pubs in the guide, I haven't taken a penny from anyone to make this. The answer then is simple, sure Staropramen is not a beer I would choose to drink on a regular basis, but Potrefena Husa pubs are nice places to drink, and they often have Leffe Bruin on tap, which while not great is a decent beer.

If I remember rightly Evan commented in his seminal Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic that "capricious whimsy" played a major part in the pub section. So it is with the Pocket Pub Guide - Prague.

So, if you are planning a trip to Prague, the e-book is just $4.99 from Lulu.com - either click here, or on the blue icon in the sidebar under Pocket Pub Guide - Prague. If you are looking for gifts for your beer drinking buddies, then have a look at the 2011 Fuggled Calendar, again featuring the photography of Mark Stewart.

That's the guides and calendars part of the title dealt with, now for the giveaway. I am in the process of creating a range of Fuggled merchandise, beyond the calendars and guide, which I plan to launch in the new year. However, I have decided to give away a Fuggled t-shirt like the one shown below.


To win this shameless advertising for my blog, and in the process stroke my ego, simply email the answer to the following question to velkyal@fuggled.net with the subject line as "competition answer":
  • which was the first pub in Prague to serve Pilsner Urquell?
Only email entries will be accepted, posting the answer as a comment will result in the comment being deleted.

The winner will be chosen from a hat by the ever glamorous Mrs Velkyal on December 5th.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Recording the Homebrew Log

Last Monday, James from A Homebrew Log wrote about three of my beers I had given him, and so today I return the favour and write about three of his beers. When we traded beers, he gave me a bottled conditioned saison, an award winning Octoberfest lager and his amber ale featuring homegrown Galena hops. In my fridge, I still had James' Inferno Chili Lager and his cider (proper cider that is, you know, the kind with alcohol).

James had given me a heads up that the saison had only been in the bottle a couple of weeks, so I am leaving that to condition further, and the cider I am planning a comparative tasting next to our cider, which is now a year in the bottle, and of the still variety rather than sparkling. That left me three beers to sample, so without further ado.....

First in to the ring is the Inferno Chili Lager.


If you read this blog regularly you'll know that I tried Eric's, of Relentless Thirst renown, poblano honey chilli ale a while back, so I was expecting something similar here - gently heat rising as the drinking went on. The beer poured a light copper colour and topped off with a thinnish, but persistent white head. The aroma was pure chilli, backed up by a touch of caramel sweetness, but it was chilli in the driving seat. Oh boy, clearly the driving seat this chilli is sitting in is for an Aston Martin because the flavour ramps it up big time, this is a spicy beer. Again there was a toffee thing in the background which just took the heat off a smidge, but hot chillies is the order of the day, a warm start which just builds and builds. If you like chillies, which thankfully I do, this is a really good beer.


Round two was James' American Amber Ale. As you can see from the picture, the beer is a dark amber with a billowing off white head. As you would expect from a beer using American hops, the nose was dominated by pine and citrus, but there was a sweet fruitiness lingering in the background. Tastewise, the beer was malty up front, the sweetness of caramel malt coming through and then being balanced out nicely by a healthy hoppy bite. This was a beer I could happily drink all night in the pub and drink plenty of, a very nice beer again.


Yesterday after working in the Starr Hill tasting room, I got home to a ready cooked dinner and decided to launch into the third of James' beers - the other two were enjoyed on Saturday. The Octo-Berfest, which won silver at the Virginia Beer Blitz, is obviously an Oktoberfest style lager, and had a fun label that made me wish I had an ounce of artistic ability. The beer itself was deep copper, the ivory head fed by a constant stream of carbonation. The nose was the classic noble hop aromas, floral and grassy with a slight edge of lemon, there was also a touch of caramel sweetness coming through as well. The malty, caramel sweetness was a major player in the drinking, backed with a firm bready quality that really worked well. Infinitely easy to drink and the alcohol was very well integrated. I don't often do this, but this beer would pair very well with a curried pumpkin soup and pot roasted venison served with fresh green beans, which is just as well, as that was dinner last night!

Once again James has come up trumps with his homebrew and more than ever I am glad that the entries I took down to South Carolina for him are not in the same categories as any of my beers! One thing I am learning is that Virginia is not only blessed with excellent commercial breweries, but also some excellent homebrewers as well.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Brewer of the Week

It is freezing outside today in Charlottesville, so for the Brewer of the Week interview we head off to California, Woodland Hills to be precise.....


Name: Rob Nowaczyk
Brewery: Fireman's Brew

How did you get into brewing as a career?

Well that's an interesting story - I kinda backed into it in some ways. I had been homebrewing off and on for years, and then one day I was on duty (LA Firefighter) - and we were battling a brush fire up in Glendale. My partner and I were super thirsty and complaining about how we didn't have anything to drink, and the idea just hit us - why don't we make our own beer. Beer brewed by Firefighters for Firefighters – and everyone else. So from that point on the idea of Fireman's Brew just kinda stuck and we started working on it.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

To me, brewing beer is really a mixture of art, science, intuition and taste, so the most important characteristics of being a good brewer is really a combination of those. Beyond that, I think brewers need to be a little daring at times, to try out new things and push the envelop and their comfort zone. But I also think that brewers have to be a bit selfless, because most of the time we're not brewing for ourselves and what we like to drink, we're brewing for the enjoyment of others – so the quality has to be there day in and day out.


Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Yes, I started off homebrewing and still make up a batch every now and then. Pretty much all of the Fireman's Brew beers (Blonde, Brewnette and Redhead) started off as homebrews. When we were first getting started, I would homebrew up a batch and test it out on friends, and then refine the recipe based on their feedback. Looking back, it actually worked out really great for us, because we were able to perfect our recipes before jumping into larger scale production.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

Rarely. There’s not enough time!


What is your favourite beer that you brew?

My favorite right now is our Brewnette – it’s a traditional German style Doublebock, made with imported hops and variety of malts. It’s a perfect beer for autumn & fall – with a rich chocolate / mocha finish to it, that’s still very smooth. All of our beers we make by hand, and the Brewnette is our toughest & most complex one to make, but also really rewarding – because it’s really a great example of what hand-crafted beers are all about.


If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

I have not.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

Favorite to drink is our Redhead. It’s our Amber Ale, and we’ve really worked hard to get the taste profile right. We use crystal malts in this one to give it a toasty malt base and caramel finish – but it’s not syrupy sweet. I have to say that this one is our most improved beer over the past year, as we’ve continued to refine it.


How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

For us authenticity is key – we make all of our beers by hand and use only natural ingredients, so authenticity and quality of the ingredients are paramount. Plus, it’s what we’ve built our brand on – our beers have to stand up like you expect Firefighters would – strong, dependable, down to earth.


If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

Wow, there are so many great ones out there – especially out here on the West Coast. We’re real fans of Stone, the guys down at Coronado Brewing Co., and Georgetown Brewing up in Seattle, but I’d have to go with Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River as my top pick for working with. Vinnie, give us a call – we’d love to team up with you!


Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Going back to the previous question, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This is what it is all about

Forgive me if any of these have been posted before, but this is what my blog is all about....





If it's not about the beer, then what is the point?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sitting At The Bar Pays Dividends

On Friday afternoon,  Mrs Velkyal, myself and our 9 month old Cairn Terrier named Honza, piled into the car for the 6 hour drive to South Carolina. We were going down for Mrs V's grandmother's birthday, and in the process dropping off entries for the upcoming Palmetto State Brewers' Open homebrew competition - both mine and for James of A Homebrew Log (I will be writing about more of his beer next week).

As ever when in Columbia, I wanted to pop round to the Flying Saucer for a few beers, which we did after dinner on Saturday. Having been asked for ID, we stepped through the door and every table in the place was taken. If we had been in the Czech Republic this would not have been a problem - sharing tables being perfectly normal. There was a couple of places at the bar and so we headed there. Now, if you read this blog regularly you will know that I like sitting at the bar rather than at a table, however, and perhaps I am just slightly crazy here, I like to have been to a place a few times before I do so.

Having got comfortable, we perused the written menu. Initially I wanted to continue my milk stout jag with Duck Rabbit's version, but they were out, so I settled for their porter, I honestly can't remember what Mrs V had. The DR Porter left me underwhelmed, too light bodied, pale of colour and generally like a brown ale for the mood I was in. I tried a few samples of things, the barman being excellent on that front, unlike his blonde eye candy colleague who didn't know what a Kölsch was. There was though a tap handle that kept drawing my eye, North Coast Brewing's Old Stock Ale, and the barman bought me a sample - thick, chewy, malty goodness! This was what I had been craving all day without realising it. I ordered a pint, and got told it came in halves because it is something like 12%abv - just a side thought, nobody would bat an eyelid if I ordered a bottle of wine, so why not serve pints of barleywine/old ale?

I think I may have found the ideal winter beer, and need to stock up on wherever I can get this stuff - I am hoping that when we head south again in a couple of weeks for Thanksgiving that I will be able to get some at Green's or similar. Apart from discovering this singularly delicious beer, I was again reminded of the value of sitting at the bar - Old Stock Ale was not on the written menu (the disparity between the menu and beers available was startling really) and without sitting there I would never have known it was available. The moral of this tale - printed beer lists are only of value if they are kept up to date.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Brewer of the Week

After a couple of weeks break, our Brewer of the Week series returns today with a trip to Grantham in Lincolnshire....


Name: Richard Chamberlin
Brewery: Brewster’s Brewery


How did you get into brewing as a career?

Thankfully through a dislike of my university course in Retail Management! After 1 year of being geared up to become essentially a fashion buyer, I decided to return home to find something better. Fortunately, the pub back home where I was working was also frequented by Sara and Sean from Brewsters. When they heard that I was looking for some part time work they offered cask washing at the brewery. I jumped at the chance and it has gone from there!

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I think the ability to brew consistently is most important. There is no point producing the world’s best beer if you cannot replicate it over and over again. It’s important from the consumer’s point of view that brewers are consistent. It all helps in keeping the beer drinkers drinking your brews.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

I’ve never homebrewed! It is something I’m looking into though as at the moment all of my ideas are put into full scale production which can sometimes be a little daunting, particularly if I’m going to be using brand new hop varieties, for instance.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Brewsters Pale Ale for sure. This beer contains some fantastic hop varieties. It makes me smile every time I get to brew it/sample it/ drink it.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

Brewsters has been my only brewery!


Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

Brewsters Hophead. At 3.6% ABV, it’s the perfect session beer but has depth of flavour from the copious amounts of hops used. It satisfies a couple of ideals; to be able to have more than 2 pints without falling over and also the hophead in me!

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

It is important to consider authenticity when developing new beers and use that as a base to build on. I think that brewing authentic beers is no longer enough to satisfy modern craft beer drinkers. It’s good to take a style and put our own spin on it and take advantage of the fantastic variety of ingredients that are available to brewers at the moment.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

On a worldwide scale, I’d love to brew a beer with Brooklyn Brewery. The brewmaster Garret Oliver, I think, brews amazing beers with such complexity of flavours. On a more local scale I think collaborating with the beer nuts from Brewdog would be awesome. The brews they conjure up blow my mind! They are true beer lovers who never fail to surprise me.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Without a doubt Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the beer that created a blueprint for the use of the fantastic aromatic hops from the US. Some defining brews seem to fade into the past but this one has stood the test of time and will continue to do so as long as the brewery produces it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mumbling About Malt

One of the themes of conversation on Saturday whilst sat with James and his wife was how one's taste in beer develops and changes as you get older. Perhaps it is better to say "as you try more types of beer" rather than "get older", although that is, in itself, irrefutable as it suggests changing beer taste is a sign of maturity, or getting old.

A common thread seemed to emerge, along the lines that after a while people get tired of the extreme beers and want something they can drink plenty of without having their tongue raped and a minging hangover for the rest of the weekend. Of course we still want our beers to have plenty of flavour, its just that we aren't looking for the next hoppy high or alcoholic buzz on a Friday night. The answer is of course session beer, and if you read this blog regularly you will know that session beers are my kind of beers.

Perhaps then, this development in palate leads to a greater appreciation for the role of malt? One phrase that, while I understand its use, I really don't like is describing malt as the "fermentables", it almost forgets that malt is the backbone of flavour in beer. When I am planning new beers, it is always the malt that I think about first, whether planning for colour or flavour. In recent dark beers I have started using Carafa II de-bittered rather than black malt as it has less of a harsh astringency, I have started mixing up Caramel malts so as to get a range of caramel and toffee flavours, instead of just using one for colour and sweetness. One malt I have enjoyed brewing with has been Special Roast, which gives an almost orange hue to a beer and distinctly nutty toffee taste which stands out from caramel malts.

I like hops, but I find myself appreciating the subtle nature of malt more and more, and so I find myself drinking more brown ales, porters and stouts, beers that have a complex set of flavours instead of a single defining characteristic.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Got Milk Stout?

Why is it that some beer styles suffer from an image problem? I have mentioned this before but when I was younger, brown ale was considered a old man's drink. Now that I am approaching the half way point of my allotted three score years and ten, I enjoy brown ale muchly and have started brewing my own - a northern style brown ale so far, and planning a recreation of Mann's Brown Ale.

Another beer which suffered an image problem when I was young was milk stout. Milk stout suffered the same kind of image problem as dark lager in the Czech Republic, it was a woman's drink. Czech tradition says that dark lager is for women because it gives a girl bigger breasts, milk stout was likewise recommended to nursing mothers for its nutritious value. Just a quick aside, there may be some scientific backing for these traditions as darker beer is apparently higher in oestrogen.

Anyway, I was in Beer Run on Friday because the Downtown Mall was preparing for the visit of Barack Obama to rally the troops for Tom Perriello (political note: if I could vote here, Tom would get my vote, if you can vote in the 5th District, please get out and vote for Tom), and I didn't want to deal with the guaranteed travel nightmare. Beer Run had a special on Friday night, where all the taps, and the handpull, were taken over by Terrapin Beer and Left Hand Brewing. Most of the 14 beers available were still there on Saturday when I met up with James from A Homebrew Log to trade beers and collect his entries for the upcoming Palmetto State Brewers' Open. Looking at the beer list, the only beer, other than the cask, that really took my fancy was Left Hand's Milk Stout.

What a nice pint that was! We were sat out on the patio, the sun was shining and the temperature was just about what you would expect, apparently, for a Virginia autumn day - not too cool, but fresh. What then could top an imperial pint of a rich, creamy milk stout that was insanely easy to drink? To be honest nothing could have topped that, it was the perfect beer for the time and place, so I had another, interjected though with a pint of the Left Hand Black Jack Porter, which was also very nice.

So yes, I will be hunting out more of the Left Hand Milk Stout, as well as whatever other milk stouts I can find, maybe I will brew one as well. One thing that came to mind over the weekend was how many more beer styles are there which I dismissed in my youthful ignorance that will loom over the horizon to steal a little corner of my zythophilic heart?