Christmas has come and gone. No doubt many a beer geek received beer related presents ranging from beers to books to glasses to the occasional gimmicky present. One such present I received was a beer bread mix. All you had to do was add beer and bung it in the oven for three quarters of an hour. The only downside is if you make it too early in the morning, it’s hard to do Keith Floyd impressions without raising eyebrows.
I tried it out this morning as I wanted some fresh bread, which can be hard to come by in this part of the world (i.e. Nashville). So I decided to use a local brew, Yazoo’s Dos Perros Pale Ale to create the dough. It’s a dark, bready ale with the added benefit of being in the fridge. Yazoo opened in 2003 and Dos Perros and the Pale Ale are perhaps the most likely Nashvillian craft beer to be seen on tap around the city.
There’s nothing like the aroma of bread baking in the oven and after next to no time (5 mins prep & the allotted cooking time), the bread was ready. Using a prepared mix may be sacrilegious to skilled bakers and those who watch the various bake-off shows. However, it’s a nifty product, albeit any bread mix would do the same job.
Americans love their pies. From homemade apple pie to pumpkin pie, there’s hardly a diner scene in a movie where someone’s not seen devouring a slice of pie. It’s even more prevalent with special occasions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin pie has been the inspiration for many an autumnal brew. This year’s first release was all the way back in June and was followed up by countless others. Pumpkin beer is not just for Halloween and takes in Thanksgiving and the remainders are supped over Christmas along with pie for desert.
For Christmas this year, desert featured chocolate pecan pie. Pecans are a southern US tradition and in Ireland they only tend to pop up in Cuisine de France pastries. Thus year gave me the opportunity to try some pie with a beer made with whole roasted pecans.
Lazy Magnolia is Mississippi’s oldest brewery (well post-prohibition speaking) founded all the way back in 2003. They produce a nut brown ale called Southern Pecan, which has a few awards to its name.
The beer (4.4% abv) pours burnished copper with a slight head that forms a band around the rim of the glass. It’s a malt forward beer (19 IBUs) and its aroma picks up roast vegetable notes with a liberal sprinkling of brown sugar. In keeping with its name, there’s a big hit of pecan on initial tasting with sweet nuttiness on the finish.
While the beer’s fairly light in body, it comes into its own with a good ol’ slice of pie.
Diageo have launched yet another new beer under Smithwicks brand. It’s a blonde and brings the number of draught Smithwick’s products to three. This is yet another salvo in macro-wars and follows on from the recent launch of the two beers under Guinness’ “Brewers Project” initiative.
The Smithwick’s name has a love/hate relationship with pub goers. A fair bit of the criticism may be unjust and there’s a fair bit of urban myths floating about about it. It shows the brand awareness for better or worse. So it’s interesting to see the company sticking with adding new brews to the lineup and not create a series of “crafty” mini-brands. Although people seem to be attracted by the “Pale Ale” and not the brand name so will it be a similar story with the Blonde?
It’s not a seasonal offering like the wine-gum packed Winter Spirit, which is back for a second year. Although there may be similarities with last summer’s release, Long Summer. This style of beer can blur the boundaries between lager and ale. Smithwick’s Blonde clearly has the likes of Clonmel 1650 in its crosshairs and is clearly hoped that it can replicate the success of Smithwicks Pale Ale in seeing seen off its challenger(s) like Caledonian Smooth.
So what’s it like? It pours extremely clear and is honey gold. It’s slightly deceptive as the beer looks more carbonated than it actually is. and is deceptive. There’s a slight floral aroma (although I have to admit that I tried this in a smoking area). It drinks smooth with a touch of hop bitterness. It’s bland and inoffensive, what else would we expect.
Who is the target market for this beer? Look past the craft beer enthusiast who’ll most likely go as far trying it to tick it off the list. It’s new and different so it might appeal to a few pub goers to give it a go. Hopefully they’ll go on to explore other beers.
Coincidentally, Guinness have introduced a new lager for the US market. This follows on from the disappointing Black Lager. It’s called Guinness Blonde but contains American hops, namely wiliamette and mosaic. It’s contract brewed by the City Brewing Company. Apparently more releases can be expected under what the Guinness people have called the “Discovery Series”.
Back in the middle of November, a unique beer festival took place in the Italian Quarter. Organised by Wallace Wine Bars, Quartiere In Fermento was a small festival celebrating the artisanal beer scene in Italy.
Unfortunately I had to be on my best behaviour and limit myself to only four glasses of beer as I had a charity event to go to that evening. So given this constraint, what else could I try but Loverbeer.
The piedmont brewery specialises in sour beers, with about a dozen in its range. The Piedmont brewery’s located about 40 minutes outside of Turin and unlike the neighbouring vineyards, it welcomes spontaneous fermentation with open arms. The brewery was set up by Valter Loverier (hence the “Loverbeer” name) in 2010. Valter was on hand at the festival to introduce his exceptional beers.
The suggested order for tasting the four beers he brought was to commence with Dama Brun-a, which is extremely tart and tannin-laden barrel-aged brew. An Oud Bruin in style, it had pleasant similarities with Rodenbach. Next up was plummy Beer Brugna that while sour, it had a dark fruit subtle sweetness. Then it was on to BeerBera, a wild brew that is fermented with Barbera, the iconic grape of the region. This grape is used to create big, powerful Piedmont reds and it doesn’t disappoint in this beer. Finally, with taste buds already beginning to wane due to indulging on glasses of the sours, it was time to up the ante for my last beer from the brewery and indeed my last one at the festival. The time had come to taste Papessa, a 7% abv sour Russian Imperial Stout. This was the perfect beer to finish on as the dark chocolate-laden beer complimented the fruits in the previous three that had taken up residence on my palate.
It was great to try these beers in the company of Valter and here his take on each one. These beers and all those at the festival will be making appearances in the Italian Quarter restaurants (either in bottles or on draught). Look out for them!