Under the Bed Brouwerij Presents

I’m Waiting for the Great Pumpkin

In Ramblin's on October 1, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Maybe I want to talk about pumpkin ales because it’s that time of the season when they’re all hitting store shelves.  But maybe it’s because I feel the need to complain.  Every year a large population of beer drinkers clamor to buy up the pumpkin ale breweries put out before everyone else buys it up.  And every year I hope I will find one pumpkin ale that will have a little integrity.  I never do.  Sure, a brewery can make a fine beer with spices and shit, but where’s the pumpkin?

 

I’ve had Dogfish Head Punkin Flying Dog’s The Fear, Southern Tier’s Pumking, and more, and none of them are really pumpkin beers.  Sure, they’re all supposedly brewed with pumpkin, but can anyone out there taste anything like pumpkin or squash in there?  I’m sure there’s a way.  Why not juice pumpkin and add it to the wort instead of wasting fermenter space with puree?  Why not up the pumpkin content?  And for Christ’s sake, why not lower the amount of spices in these brews?

I get it–we all love some pumpkin pie spice in autumn.  It warms us and triggers nostalgia of eating pie as a kid.  But can we all agree that without the spices, these beers would remind us nothing of pumpkin at all?  I’m not opposed to a little PPS here or there, but let’s just stop calling them pumpkin ales if they don’t taste like pumpkin.  Let’s just call them spiced ales or something more suitable.  

Frankly, it’s annoying, this misperception of flavor by associative confusion.  Stop it.  Save your money and go get some fucking delicious porters or biere de garde or Marzens and sit outside and eat some donuts.  That’s fucking amazing.  Pumpkin ale currently in the market is not.  Stop being a chump.

 

 

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Quest for Belgian Beers–Tasting Notes

In Ramblin's on July 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

A La Becasse

Sour ale tasting

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Timmerman’s Lambic Doux—deep honey color.  Light, spritzy, a little sweet.  Fruity, low carbonation, lightly sour.

Timmerman’s Lambic Blanc—pale straw color.  Very dry, white wine character.  Mild but crisp acidity, apparent coriander aroma.

Timmerman’s Kriek—Deep pink.  Big cherry smell, lightly sweet and medium acidity.  Fresh cherry flavor.

Bourgogne de Flanders (lambic-brown ale blend, aged in oak)—Biggest head of the four beers.  Dark amber/brown color.  Nutty, slight crystal malt flavor, some mineral, faintly sour.

Delirium Café

Boon Geuze—light and cider-like, dry, effervescent, some obvious Brett notes, apple, funk.  Acetic acid on palate, funky, slightly cheesy.

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Schandpaal—Hazy amber.  Rocky white head.  Orange marmalade and light malt on nose.  Also apricot, pineapple, brown butter.  Cotton candy, faint coriander.  Dry, malty, fruity, very little residual sugar.  Toasty grain and fruit.

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Lambiek Oud Beersel—honey color with no head.  Fruity cider aroma.  Sour cider taste with some funky herbal notes.

Moeder Lambic

XXX Bitter (de Ranke brewery)—Gold, medium white head, hoppy, fruity nose.  Hops more earthy w/ clean bitterness but slightly citrus-y.  Crisp, light malt character w/ pronounced hop bitterness

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Bink Tripel—gold with white head.  Graham cracker graininess, milkd fruity yeast smell, fresh cream.  Taste—strong but smooth, fruity, dry, light malt, fresh cream, apparent clean hop bitterness.

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Thanksgiving Beer Pairings

In Ramblin's on November 19, 2011 at 11:15 pm

We all know about Thanksgiving.  The meal is an onslaught of flavors and textures that probably wouldn’t always be served together on a real menu (read: cranberry jell-o shaped like a can and creamy/crunchy green bean casserole AND mushroom soup?). That is why the question of pairing a beverage with the meal is always kind of strange.  It’s kind of like when your high school English teacher gives the class a weird, esoteric essay prompt, and the only person able to hand in a reasonable paper is the one who is comfortable spewing bullshit.  Just as many do with Thanksgiving beverage pairings.  The point of the damn matter is that anything goes if you want it to; there are just a few reasons why some work a little better than others.  The reason I give you Thanksgiving beer ideas is that there are too many wine pairings mentioned all the time!

Thanksgiving pairings are so arbitrary because adding one more random flavor to the meal would not be abnormal; just think about all the random and contrasting dishes you already have at the table.  Turkey is often dry (womp), has some umami, is subtly sweet, and it can take on flavors of whatever else you throw at it (aromatics, etc.).  Stuffing is usually herb-y, savory, mushy, dense, and rich.  Gravy is rich and if done right packs umami.  Cranberry sauce is tart and sweet and cold.  Bread is bread.  Butter is butter.  Green beans taste like wet, clorophyll-y rope (just a slight bias on my part; they’re pretty bad if cooked wrong).  Mashed potatoes are heavy, dense, starchy, and savory.  They coat your mouth.  The point of these descriptions, incomplete and somewhat biased as they are, is that they point out the variation at the Thanksgiving table.  They show that one more random flavor could be just fine.  However, they also, when considered altogether, show a need for something that is less represented.  Clean.

Beer is great, because it cleans up.  Many beer geeks and professionals will talk about the way beer’s bubbles cleanse the palate like a good champagne does.  No matter how dark the beer is in color; how roasty and deep it is, it usually wakes up the mouth after heavy dishes.  Some beers, however, clean up better than others.  And I’m not implying the role here is to take away the flavor of the food.  The golden rule that we all learned early in life, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” really translates into food as well.  You want your food and drinks to play nice together.  So you want to develop a balance.  Although complementary flavors can be great together (brownies with stout? yes.), when there are a lot of flavors causing a hubub at the table, you want one beverage that can pair with your whole plate.  One that can take on all the flavors at once, a contrast.  And if you really think about eating on Thanksgiving, it almost becomes less about the flavors of the food and more about the way they make you and your mouth feel.  Heavy, tired, bowled over by weight.  That is how you and your mouth feel, and you need something snappy to say, “Hey!  Dinner just started!  No food comas for another three hours!”

Let’s start by eliminating the beers that might be bad with Thanksgiving dinner.  Guess what?  There are really no bad choices.  If you paired a barley wine with your meal, it would probably taste pretty good, the hops pairing up with the herbs, and the malt enveloping the roast turkey flavors.  However, it would knock you on your ass with its intense alcohol content, and it might drink a little heavy for the food.  Instead of having that with dinner, have it before!  It will warm your spirits, awaken your palate, and maybe put you in a more family friendly mood.

Probably not Thanksgiving beers:

Barley wines could be a bit rough.  They load hops, malt, and booze in a mad intense way, and this will only hasten the food coma.  If you want to be more amiable with your family members, enjoy one at happy hour.  It will wake up your palate and bring on some warm, fuzzy feelings.

Light beers are a legitimate no go.  Forgot to mention that at the outset.  No light beer and no “fast food beer”–you know what this is.  They will not add anything to your dinner besides past regrets from your college days.

I’d venture to say beers with a lot of residual sugar would be a little much for the main course, i.e., milk stouts and some of the danker amber/red ales.  Just a little much for the main event.

What about a nice, crisp pilsner for the main, you ask, moving to the extreme, desperate to counteract the heavy food?  Nah.  The flavor is generally a little to mild to stand up to heavily flavored foods.  Nothing wrong with pilsners, but I think there is a better way.

Stouts are a potential, but they are damn heavy.  The roast is nice, but it also has more roastiness to it than many of the flavors involved in Thanksgiving dinner.  In my opinion, stout can overpower.  Kind of like a big Cab could be a bit much, a stout is a little intense for Turkey Day.

Yes beers for Thanksgiving:

Beers with a medium body, good carbonation, and complex smell and taste nuances are the way to go on Thanksgiving.  They provide  both a palate cleanse and an interesting addition to the Thanksgiving table.

Weizen or witbiers are a cool idea for Thanksgiving, because they have a tang to them as a result of the wheat used in fermentation.  Also, traditional European wheat beers are usually made with nice, aromatic yeast strains that often carry some spice notes and fruity esters.  Hence, nod to spices, nod to fruit on the table (cranberry sauce ).

Nut browns can also be pretty awesome; they echo the roasted aspect of the turkey and roasted vegetables.

Pale ales, as long as they have subtle, clean hops and a nice malt structure, can be a great friend to turkey, mashed taters, cranberry sauce, and vegetables.  One of my all time favorites is Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, but Samuel Smith’s does a great one as well.

Some hard core beers that could be a little strong for Thanksgiving are the lambics.  I believe in the pairing, especially with an unfruited gueze beer (a lambic that is a blend of younger and older beers).  It has a little bit of funk to it, which would stand out from the rest of the feast, and the acidity and small bubbles in the beer would hold up well against the army of heavy foods in front of you.

American India Pale Ales may be awesome for us hopheads, but if you’re worried about getting lost in a sea of humulus lupulus, you may want to give British India Pale Ale a shot.  Seriously.  The Brits have a sexy way with their IPAs.  It’s kind of like their IPAs are Prince, and ours are ACDC. When they let the grooviness take over, we fire the cannons.  Our IPAs are resinous, piney, citrus-y, and hard core, taking over the mouths of innocent people with their awe-striking intensity.  Theirs generally smell more herbal–more subtly seductive, and the flavor is far less of a competitor on the palate against the Thanksgiving food.  Even though Thanksgiving is about the Pilgrims leaving Britain, I think Turkey day is a time to nod back to the old country with regards to IPA.  However, I do salute our A.IPA’s for being a more badass version of the stuff.

Belgian abbey ales and farmhouse ales would be great with Thanksgiving dinner in my book. They all usually have a good strength to them, putting them up their in merry-ness with wine.  Also, farmhouse saisons offer citrus-y, fruity, aromatic scents and flavors with a refreshing crispness that would be incredible with Thanksgiving dinner. A tripel would be awesome with everything as well.  Its subtle maltiness gives some stability to the meal, but unlike a pilsner, it has a fuller body that stands up to the meal.

This guide is by no means the end-all-be-all of Thanksgiving beer pairings.  As I implied, the food choices at Thanksgiving are so fucked up that you might as well pair whatever you fancy at the time with your meal.  But the thing is, I think trying something new and capable of taking on all your meal’s components is a good idea.  A Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace ale would be baller with your dinner.  A Jack d’Or Pretty Things would be amazing.  An Allagash White ale would strike through all those crazy, heavy flavors and meet the cranberry sauce on the other side.  If you’re not being cerebral about things, open a pale ale, and you’ll be satisfied, especially with one of the ones I mentioned above.  You want subtlety with strength?  Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde.  The point is, try it.  What the shit could go wrong? Answer: if you forgot Keystone Light is not an effing beer.  But that’s besides the point.  When everyone else is saying wine this Thanksgiving, be thankful for malted barley, yeast, hops, and water.  They’re gonna bring the magic to your feast.

Nom nom!