That Odd Tension: Wishing To Find Any Answer But Beer

That’s footnote 27 at page 134 of New Sweden in America which is exhibiting something between a quibble and a theme. It’s actually in a chapter in that book, “Lenape Maize Sales to the Swedish Colonists: Cultural Stability during the Early Colonial Period” by Marshall Joseph Becker in which there is a lot of very interesting stuff. For example, in 1654, there was an effort to expand trade products with the Lenape, the local nation, from mainly corn to hops as well. Like the colony, it was a flop but who knew the colonial Swedes were gathering hops in the mid-17th century Delaware. There’s more. In another document, the same Becker shows that New Sweden’s outpost at Tinicum Island had a brewhouse: warning pgf and elsewhere we read that

Swedish women in Delaware made beer not only from pompions (pumpkins) and corn but persimmons and watermelons.

So, with all that evidence that there was plenty of beer and brewing in colonial New Sweden during its existence from 1638 to 1660 why is there a suspicion that the brew kettle was being used for something other than producing beer? I haven’t cataloged it but, just like a Shakespeare play presented in Victorian accent, there seems to be a tension over time, in this case a presumption that beer was not as pervasive in northern western culture prior to a certain point in industrialization as we also seem to know it was. It may be that we don’t want to know or that we can’t take on just how much was drunk by how many. The more I read about these earlier points, however, the more I think I should be surprised to find a sober official, a dry town.

Delaware: Theobroma, Dogfish Head, Milton

Mark Dredge has a piece in this morning’s Guardian out of the UK entitled “The Beer of Yesteryear” which scans the range of recent brewing efforts to recreate beers older than, say, 500 years ago. These are beers which use ingredients available to former culture including Theorbrama by Dogfish Head. I had one on hand and thought I would see if it has any appeal. Mark tells me:

Theobroma, part of Dogfish’s Ancient Ale series, is based on “chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions.” It contains Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chillies and annatto.

The bottle adds that it is based on chemical residual evidence from before 1100 BC with additives from later Mayan and Aztec drinks. So, seeing as the Aztecs come from about 1300 to 1600 AD, it is sort of a made up mish mash. Its as much a traditional drink as one from, say, that one Eurotrash era that stretched from the Dark Ages of around 800 AD to the world of George Jetson in the year 2537 AD. That would be an excellent era… right?

Well, as a beer it is a bit of a disappointment as well. Booze overwhelms pale malt which is undercut by the exotic herbs all of which has an oddly “beechwood aged” tone to it. I get the cocoa. I get the honey. But I don’t care all that much. It leaves me disappointed like that imperial pilsner experiment of Dogfish Head’s in 2006. Only moderate respect from the BAers. A bit of a boring beer that may be the result of a fantastically interesting bit of archeological work. Who knows? Maybe the sense of taste of those Central American practitioners of human sacrifice wasn’t as haute as one might have expected. Or maybe it paired well.

Big Hop Bombs: 120 Minutes IPA, Dogfish Head, Del., USA

So I give the tickets away, come hope to find them, end up having have to dig through the recycling to find the envelope and there it is – and it is not for the Jays against the Tigers…it’s for the Thursday night game next week against the Sox. I am so there.

Good reason to break out the good stuff. And not just because the last “Week of…” post never got finished with the review of this particular example of the good stuff. One reader wrote about how those long posts were messing up his RSS reader because I wrote them over time. Well, I get the point. “The Week of Eleven…” anythings is too much so we will evolve that little theme next time. See. I can both create and evolve.

On with the beer. This one pours a clear orange butterscotch with an orange cream head that resolves to a thin rim. Booze and orange marmalade on the nose, there is plenty more of each in the mouth. But there is other stuff. Lemon curd creaminess and decent graininess for a big beer with a relatively dry setting. Not overly hot from either the alcohol or the hopping – amazing considering the 120 IBU and whopping 20% booze. This one 12 oz bottle equals five standard Canadian light beers. The hops are both herbal minty green and somewhat tea astringent. Oloroso sherry. 92% of BAers get it.

Oops – it is heating up now.

Delaware: Golden Shower, Dogfish Head, Milton

An imperial pilsner. This is a sort of beer I never imagined I would need to concern myself with. Unlike stouts or pale ales with their history of bigness, surely no one would bother upping the game of brewing the steely king of lagers. No one told Dogfish Head from Delaware, however, and they went ahead and did it as they tell you about at no lack of length on their website, including this:

The big breweries are as guilty of any company in any industry of brainwashing the consumer through the sheer oppressive magnitude and breadth of their marketing efforts. They are selling a brand name and an image with such zeal that they have forgotten about the product behind all of this horseshit and hyperbole – the beer itself. Dogfish Head Golden Shower is the beer itself. A true Pilsner brewed with 100% Pilsner Barley, and impressively hopped using our self-developed continuing-hopping method. At 9% abv it’s also nearly twice as strong as the American, wanna-be pilsners made by the big boys.

If you have read my reviews here before you know I have questions about my relationship with pilsners. I respect the fact as much as the next guy that it is a noble and traditional style but then there is that metallic zing…or is it a zang…that fills my mouth as if I was chewing a quarter pound of four penny nails that have been laying around the shed. So I approach this beer with some trepedation. And some of the low rating BAer reviews are backing that up – like this one:

…Not drinkable at all. Really sad for such a great brewery. I dumped the remainder of my $12 bottle in the toilet, where it belongs. Don’t waste your money on this golden shower…

Yikes. I only paid $8.99 for mine but still. Intersting to note, however, that the highest BA raters consider many of the same elements but like them. I don’t know what to expect now.

The beer pours a very attractive bright burnished gold with a white head that resolves to a rim what with the low carbonation. When you shove your nose into the glass there is plenty of sweet apple and pear concentrate. The first thing I think of when I sipped was triple. It is sort of like a Belgian triple – candy-ish sweetness and all – but also with a fall fruit aspect like calvados. It is also thickish and does not have the overly metallic hop profile I feared – the hops are tightly herbal as much as anything. In fact, it is far more pale malty than anything else. And that is a remarkably well hidden 9%. The beer is not hot in the mouth but it certainly does warm otherwise.

Where does this beer fit in? It is a near neighbour to Belgian golden strong ales like Duval or triples like Chimay Cinq Cents with the white label – but without the bubble gum or candy floss notes Belgian candi sugar provides. A beer to contemplate the coming autumn. A beer to eat apple pie and vanilla ice cream along with, oddly enough. It would be interesting to have this beer condition in a wood cask as there is that butter and/or vanilla richness that could be umphed one notch for experimental purposes.

Am I A Beer Geek?

Even though I prefer “beer nerd” I guess this description fits me:

…it was Sean Ziegler, pouring beers for Dogfish Head brewery at at the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival Saturday, who told it. “Wine is like an art. Your always subject to nature,” Ziegler said. “Beer is more like a science. Hence, the name beer geek. You can measure the color, the hops, the sweetness – and theoretically – if you can measure it, you can reproduce it over and over again.” The predominately male crowd at Saturday’s festival is part of a larger beer culture much different than the quantity guzzling, can crushing frat boys often associated with beer. These beer lovers crave knowledge about their favorite carbonated beverage. They seek out brews that are complex in color and flavor and do it through tasting, smelling, attending festivals, visiting breweries and cooking up their own concoctions. “There’s not a beer I don’t like, there’s not a beer I won’t taste, there’s not a place with a brewery that I won’t visit,” said Chris Katechis of Oskar Blues Brewery, who was serving up Old Chub Scottish style ale among others. “Everything there is to know about beer, we want to know. What time the brewer wakes up and starts brewing – we want to know.”

Is that you, too?

Big Hop Bombs: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Delaware USA

…perhaps one of the best IPAs in America…
 

We were this close to staying at a hotel between the Dogfish Head Brewery and the beach at Lewes, Delaware…this close…then I bailed on the great southern credit card run and opted for the nearer north-east of New England. I would have learned so much about Dogfish Head – not to mention and Victory Brewing in PA on the way. Ah well, next year in Delaware.

Thanks, however, to the good folks of Galeville a little bit of the Delaware shore makes it upstate. I picked up this four pack of these 9% brews for about 8 bucks US which is a good deal. I don’t need six 9% brews and that savings allows me to pick up another quart of Rogue or maybe a little something from Middle Ages. I have had Dogfish’s Pumkin’ Ale and their Belgian dark strong ale, Raison D’Etre. Both are quality with a bit of querky and expect something of the same and get it. The brewery explains the “minute” the 90 minute IPA in this way:

Our family of Indian Pale Ales includes the 60 Minute I.P.A. and the 90 Minute Imperial I.P.A.. Both feature our unique continuous hopping program, where they receive a single hop addition that lasts over the course of the entire boil (60 and 90 minutes respectively). This breakthrough hopping method makes for a beer that is extremely hoppy without being overly bitter.

The hop effect is very nice, giving great green gobs of hops which bite the back of the throat coat the mouth and fill the nose while maintaining a mellowness which envelops the ale’s hot boozy heat. It would make a heck of a match for hot Cambodian soup or a curry. The effect of the continuous hopping also is a lack of layering or steps in the flavours. There is not so much a noticing of that nutty tone or that raisin in the corner as a continuum of shifting thoughts bouncing off the palate. Under and amongst all the hops and heat is sweet pale malt with maybe cherry/apricot notes as well as perhaps a twong of crystal sultana and definitely a grainy edge in the finish. The body is medium-large without quite the bigness of a Stone.

At the beer advocate an astounding 458 reviews of this can be found and we have learned that 2% of those who post there have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, like this chappie:

Clear rusty tan in color, slim foam. A small hint of hops in the smell but not to much at all. The taste is hoppy but is unfortunatley covered by the terrible alcohol taste , like wise it leaves an after taste of alcohol. IMHO not a great brew, not at all.

So…he gave an Imperial IPA at nine percent 2.2/5 for being hot and boozy. Please stay away from the Belgians, pal. Hands off the Belgians.

One of the greats: hot, hoppy and handsome.

Big Hop Bombs: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Delaware USA

We were this close to staying at a hotel between the Dogfish Head Brewery and the beach at Lewes, Delaware…this close…then I bailed on the great southern credit card run and opted for the nearer north-east of New England. I would have learned so much about Dogfish Head – not to mention and Victory Brewing in PA on the way. Ah well, next year in Delaware.

Thanks, however, to the good folks of Galeville a little bit of the Delaware shore makes it upstate. I picked up this four pack of these 9% brews for about 8 bucks US which is a good deal. I don’t need six 9% brews and that savings allows me to pick up another quart of Rogue or maybe a little something from Middle Ages. I have had Dogfish’s Pumkin’ Ale and their Belgian dark strong ale, Raison D’Etre. Both are quality with a bit of querky and expect something of the same and get it. The brewery explains the “minute” the 90 minute IPA in this way:

Our family of Indian Pale Ales includes the 60 Minute I.P.A. and the 90 Minute Imperial I.P.A.. Both feature our unique continuous hopping program, where they receive a single hop addition that lasts over the course of the entire boil (60 and 90 minutes respectively). This breakthrough hopping method makes for a beer that is extremely hoppy without being overly bitter.

The hop effect is very nice, giving great green gobs of hops which bite the back of the throat coat the mouth and fill the nose while maintaining a mellowness which envelops the ale’s hot boozy heat. It would make a heck of a match for hot Cambodian soup or a curry. The effect of the continuous hopping also is a lack of layering or steps in the flavours. There is not so much a noticing of that nutty tone or that raisin in the corner as a continuum of shifting thoughts bouncing off the palate. Under and amongst all the hops and heat is sweet pale malt with maybe cherry/apricot notes as well as perhaps a twong of crystal sultana and definitely a grainy edge in the finish. The body is medium-large without quite the bigness of a Stone.

At the beer advocate an astounding 458 reviews of this can be found and we have learned that 2% of those who post there have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, like this chappie:

Clear rusty tan in color, slim foam. A small hint of hops in the smell but not to much at all. The taste is hoppy but is unfortunatley covered by the terrible alcohol taste , like wise it leaves an after taste of alcohol. IMHO not a great brew, not at all.

So…he gave an Imperial IPA at nine percent 2.2/5 for being hot and boozy. Please stay away from the Belgians, pal. Hands off the Belgians.

One of the greats: hot, hoppy and handsome.