Brew Manchu: Good Beer for the Masses

This blog is mostly to keep track of the beer I drink/collect, unless I find any super funny cat videos that need to be shared with the world.

The “Other” Seasonal Beer

The last leaves are preparing to fall off of the trees here in the DC area, and Fall seems to have officially made its presence felt since Daylight Savings Time ended and everyone is leaving work under cover of darkness, but fear not these next cold dark months. New seasons bring new seasonal beers!

That’s right. Its November and I’m talking about seasonal beer. Obviously I’m going to talk about my favorite Pumpkin Spice Fall Jack-O-Lantern Warmer Ale with a full pound of cinnamon and nutmeg in a single batch! …right?…

Well, while there are indeed several good pumpkin beers out there (like this ‘un), around this time of year you can also see the emergence of another style that can only really be made in the fall (unless you’ve got the capital to pay a huge FedEx bill, but I will address that momentarily), and that is the increasingly popular Wet Hop or Harvest Ale. The ‘harvest’ in the name of this style refers to the hop harvest which generally occurs during the month of September when the cones (or flowers) of the hop plant fully ripen on the vine.

In the U.S. and abroad, harvest time for hops usually involves the picking and subsequent drying of these flowers. The dried hops are then shredded, crushed into a crumbly paste, and extruded into pellets; thereby turning this:

 into this:

Looks appealing huh?

No?

Well guess what. These little guys are just one of the many modern advances that allows you to enjoy your favorite IPA in June even though it was brewed in February and the hops were picked months before that.

There are critics of this process who argue that the pelletization process traps vital oils inside each granule that will never again see the light of day (or your taste buds), but hey, if we didn’t preserve our crops somehow we’d never have made it out of the stone age (and think of what you’d do without bacon, our most prized preserved food).

The fact is that this form of “hop extract” is present in almost every beer you drink from that warm Miller Lite you just had to the bottles of Bourbon County Stout that you would never give 22 of your hard earned dollars to Whole Foods for (even though it is so damn good. Well… Maybe just this one 4-pack would be ok…). Which is precisely the reason that Wet Hop ales are so rare and precious.

Every year in September a small percentage of hop cones are saved from the shredding and crushing and are instead rushed via overnight mail to breweries around the country where they are immediately incorporated into small batches of beer (typically Pale Ales and IPAs, 2 styles which showcase hops).

Some examples of these beers are Goose Island Harvest Ale, Southern Tier Harvest Ale, Founder’s Harvest Ale (notice a theme?), and Chatoe Rogue: First Growth Wet Hop Ale; the name ‘Chatoe’ being a playful nod to the fact that the hops for this brew all come from the fields at the brewery itself.

Sierra Nevada has taken this concept a step farther with its dual Northern and Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ales, going so far as to fly fresh hops from fields in New Zealand in order to create a wet hop beer in April (as it would of course then be Autumn ‘down undah’).

The beers themselves, though generously hopped, tend to lack some of the sharp bitter bite associated with other hoppy beers even from the same brewery. Weyerbacher Harvest Ale for instance has an earthy, grassy, almost vegetal quality to the aroma and lots of bright citrus notes and biscuity malt to create what I find to be a very balanced version of a regular American Pale Ale.

I personally am a big fan of the subdued and complexly aromatic qualities that these wet hop beers exhibit, and they are are a great way to ease yourself into hoppier styles of beer, especially if you are generally opposed to too much bitterness in your beer.

As far as pairing with food goes, I have a theory (that I love to test constantly) that the hops in these styles can be seen almost as another herbal component to a dish, thereby making them a great companion to any from of caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella, and Basil), or even just a simple green salad. They are also good stand-ins for your favorite Pale Ale alongside a burger, pizza, or even spicy food like Mexican or Thai (think Cilantro).

So hopefully now you have a better understanding of some of the beers you’ve seen popping up in your local store. Please feel free to use your newfound knowledge to shut down your friend the next time he/she tries to lord his/her worldliness over you (Them: “Man, I love this *random obscure beer*” You: “Pellet Hops? Ugh. I only drink beer made with hops that still have a soul. Them: “Wow, what a pretentious dick thing to say.” You: “Oh hey, you’re right. Fucking Brew Manchu blog.”). Or maybe just enjoy your beer quietly…

Either way, happy drinking!

Sorry, its already sold out…

Even though I haven’t put up a new post in awhile I am still thinking of you. I’ve been stalling until I can setup a few things that I’m planning for this blog, but in the meantime I will begin posting links to various beer related articles so that you are always flush with information/reading material. Like this (<—-click here friend).

Its BrewDog’s blog post on their newest (and supposedly last) extremely high ABV beer “The End of History” (at 51% alcohol by volume), which follows their “Tactical Nuclear Penguin” (32%) and “Sink the Bismark!” (41%) brews.

Enjoy.

Not all beer pairings have to be high brow&#8230;

Homemade pizza and Mama&#8217;s Little Yella Pils (Oscar Blues)

Not all beer pairings have to be high brow…

Homemade pizza and Mama’s Little Yella Pils (Oscar Blues)

Float #2: Frozen Carbomb

The appeal of a beer float is that you are taking two things that are delicious by themselves and combining them. Case in point; this week’s float.

Dark beer fans are likely familiar with the varying styles and iterations of Stouts such as big Imperial Stouts, Stouts aged in various types of barrels, and those infused with coffee or espresso. The beer used in our float this week is a popular beer made with dark chocolate; Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.

Along with actual chocolate, the flavors in this beer are created with the addition of Crystal malts (for caramel notes), Chocolate malts, and a blend of different sugars. It has a nice measured roasty bitterness to it, and the hop presence is low. Basically as the name implies, this beer is all about the chocolate, which makes it a perfect ingredient for a beer float.

The strong flavors of the beer allow for some personal discretion as to your ice cream choice. Huge chocolate fans may choose to double up and go dark with their cold component, however a little goes a long way for me. I wanted to get a variety of flavors out of this float, so I went with a Ben & Jerry’s flavor that I’d never actually tried before: Dublin Mudslide.

Allow me to preface the description of this ice cream by stating that it was a bad idea to taste it a week before I made the float. This stuff is so good that I had to hide it in the back of the freezer just to have a scoop left for this post. It’s an “Irish Cream Liqueur” ice cream (so, picture frozen Bailey’s) with “Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies” and a coffee fudge swirl.

 

With lessons learned from the last float, I made this one small and drank it fast, and I think I’m beginning to understand the appeal of these desserts/drinks. The flavors were amazing. The chocolate in the beer matched with the fudge and cookies in the ice cream, and the “Bailey’s” ice cream with this Stout tasted better than any Irish Carbomb you’ve ever had.

If you’re looking for light and refreshing, look elsewhere. This float is thick, heavy, and definitely sweeter than the previous one (don’t forget to pack your spoon!). It is definitely more dessert than drink, however the beauty of it is that if you’re still thirsty, there’s plenty of beer leftover to savor solo.

So up to this point I (and hopefully you) have learned two lessons in the creation of beer floats:

1: Make them small and drink them fast. The only thing worse than curdled milk in your beer is… eh…

Well if you think of anything let me know.

2: If you start with ingredients that are delicious by themselves, the finished combination is more likely to be greater than just the sum of its parts.

I know I’m not saying anything new with that statement, but I would put forth that this week’s float with Ben & Jerry’s was a good deal superior to last week’s made with the ironically named “Safeway Select”.

The only way to improve on this week’s float would be to work with someone who makes her own ice cream in order to craft a perfect combination of beer and frozen goodness; and that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Click here to follow Brew_Manchu on Twitter and get a heads up when new posts arrive. I need to thin out the herd in my Cellar, so look for some brief tasting notes on the Twitter feed, and maybe a new post or two if anything blows me away. 

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next post.

Bananas Float-ster

At my job I am frequently tasked with pairing beer and food. At this point, many of the connections become immediately apparent; for example darker beers like porters and stouts with roasty notes on the nose tend to go well with roasted meats, nut brown British ales pair well with nutty cheeses, and so on. The one course that generally requires a little extra thought is dessert.

Many people who have delved into the back coolers of their local liquor store have emerged with bottles of sweetened Lambics displaying large images of fruit on the label (think Lindeman’s Kriek or Frambiose). While it can be (and is) argued that these beers are not close enough to their sour ancestors still being produced in Brussels, they have definitely found a fanbase in drinkers seeking a barley-derived alternative to, well, wine coolers.

These beers are usually a shoo-in for pairing with chocolate desserts, and you can also play the match game with your dessert and the fruit pictures on the bottle (as in Kriek and cherry pie), but there are several other ways to go depending on the components of your given confection.

One creation that I have been seeing more and more of recently is a combination of both beer and dessert in a single glass. Yes friends, the Beer Float. 

I got excited at the prospect of combining flavors together so immediately (instead of food here, beer there), and went out today to procure the ingredients so far for 3 different beer floats. The first one could not be contained, so tonight I bring you the first in a series; Bananas Float-ster.

Ingredients:

Aventinus - a German Weizenbock (pronounced vite-sin-bock)

Dolche de Leche Ice Cream (Vanilla with a Caramel Swirl)

Fresh Sliced Bananas

Grape Nuts Cereal

The idea behind this float was, as the name implies, the classic dessert Bananas Foster

The dessert features a combination of the flavors of banana and caramelized brown sugar, and as it would happen, so too does this beer.

Weizenbocks as a style are strong German wheat beers, and G. Schneider and Sons makes a great version with Aventinus. It has plenty of the classic German hefeweizen notes of banana and bubblegum on the nose, and the darker malt that they employ gives this beer a slight caramel and spice nose as well.

The combination of the ice cream and banana slices is great by itself, and the Grape Nuts (which already taste and smell just like malted barley) add a nice crunch. The beer provides some extra activity for your nose while you are drinking this particular float, and when it finds its way through the ice cream it provides some interesting effervescence and a slight bittering quality to the flavors already present on your tongue.

The one negative that I can point out with this serving method is that you would do well to limit yourself to a smaller portion or finish your glass somewhat quickly. As anyone who has been a little slow in finishing their Irish Carbomb can tell you, dairy’s favorite activity seems to be curdling in beer. While the float tasted amazing at first, the longer it sat, the more I became aware that I had in fact just poured cream into a beer that is on the upper end of the ABV scale. If you prefer to savor your sweet treats, do as I plan to do next time and separate the float right back again into it’s two parts; beer in one glass and ice cream in another.

So as previously mentioned, this is the inaugural entry in a multi-part series on Beer Floats. The next two are already in the pipeline and should be making your acquaintance within the next week or so. Until then, try some experimenting of your own. (Tip: Going for the $1 mini packs of ice cream at your local convenience/grocery store lets you try several different flavors to find the perfect match.)

**Production note: A special thanks to my wife Meagan for setting up a tripod and lining up/taking some great pictures with about 35 seconds notice (I had literally already opened the beer when I handed her the camera)

If anyone out there would like immediate updates when new posts arrive, as well as mini reviews and generally beer related observations, click here to follow Brew_Manchu on Twitter.

Feel free to comment with any questions, experiences, or ideas of your own, and as always, thanks for reading!

Dinner tonight: Tomato slices, Crostini, and whipped goat cheese with basil, parsley, &amp; vinegar.

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale was an incredible pairing. Incredibly fresh New Zealand hops linked up with the herbs and acidity in the cheese and tomatoes, and it had enough carbonation to prepare you for the next bite. Just enough malt to meet the toast. Amazing.

Computer comes back tomorrow, so look for more in depth posts to come. Until then, get this beer!

Dinner tonight: Tomato slices, Crostini, and whipped goat cheese with basil, parsley, & vinegar.

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale was an incredible pairing. Incredibly fresh New Zealand hops linked up with the herbs and acidity in the cheese and tomatoes, and it had enough carbonation to prepare you for the next bite. Just enough malt to meet the toast. Amazing.

Computer comes back tomorrow, so look for more in depth posts to come. Until then, get this beer!

Due to a recent hard drive failure I have been without a computer, and thus without means to update this blog about my recent purchases/tastings. I am using the power of technology (meaning the Tumblr iPhone app) to quickly recount the events of this evening.

The Big Hunt in Dupont Circle has some pretty good beers on draft. You likely already know that. If you haven&#8217;t had all of the Great Lakes beers that have recently made their way into D.C. I recommend heading there, getting yourself some so-so fish tacos, and working your way through the list starting with the Dortmunder.

Also, as tonight was my first visit to Pizzeria Paradiso (Dupont), please excuse my surprise at how good the bottle list was; like a Cliff Notes version of the list at Churchkey with many beers not available elsewhere (including some J. W. Lee&#8217;s harvest ale vintages).

Thanks to Paradiso, I was able to satisfy my curiosity about the bottle of Sam Smith&#8217;s Yorkshire Stingo I&#8217;ve been saving for Christmas.

It was everything I expected it to be. Dark malt, dark fruit/rasins, oak, brown sugar, chocolate, and toffee on the nose with a similar taste and just enough sweetness to let you know this is definitely a holiday beer to be shared with the wee ones (only half joking there).

I highly recommend you follow my lead and purchase a bottle or 2 of this to keep and mature until winter. If you need your fix before then there&#8217;s a supply of 550mL bottles in Dupont Circle that can be had for a scant $16 each. Until next time, happy drinking!

Due to a recent hard drive failure I have been without a computer, and thus without means to update this blog about my recent purchases/tastings. I am using the power of technology (meaning the Tumblr iPhone app) to quickly recount the events of this evening.

The Big Hunt in Dupont Circle has some pretty good beers on draft. You likely already know that. If you haven’t had all of the Great Lakes beers that have recently made their way into D.C. I recommend heading there, getting yourself some so-so fish tacos, and working your way through the list starting with the Dortmunder.

Also, as tonight was my first visit to Pizzeria Paradiso (Dupont), please excuse my surprise at how good the bottle list was; like a Cliff Notes version of the list at Churchkey with many beers not available elsewhere (including some J. W. Lee’s harvest ale vintages).

Thanks to Paradiso, I was able to satisfy my curiosity about the bottle of Sam Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo I’ve been saving for Christmas.

It was everything I expected it to be. Dark malt, dark fruit/rasins, oak, brown sugar, chocolate, and toffee on the nose with a similar taste and just enough sweetness to let you know this is definitely a holiday beer to be shared with the wee ones (only half joking there).

I highly recommend you follow my lead and purchase a bottle or 2 of this to keep and mature until winter. If you need your fix before then there’s a supply of 550mL bottles in Dupont Circle that can be had for a scant $16 each. Until next time, happy drinking!

Allagash: Confluence Ale Tasting (Part 1 of a 2 Part Series)

Brettanomyces

Sound strange? Well, say you’re a beer in desperate need of some acetic acid. Then, Brettanomyces becomes one of your closest friends.

This 5-syllable yeast type (often referred to as Brett by guys who want to make sure you know that they know what it is, like me) is familiar to wine and beer-makers alike; generally seen as an unwelcome addition to their carefully crafted and protected fermentables. Some beer types, however, rely heavily on Brett to produce their trademark sour/wild characteristics. Confluence Ale from Allagash Brewing Co. is one such beer. 

I got a chance to try this on draft (or draught for you fancies) at the Reef in DC a few weeks back along with another of Allagash’s Brett infected brews (My Brother Daryl) and have been looking for it in bottle form ever since. As mentioned in the preceding post, the Whole Foods on P St. will be getting a lot of my money for the foreseeable future, and it starts with 2 bottles of this beer. The first was scrutinized and enjoyed tonight, and the second will spend at least 6 months in the “cellar” to mature, after which time I will pop it open, drink it, and report back to you. 

Take 1:

After reading several reviews about this beer which warned of an aggressive pop and uncontrollable foaming upon opening, I eagerly prepared my audio recorder to capture the sound of goodness being unleashed only to have the cork come out with an uneventful ‘pfft’ (how’s that for onomatopoeia?).

I split the first pours between a stemless wine glass and one of my two new small snifters. The head was delicate and born of very tiny bubbles which I suspect were due to the bottle conditioning. It poured an opaque pale gold, and though the head faded gradually, any swirling would restore a solid cap of foam to the top.


This beer is made with both Belgian (Allagash’s “house” Belgian yeast strain) and Brettanomyces (again, Allagash’s own proprietary strain) yeasts, and the nose represents both of them well.

Initially it has a distinct Belgian quality with faint light fruit notes and lots of lemony citrus. The Brett manifests itself with some souring of the original aroma (think apple cider that you left in the back of the fridge for about a week too long), and then everything resolves itself into something I have seen described elsewhere as a “horse-blanket” aroma, but which I feel has more to do with hay than horses. The malt is more croissant than bread or biscuit.

The taste is not as sour as the nose suggests, and the first thing you notice is the effervescence rather than the flavor. There are definite notes of dry apple skin, grass, hay, and a dry hop presence that almost sneaks past the palate before being recognized just as the beer leaves your mouth. 

The mouthfeel is light and crisp due to the aforementioned sharp carbonation, and although this beer doesn’t leave a lasting coat on the inside of your mouth, it’s presence lingers in the form of an interesting dryness. “Phantom Hops” is what I wrote in my notes, and it’s the best way to describe the aftertaste of this particular beer.

For some reason, I expected this beer to be a little more sour than it was, and it came off a little harsh and biting on the palate. It is definitely a complex brew, and worth the money if you feel like dropping it, however I am already looking forward to the aged version I will be enjoying this fall. Despite Allagash’s in-house aging (both in steel tanks, and again in the bottle before shipping), I feel that this beer will benefit from further maturing/mellowing with its darker, heftier brothers in my “cellar” (the term that has, and will continue to be, used in place of the phrase “temperature and light controlled closet in the basement”).

*Also, a preview for the next post:

During my search for snifters in the classiest liquor stores of La Plata, MD (sarcasm, for those who are unfamiliar with the area), I came across a beer that I hadn’t heard of before, but that I was intrigued enough to buy on a whim. Stay tuned for next time, when you and I will together taste:


Thanks for reading, and drink up friends! There’s plenty of beer out there for all of us!

Newest addition to the &#8220;cellar&#8221;, Hitachino Nest: Red Rice Ale. I&#8217;ve heard good things, but we&#8217;ll see in a few weeks. I&#8217;ll post tasting notes when I pop this baby open.

Having only been to the Whole Foods on P St. for work (and on the clock no less), I had always walked right past the beer and only ever saw the pseudo-obscure seasonals they put on the endcaps. Today I finally approached and delved deeper (only 4 steps) into the aisle to discover a few beers I&#8217;ve been holding off on getting until my requisite bi-weekly trip to the Perfect Pour in Columbia, MD. Along with this one, I plan to go back and pick up some of the 750ml&#8217;s from Allagash that are hard to find elsewhere. A new money drain only blocks from work. This won&#8217;t end well&#8230;

Newest addition to the “cellar”, Hitachino Nest: Red Rice Ale. I’ve heard good things, but we’ll see in a few weeks. I’ll post tasting notes when I pop this baby open.

Having only been to the Whole Foods on P St. for work (and on the clock no less), I had always walked right past the beer and only ever saw the pseudo-obscure seasonals they put on the endcaps. Today I finally approached and delved deeper (only 4 steps) into the aisle to discover a few beers I’ve been holding off on getting until my requisite bi-weekly trip to the Perfect Pour in Columbia, MD. Along with this one, I plan to go back and pick up some of the 750ml’s from Allagash that are hard to find elsewhere. A new money drain only blocks from work. This won’t end well…

Post-Ambient music