A Pint of Ninety-bob Please

One of the advantages of the beer expansion in the United States is you have plenty of brewers willing to try all kinds of experimental recipes, with no regard for tradition, and often, any kind of historical perspective. This of course lead to extreme beers, bourbon barrel age stouts, and sometimes beers that are brewed with nearly everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink. Unfortunately, there is also a down side to this because a drinker unfamiliar with what makes beer a beloved beverage for thousands of years may never know the advancements in culinary civilization that made truly great beer possible.
So it was with great pleasure to discover Newcastle (owned by Heineken) release their collaboration edition Scotch Ale, brewed by the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Scotland has a 5000 year history of brewing, going back to the Picts and beyond. But what Caledonian Brewery represents is the last of the 40 breweries that operated in the 19th century, when Edinburgh was one of the brewing capitols of the world. This was due to the local hard water, rich in minerals and as famous as the brewing water in Burton-on-Trent, England. Happily, unlike Bass, Caledonian Brewery still makes their ales using fire brewed open copper kettles. This historical tradition helps to explain the extraordinary taste of this ale. A wee heavy, or to put it in the shilling vernacular of those times, a 90/-, which refers to the amount of taxes.
What a delicious brew this is! Exquisitely balanced. It would be easy to go on about the rich malty toffee notes etc., but why bother? It is best to discover this on your own. Newcastle-Caledonian-Scotch-Ale


Additional Pleasures Along The Way

As another year winds to a close I am astounded by the variety of beer available in the United States. So without further ado, here are some interesting examples:

Guinness Blonde American Lagerguinness-blonde-post From the glass lined tanks of old Latrobe comes this Guinness take on American lager, No. 1 in their Discovery Series. An expertly produced recipe employing Mosaic and Willamette hops, in combination with their brewery yeast. This is quite different than their Canadian made Harp Lager (a beer doctor favorite) but equally refreshing.

With Two Brothers Peppermint Bark Porter 2014 Is a very nice Holiday beer offering. A substantial porter infused with a touch of peppermint, but not overpowering, with excellent malt support and enough hops to give it some distance from sweetness.

On the other hand their is Brown Sugga from Lagunitas Brewing Companybrown shugga A thanks to Will Gordon for giving me a heads up on this one. A strong ale that hides its boozy (9.9% abv) content completely. This is indeed a true original. Which reminded of my first encounter with sugar brewing, many years ago, and that was Thos. Cooper & Sons Big BarrelĀ  big-barrel-australian-lager-flat-top-beer-can-l-k-31cc4 a cane sugar brewed lager that came in a 25 oz steel can. But with Brown Sugga I discovered a top fermented, over the top ale, where malts, brown sugar, yeast and hops combine into a sweet profile that reminds me of the mythical little brown jug. Others have described the nose of this brew to be similar to a bag of potent ganga buds. Unique.

It is also a source of pride to discover a local world class Imperial Stout simply called INK from Rhinegeist Brewing. This expensive beer is worth checking out. A very tasty malt showcase where chocolate and to a lesser extent coffee notes abound. A 10% presentation without any alcohol burn, this is a very rich and mellow brew, with an incredible flavor depth.

When it comes to beer, life is very good.


How long has it been? My god it was in the last century that I had a long conversation with Matthias Neidhart of B. United International, who told me about the first time experiencing 5 year old Aventinus, while visiting the Schneider& Sohn brewery in Germany. He explained to me that the magnificent dunkel weizenbock developed a port-like character after a half a decade of aging. Then he spoke of the Schneider & Sohn house yeast of which he said they are so proud of.
And rightfully so. As Professor Beer has pointed out: “the secret to Hefeweizen’s banana-like character is the yeast.”
Esterification is extremely important in German beers using only the four classic ingredients (water, barley malts, hops and yeast) and it reveals the reinheitsgebot genius of brewing where the yeast produces flavor profiles that are unique, ranging from floral to tropical, to chocolate and caramel, with many subtle variations in between.

For centuries yeast was a very mysterious agent in beer production. The English brewers referred to a strain of yeast that produced ale as God is good. Before science isolated yeast strains that not only would make ale but also bottom fermented lager, every time. In that sense, Louis Pasteur can be regarded as the father of modern brewing, along with Emil Hansen, who identified the cultured yeasts capable of producing beer. Pasteur concurred, while visiting the Carlsberg Laboratory in 1884. This is where pure yeast was created, using single cell cloning. A technical discovery that without would make modern beer production impossible.
Not so surprisingly I was reminded of all this while sampling my local Christian Moerlein Bay of Bengal Double IPAbengal A cleverly packaged presentation that does not infringe upon any NFL trademark but does connect with local football fans, similar to the way Great Lakes Brewing Company came out with Cleveland Brown Ale when their beloved franchise returned. But what is truly remarkable about this Bengal beer is the flavor profile created, especially in the very long finish, which I can only describe as brown mustard like. So much so that I can imagine using this for a brat beer bath. Another testament to the power of Ester. Cheers!