Sat 7 Nov 2009
LL and I don’t drink a lot of beer, and when we do, it usually fits a pattern: Negro Modelo in Mexican restaurants, Sierra Nevada at our favorite burger joint, Tsingtao for Chinese and Southeast Asian.
I know. That’s pretty boring.
I like to read about beer, though, and always learn something when wine-writers like Eric Asimov or Benito, who are knowledgeable about the sudsy realm, digress into that topic. The passionate responses to their posts indicate that there are whole tribes of fanatic beer-drinkers out there for whom a term like I.P.A. is equivalent to drawing a line in the sand. And of course there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of blogs devoted to hand-crafted brews.
Recently we cooked a Mark Bittman recipe — Panfried Trout with Bacon and Red Onions — (come on, Mark, where else would you fry a trout except in a pan? Oh, right, an engine manifold) that called for “a strong ale” as part of the sauce; it’s an incredibly easy and delicious dish. Anyway, I went to a retail wine and liquor store, where so-called “big beers” are sold in our city, and bought nine bottles of various ales and such, including five examples from Dogfish Head, about which many writers, including Benito, wax eloquently and rapturously.
Most of a bottle of Hennepin Saison Farmhouse Ale went into the skillet, but we each sipped a small glass and found it very crisp, vibrant and refreshing, with a lovely ruddy copper-amber color and a distinct bouquet of apples and wheat. This is made by Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y. Looking more closely at the label, I see that the brewery is “Part of the Duvel Family of Fine Ales.” Is that like saying, Crane Lake is “Part of the Bronco Family of Fine Wines”? I dunno.
With beer in the dish, I thought that we should have beer in the glass, so I popped the cap on a bottle of Coopers Vintage Ale 2008, from South Australia. This was tasty stuff, full-bodied yet light on its feet, smooth, a little “malty” (is that the right word? “hoppy” sounds trite), with a touch of caramel and orange rind. Very nice with the trout. I was surprised at the amount of sediment in the glass, though the back label mentions the sediment as a natural by-product of top fermentation and bottle conditioning. Who knew?
Well, that’s not much of an excursion into the arcane world of specialty, artisanal ale, but I have a feeling that the Dogfish Head products will be revelations of craftsmanship and individualism, and I’m all in favor of those qualities, in ale and in wine. I’ll post about those examples soon.