My First Belgian: The Session Number Ninety-One

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The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.

The topic that Elisa and I have chosen for this month’s Session is ‘My First Belgian.’

My first Belgian home brew I named Clawed. Herein lies the recipe:

2 lbs Belgian Pale malt
7 lbs 6 row
2 oz Sterling hops (boil)
1 lb candi sugar
Wyeast 1214

I do not recall any of the mash particulars. It was a five gallon batch. This was about five years ago.

It was a good beer, close to what I supposed a Belgian beer should be – orange and mysterious. There are two beers that I want to brew again – this one and a barley wine I made fifteen years ago. Maybe some day …

Clawed was well received, by me and those to whom I gave a bottle or two. I don’t think this beer was terribly Belgiany otherwise many of the beer recipients would have been terrified by it. However, it had just the right amount of citrusy spice to make it appealing. It was made during a summer, so it was refreshing, too.

The Belgian beers I’ve had possess an intangible quality that appeals to me yet is hard to convey. Certainly there’s the spice, the earthiness, the venerable moth-eaten pall of long storage; but there’s also the tastual juxtaposition of this libation. It’s a beer, but it’s not a beer. These Belgian creations are never what you expect. That sense of discovery, experimentation and surprise.

I do not think I crafted that essence. But, it was a shadowy homage to the beer legends. At some point, I shall go forth and attempt it once more.

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The Session #68 – Strange, New, Unusual, Different Beers

The theme: Novelty Beers
99 Pours gives us this theme:  “With the onslaught of even weirder beards…erm…beers…than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.”

So, novelty.  I had to tell myself what this was.  What follows is the odd debate/investigation/whatever that went on in my head regarding this subject.  Novelty is “something that is novel.” And not the literary kind. No, novel is a thing that is “strikingly new, unusual, or different.”  In the announcement above there is also the added qualifier “strange.”

Thus, I am presented with discussing beers that are strange, new, unusual, different.  It’s the “strange” connotation that is troubling me.  I suppose the argument could be made that if something is strange it is strikingly different.  But strange isn’t necessarily strikingly new.  New and unusual is usually innovative, imagination-capturing, cool, the first time you fall in love, iPads, lightsabers.  Different can be good or bad.  But strange throws me off.  It’s like there should be a distinction here between a thing that is new and a thing that is strange.  Strange, for me, wants to be a thing that is just, well, not right.

Then there is the temporal aspect that the word novelty engenders.  It almost imbues an object with a transitory existence.  Or, at least, a short life that ends in dusty nostalgia – you know, that “novel” coffee mug that is taking up space in your cabinet.

Within those boundaries I must fit beer.  A new and unusual beer, for me, was wit beers.  They were brilliant, cloudy, spicy things.  Yet, they are anything but transitory.  They are different, but not strange.  Same with lambics, which were my first thoughts for novelty beers.  Sour, fruity … weird.  Yeah, maybe those are the beers that fit here.  They are unusual.  Even avid beer lovers will sometimes shy away from these face-curdlers.  Or some may turn up their nose because of the fruity nature.  But they intrigue me and many others.  Raspberry and cherry and other stuff.  I don’t like fruit in my beer,  but it seems so appropriate in a lambic.  Truly, I have only had a couple of easily imported or domestic made lambics.  Not the real things.  They are unusual, I want more.  Are they strange?

One beer style that stretches for a place on the strange list is chili beers.  I had a Crazy Ed’s Chili beer once, long ago.  There was an actual chili in the bottle.  It was the most horrid thing I’ve ever had.  It was, without doubt, strange.  I didn’t want to give up on them, though.  I tried Ring of Fire from Dragonmead Brewery.  It was like drinking a bowl of nachos.  That’s weird.  It was a good beer.  But definitely … different.  I might drink it again.  I love peppers, but apparently not in my beer.

At times, I think the brewing scene on the west coast of the US is all novelty, what with the idiotic amount of hops brewers will put into any style.  Ridiculous.  Does all this cover “novelty?” I just don’t know.  My experience is limited.   Other, better, brewers and bloggers will be weighing in on this subject.  Look to them for guidance!

A Glass of Friday – Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

What brilliance drove the brewers at the Boston Beer Company to release a pumpkin spiced ale … in autumn? Its utterly amazing.

What?

Oh, it’s not officially fall yet? Oh, I see. Very well, Sam Adams has broken all boundaries by releasing their Pumpkin Ale near fall. Brilliant.

Pumpkin ales are like Star Wars books. You know exactly what the plot is going to be, you know the players, the tropes. Sometimes the covers are pretty cool, and sometimes the stories actually surprise you. And sometimes, well, they don’t.

In Appearance …
In a shocking choice of palette, this pumpkin beer is orange. Like the seeds of its muse, the head is an off white with bubbles of varying size.

But The Taste …
It tastes like a weak Cherry Coke, a tad caramelized. The burnt sugar attaches itself with gusto to the northeast corner of the tongue, waiting for the spices to come walking by. Alas, their wait may be long as the powdery layer of sweetness turns the spice away.

That Smell …
The aroma enlightens the nares, a conflation of glazed doughnut and crushed candy corn. And I’m certain there’s a hint of Bubbalicious.

Join Me For A Plate Of …
Shall this be consumed with some kind of pie? Perhaps a spinach brûlée? I chose a frozen bean burrito doused in salsa. Ah, the elegance!

The Conclusion Of The Matter Is …
It’s banal in its striking appropriateness. Those who are certain of their own higher cognitive functions will delight in drinking a concoction made with squash. They shalt revel in its tingly spiciness. Lowbrow drinkers will sing the joys of a “harvest” beer celebrating the working class.

Oh, and it comes in a brown bottle. Of course. Pure genius.

It’s a Star Wars book that pleases but surprises not.

Sent with Writer.

Sent from my iPad

Another Bonus Post – Old Thoughts on Brewery Ommegang’s Saison

I found some old notes on beers in one of my old notebooks.  I wrote impressions and descriptions as they popped into my head.  Later, I edited them into a more polished review.

They made me laugh as I read them again. Since I’m doing “raw” beer notes here, these seemed appropriate.

***

  • Cool bottle – corked
  • Like homebrew – more hops, spice
  • Spice – tartness – tang of carbonation
  • Dissolves in mouth like cotton candy
  • Described as rustic, earthy
  • Pronounced hops aroma & spices
  • Old room in an abandoned house with an overgrown yard
  • Lighter body based on pale malts
  • Metals – not tinny, not bad; like ore, essence of valve
  • Reminiscent of a wheat, only with a sour finish