07 September 2009
06 September 2009
05 May 2009
07 April 2009
So, a self-annoyance: I make meticulous notes on my homebrew sessions, only to lose the sheet upon which said meticulous notes have been made. That being the case, I am not entirely sure the exact time of primary and secondary fermentations, nor what the final ABV of the Josquin des Prez is! My estimate (based on numerical recollections, never my strong suit) is between 8.3 and 8.5%. At any rate, STRONG.
20 March 2009
Josquin, who himself hailed from the rural borderland between France and Flemish Belgium (the political map, of course, very different in the late 15th century), the very home of the Saison style. And, really, as Josquin is one of the truly great composers in the history of Western Europe, it seemed fitting to pair his name with one of the truly great beer styles. And given the fact that this brew is on its way to being a whopper -- I was aiming or 7% ABV, but we're pushing 9 last I checked -- one of the Giants (Josquin) seems to be called for.
And, following bloggy tradition, I feel the need to finish off with a few musical homages to the great man. He was as instrumental as any one person in completing the stylistic transition from the late Medieval aesthetic into that now known as the Renaissance. Here are some of his best:
10 February 2009
08 February 2009
Is it true the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 because the ship ran out of beer? I have been told that barrels of beer were the most voluminous and important item in the hold because water couldn't stay drinkable on a ship for that long.
— James C., Massachusetts
You heard right, more or less: The Mayflower colonists decided to settle at Plymouth because they were running low on beer. In an age when so many have lost their moral compass, it's comforting to know that people in the old days had their priorities straight.
Pretty much everything you think you know about the Pilgrims is wrong (including their being called Pilgrims--that term didn't catch on until centuries later), so it's not surprising the beer angle slipped under the radar. Here's the story, assembled with the help of my doughty research assistant Bibliophage:
On November 9, 1620 [November 19 by modern reckoning], after 64 days at sea, the Mayflower sighted Cape Cod. You may inquire: What sort of idiot would sail across the north Atlantic at the height of storm season? The voyagers probably asked themselves the same question. They'd initially left Southampton, England, in August, but one of their two ships, the Speedwell, sprang a leak. Repair attempts failed, and by the time the travelers had consolidated themselves on the Mayflower, a month had passed. Then they spent an extra couple weeks under sail due to bad weather, arriving just in time for winter. That was problem one.
Problem two was that Cape Cod was not where the colonists were supposed to be. Their patent from the Virginia Company of London authorized them to establish a plantation between 38 and 41 degrees north latitude; the tip of Cape Cod was just north of 42 degrees. The group dutifully attempted to sail south, but shoals and contrary winds kiboshed that idea. Some now spoke of splitting up. Contrary to what we imagine, the colonists weren't united by religion. Of the 102 passengers, around 40 were Separatists (i.e., separated from the Church of England), a like number were regular folks recruited by the London merchants who underwrote the expedition, and the balance were hired men, servants, and so on. Finding themselves at odds in a legal no-man's-land, the colonists drafted the Mayflower Compact. The 41 who signed it on November 11 included no women but were otherwise pretty cool, consisting of Seps and non-Seps, masters and servants, all bound by the realization that has animated every republic since: If we don't stick together we're wolf chow.
The question remained exactly where the colonists should set up shop. Looking at the map now, you'd think a little bird would have twittered: Boston! You can found Boston! Apparently not. The choice came down to someplace called Anguum (probably near the present town of Ipswich), or else what the ship's navigator called "Thievish Harbor," in the direction of what's now known as Plymouth Bay. The latter being closer, the colonists headed there and found the location promising, in part because the land had been cleared earlier by Native American farmers who then conveniently died due to European-borne pestilence. The voyagers weren't disposed to be fussy: "We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer, and it being now the 19th of December" (Mourt's Relation, 1622, commonly attributed to colonists William Bradford and Edward Winslow). Plymouth it was.
Beer was a dietary mainstay in those days. Chances are the beverage in question was "ship's beer," a not-very-alcoholic concoction that, along with the even weaker "small beer," was drunk in formidable quantities during the colonial era (upwards of a quart per day seems to have been a typical ration). Undoubtedly an advantage was that, unlike more perishable foodstuffs, ship's beer would keep during long voyages and, having been boiled, was likely purer than ordinary water.
The colonists used up their beer by Christmas. At first the ship's captain gave them a little out of the crew's supply, but when sickness, possibly scurvy, began felling the travelers (about half died that first winter), things got ugly. "As this calamity fell among the passengers that were to be left here to plant, and were hasted ashore and made to drink water that the seamen might have the more beer, and one in his sickness desiring but a small can of beer, it was answered that if he were their own father he should have none" (Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, circa 1650). The captain relented when his own men began getting sick too, evidently not wanting it to be known to history that, in addition to being late, lost, etc, he was the SOB who hogged the beer.
— Cecil Adams
Source: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2625/did-the-pilgrims-land-on-plymouth-rock-because-they-ran-out-of-beer, accessed 2/8/09.
07 February 2009
Let us begin with the caption on the bottle:
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we forge barley malt and hops from Germany, aromatic raw sugar from Mauritius, and yeast from Belgium into Brooklyn Local 1. Behind the golden color, find a dynamic complex of flavors, Belgian flair, Brooklyn fortitude, and a dusting of yeast after 100% bottle re-fermentation. Enjoy it locally or globally, as an aperitif or with your favorite dishes.Now, a quotation from The New York Times:
Steve Hindy, the president and cofounder of the brewery, said he and the brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, “had always been fascinated by Belgian-style beers and knew we could produce them here” — here being North 11th Street, within sight of the Williamsburg waterfront. In the eight-week process, the ale comes out of fermentation tanks flat and is allowed to ferment again in the bottle.1And what of the result? Read on, brothers-in-beer.
It comes out of the bottle golden, almost exactly apricot-colored, with terrific carbonation, and pours up a bodacious head.
The nose is very yeasty and hits all the right notes for a saison (even if I am drinking it in February and not at the late summer harvest, as is customary).
In the mouth, it's malty and dry, with citrus (orange) notes, honey, some spices. When cool, it has a nice long finish. Nothing surprising, if you know your Belgians, but a very solid composition within the style.
It is also 9% ABV and comes in a 750 mL bottle, so if you're not careful it will take you to school.
Stay tuned: Brooklyn Local 2 comes out this month.
11 January 2009
Here's my lame disclaimer:
1) Advent and Christmas seasons for an Episcopal Organist/Choirmaster = nuts. Blogging simply got shoved to the bottom of the priorities list.
2) As mentioned in my previous post, my laptop fried the week before Christmas (see #1). General mayhem and gnashing of teeth ensued.
3) Some homebrewing setbacks left me somewhat less than eager to chronicle my achievements -- much like the writers of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, I'm more keen to document my successes than I am my defeats (see below).
But, culturally speaking, January 1 makes all things new (including an amazing new office computer), so here we go into the *third calendar year* for Perm's Brew Picks and More.
So, a bit of housecleaning/catching up is in order from the tail-end of '08. Here we go:
I. Homebrewing News.
When last I logged in, the Pumpkin Ale was in secondary and the APA was on the docket. Both went south in a big way. Beyond recovery? Only time can tell.
For the pumpkin ale, I've decided my big mistake was to re-soak the bag o'pumpkin in the secondary. WAAAAY too much vegetable taste in the finished product: something akin to pumpkin juice mixed with amber ale. And an odd sour note that may or may not be foreign funk. I'm going to let these puppies sit in the bottle for a few months to see what sort of mellowing magic time can work. The silver lining: they're still perfectly fine for cooking with.
As far as the APA goes, I'm still not quite sure what went wrong, but once again there's the possibility of a foreign influence (wild yeast, or even something more nefarious like mold) influencing the elixir. Possibly some unwanted diacetyl, too. I'm also going to let it sit for a severe quantity of time to see if anything evens out. This might be one for loss-cutting and moving on.
In the wake of these two morale-crushers, 2008 appears to have ended splendidly, though. After a prelimiary tasting, my December brewing project can be counted a wonderful success:
The coffee was a late-minute snap decision of mine, just for fun. I coarsely-ground 1 oz of dark-roast beans, and then tossed them into the cooling wort post-boil (5 gallons, mind you). For the next week or so, I was convinced that I had brewed 5 gallons of kahlua. By bottling time, though, the coffee had mellowed out and blended with the other elements.
An official tasting will come soon.
And my January brew (actually begun in late December) is a foray into the joys of co-brewing with a friend. I wish I could say that this is my first foray into joint brewing, but I must sadly recall the events of April 2004.
JT and I have embarked on a pretty ambitious project: a clone of Westvleteren Abt 12 (the [in]famous Trappist beer -- the one that *isn't* exported to the US). We're set to bottle in a couple of weeks, then bulk-age the monster until March or later. Stay tuned for updates.
2. Election Night Special
Only 2 months late! No worries!
Mrs. Perm and I celebrated Election Night with a couple of premium Carolina Cigar Company Churchills, and for the occasion I broke out one of my bottles of Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12.
Limited-edition 330 mL bottles, each individually numbered.
Here's the run-down:
Appearance: Black...black is the color of my true-love beer! A very thin tan head around the edge of the glass frames the goodness. 5/5
Aroma: Tar, tobacco, peat, smoke, hops, strong malt, and molasses. Not for the faint of heart. Or the Miller drinker. 5/5
Taste: Malt, peat smoke, mild hops, treacle. It flows seamlessly from the nose to the taste, with wonderful whisky notes throughout. Dark-chocolate liqueur-like, to boot. 5/5
Palate: Mellow, smooth, very slight alcohol tinge, thick, and viscous. 5/5
Overall: Fantastic! A great Old Ale -- great sipping beer, and wonderful with that medium-blend cigar. It was a bit steep at $8.50 for a 330 mL bottle, but for a one-offer (And for a momentous event), it's definitely something special. And not a disappointment. 4.95: A+
3. New Years' in Beer Land
New Years' 2008-2009 was not intentionally planned to be beer-themed, but combine Perm with Asheville (and haut cuisine) and it's hard not to have it end up being so. Here's a summary of the December 31 adventure:
Early supper here.
Green Man Imperial Stout (w/Surf & Turf)
Green Man IPA
II. The Thirsty Monk
Gouden Carolus Noel
Off-license (in the US! I know!) bottle of Bell's Winter Wheat (wit), back to the hotel and the crazy-jet bathtub with this one
III. Barley's Taproom
The quest for the short-supply 2008 Pisgah Baptista (not bottled at all!) is finally successful, one hammock-taxi ride (for the ladies) later. 10-12 oz or so draught is well worth the hunt for this gem.
IV. The Bier Garden
Appalachian Copperhead Ale
Allagash Dubbel (bottle)
To follow: A trio of Perm's Monthly Picks, and a review of our New Years' Day multi-course feast.