Friday, November 11, 2005

Fashion Trend Alert - White painter's pants are out - big beers are IN!

Typically, a beer is considered “big”when it is over 8 or 9 % in alcohol. Historically, this was left to a couple of specific styles. Imperial stouts, barleywine and even malt liquor were terms and style categories that were expected to be stronger and bigger in flavor. Flavor and strength in fact, are not mutually exclusive in big beers. Remember that alcohol is created when yeast ferments wort by consuming sugar. The more sugar, the more alcohol is produced. The sugar comes from grain, which is packed with malty flavor. So, if you want a really big, flavorful beer, you might find it a bit stronger in alcohol. If you want a strong, higher alcohol beer, you’ll find big malt flavors are part of the equation. It’s a classic chicken and the egg riddle with benefits.

Today, breweries are frequently venturing into new styles, or adapting traditional ones. You’ll find the words Imperial and Double attached to more styles than ever before. They’re connotations of both strength and flavor expectations. You may have even heard that there is an “Extreme Beer” movement underfoot, gaining many breweries notoriety for their robust creations.

One nice thing about trends is that once in a while, they come around and shed a little light on something you’re already doing. Rather than chasing the trend, New Holland has been making big beers for quite some time. In fact, we’ve even branded the category under our High Gravity Series that you may be familiar with. High Gravity is somewhat of a technical term from the brewhouse that basically means – “big beer.”

I think it’s important to talk about why. Why do we make these beers, and how do they fit into our lineup? Why do people look for these beers, and what are they looking for?

I think it all boils down to balance. We expect every beer we make to be well balanced. While an IPA like Mad Hatter is a beer and a style that definitely showcases the hop, we don’t believe it has to shout, or beat us over the head with them. We look at our portfolio of beers and expect the same balance. We want to have a stable of beers that includes good every-day drinkin’ beers and beers that fit a special occasion. We want beers that are simple and refreshing, warm and comforting as well as creative beers that challenge us as brewers, artisans and connoisseurs. But, what’s important is that we don’t want one without the other. We want balance.

The High Gravity Series gives us that balance. It’s the collection of beers that we feel lets the brewery stretch its legs and push some boundaries. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy big, warm, pleasing beers that we might not want every day. On top of that, it is an area where our obligation to consistency is slightly different. In order to welcome new ideas, the lineup, the beer, or even the package may change more frequently than in our Mainstay and Seasonal offerings. If you're a connoisseur, (read: beer geek) or someone that has a driving curiosity for “what’s new and different” take a look at our High Gravity Beers both in bottle or on tap see what you think! Big Beers are in. What else is new?

What I dream of is an art of balance.
Henri Matisse

Put your money where your mouth is, Jack

I'm stepping up and putting on my own Beer and Food presentation next week at our pub. I'm going to pair beers with some foods, prepare some food with beer and talk about how you can do it too. Details are here. Come see if its all talk...

The fall air has me thinking comfort food, so this weekend I made one of last year's creations, Sundog Stew. I didn't have every ingredient in the house, but of course, improvisation is the beauty of stew. Anyway it was warming and comforting, every day we ate it! Below is the original recipe - I type 'em to fit on notecards.

Beef stew meat, 2 parsnips, 2 turnips,1 medium sized yellow onion, 15+ peal onions, 1 – 2 cups chopped carrots, 1 – 2 cups shitake/portabello mushrooms, 6 cups beef broth, fresh rosemary, thyme, herbs de provence, 2-4 Sundog beers, 1-2 cups chopped figs. 1 Tbsp brown sugar. 4 bosc pears- as crisp as possible, peeled and sliced into chunks.

Toss beef in flour. In stew pot, saute yellow onions and mushrooms (season). In pan, brown beef at high heat. Add browned beef to onions. Add pearl onions in with beef to brown a little. Add broth to pot to cover as you go. Deglaze beef pan with beer and add to pot. Add carrots, turnips, parsnips and figs to pot. Season stew with rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and herbes de provence. Bring close to boil, then cover and simmer for 1 ½ hours total. Dust peeled pears in brown sugar and sautee at high heat to brown. Set aside and add to stew ½ hour before serving.

Festival of Barrel Aged Beer

This weekend it's off to the Festival of Barrel Aged Beer in Chicago. Should prove to be interesting, both John Haggerty, our brewmaster and I have been included as judges. This of course, will be more challenging than it sounds. It gets late out in Chicago without working real hard, and barrel-aged beer, especially bourbon-barrel aged beer will be quite the wake-up call.

We're entering 4 beers, Dragon's Milk, Barrel-aged Hatter, Barrel-aged Ichabod and Barrel-aged Dole. We've had fun experimenting with the process and this years Dragon's Milk should be out of this world.

If this interests you, get your butt over to Goose Island Wrigleyville Saturday at 1 pm. Details at Illinois Beer

If you can't make it - Dragon's Milk should be out around the first week of December, with some sneak peaks at the pub.