Just a friendly reminder that our August specialty beer debuts this long weekend. In honour of John Graves Simcoe (first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada), Ed has once again crafted the Simcoe Hopped Ale.
This is a burnished amber ale with some subtle caramel notes. The addition of Simcoe hops from the west coast give this beer an abundance of pine/citrus notes. As the beer moves over the tongue, there’s even a hint of nectarine. It’s a fresh patio beer, with a little more malt character than our Pale Ale and IPA. According to Ed, “If you like real West Coast beers, this one is for you.”
Simcoe hops originate in the Pacific Northwest. They’re a dual-purpose hop: great for aroma, but also for bittering. They impart lovely earthy and pine/resin notes, perfect for summer! As well, Ed has dry-hopped this beer. Usually, hops are added during the boil, to extract oils and resins and integrate it into the wort (isomerization). When dry-hopping, they are added at different points in the fermentation process. Because they’re not boiling, you’re not extracting any oils, but you are getting even more of that hop aroma.
Have a great long weekend…with great, responsibly-consumed beer! 😉
As some may recall, I took a number of online beer knowledge tests a while back. While that was thoroughly enjoyable, I wanted to try my hand at making a beer test of my own. But this one is more about testing personality. And it’s entirely for fun.
So, without further ado:
What Beer Time Period Are You?
1. Who do you expect to brew your beer?
b) Monks or alewives
c) Plucky tradesmen
d) Macrobreweries or hip entrepreneurs
2. What are the dominant flavours in your beer?
a) Figs, dates, honey…
b) Smoky malt, supplemented with herbs like bog myrtle, rosemary, and sweet yarrow
c) Richly roasted malts: caramels, coffees, burnt grain
d) Depends. Sometimes intensely vibrant pine/citrus (Pacific Northwest hops, natch); sometimes Thai basil; sometimes boozy bourbon and vanilla. My palate cannot be constrained.
3. What do you drink your beer from?
a) Clay vessels, with a straw for getting past the floating grain husks
b) Probably a shallow wooden bowl or cup.
c) Pewter/stoneware mugs, though those brown glass bottles are pretty fancy.
d) A bottle, a can, or a clear glass appropriate to the style.
4. Who drinks beer?
c) Almost everyone (small beer for women and children)
d) A wide-cross section of society, assuming they’ve reached legal drinking age.
5. What is your view on hops?
b) Why use hops when you can use gruit??
c) They’re great for shipping beer to the colonies!
d) Used appropriately, they’re great, but over-hopped beers are getting a little passé, IMHO.
6. What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to beer?
a) Choking on a barley husk.
b) When you’re trying to roast your malt over an open fire, and it heats unevenly so half is burnt and half is barely singed.
c) When Temperance advocates try to guilt you about it—beer isn’t whisky, you know?
d) When your favourite microbrewery gets acquired by a huge conglomerate and the quality tanks.
7. And finally, your favourite thing about beer?
a) It’s a divine gift from the gods, forming the basis of our civilization.
b) When you’re doing a bread-and-water fast, beer totally counts (grains, water, yeast, amirite?)
c) It’s a fortifying, nutritious drink with pleasurable side-effects.
d) There is endless opportunity for creativity and fine craft, and it’s fun to try new styles with friends.
You are Mesopotamian/Sumerian Brewing! Starting from around 3500 BCE, your beer is a gift from the gods. As such, most of your beer is brewed by priestesses—particularly of the goddess Ninkasi. Thick and porridge-like, your beer is flavoured with honey and fruits, and drunk through straws!
You are Medieval Brewing! Your beer is still largely a cottage industry: for the most part, it’s made by women, though plenty of monasteries have gotten into the act, too. The spent grains get filtered out, so your beer isn’t nearly as thick as it was millennia ago. Some Germanic countries are using hops to flavour their beer, but gruit—a mix of different herbs—is your beer’s defining feature!
You are Victorian Brewing! You’re quite content to use hops—you know that they help prevent beer spoiling, which is useful in the interconnected trade network developing across the globe. Some of your most popular styles include brown ales and porters, though pale ales are gaining traction. Beer is still an important part of people’s daily diet…though Temperance advocates are starting promoting abstinence from alcohol.
You are Modern Brewing! You have so much variety in your beers! Proliferating craft breweries are keen to explore unique flavour profiles and take risks, focusing on quality ingredients and top-notch craft. People of all backgrounds enjoy your beers (assuming they’re of legal drinking age) and with new microbreweries opening constantly, it’s a safe bet they’ll never get bored.
In the past, I was occasionally asked if common drinks like “root beer” and “ginger ale” were ever alcoholic—this question usually arose when Ed rolled out our Ginger Beer in June. The short answer is…yes! Several popular modern sodas like root beer, ginger ale, and birch beer (okay, maybe that one’s less common) had their origins in Victorian beers!
Since we’ve talked about ginger ale a while back, I wanted to explore root beer a little.
Root beer is a beverage traditionally made with sassafras roots and/or sarsaparilla as its main flavouring agent. The Indigenous populations of North America were making sassafras-based beverages long before European contact, using it to treat various ailments from wounds to fevers. Unsurprisingly, then, when “root beer” began to be sold through the mid-nineteenth century, it was touted as a healthful drink.
(Point of interest: sassafras does contain an oil called safrole that can lead to liver damage and cancer. It’s been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration since 1960—root beer today is sometimes made with sassafras extract that’s had the safrole removed, but more commonly with extracts from wintergreen and black birch bark.)
Pharmacist Charles Elmer Hires was the first person to make a commercial brand of root beer—though being a teetotaller, he really would’ve preferred to call it “root tea.” And he wouldn’t have been far off the mark, either—though root beer can be fermented, most traditional recipes barely get to 2% ABV. However, when he debuted his drink at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, he wanted to attract customers among the local coal miners.
Thus, with (I’m sure) some regret, he sold his product as “root beer.” But not to worry—I’m equally sure he would’ve been cheered by a proliferation of non-alcoholic root beers. Indeed, they were very popular during the United States’ Prohibition years.
Looking this over, it’s not surprising root beer had such a low alcohol content. Remember, alcohol is what happens when yeast metabolizes fermentable sugars. With only a little bran (hard to break down) and molasses, there’s just not much to work with in this recipe!
But I was intrigued by a) the lack of sassafras, and b) the mention of “Indigenous bitters.” A little more digging unearthed this advertisement in the May 2, 1890 edition of The Québec Daily Telegraph.
Given the description of “a combination…of a large number of roots and barks,” and the assertion that “INDIGENOUS BITTERS never fail to afford prompt relief, and most frequently a perfect cure,” I think we’ve found our star player! Clearly, this was another incarnation of root beer as a health drink.
(I was also delighted to see that—sure enough—these “Indigenous bitters” are sold in “25cts boxes only.” Just like the recipe says!)
Obviously, root beer today is very different—in ingredients, method, and purpose. But as you raise a frosty mug, you can contemplate its Victorian predecessors!
And we’re back with another recipe! This one is mostly from Taste of Home, except then I changed it as I am wont to do. While I’m very precise about most things in life, cooking is not one of them.
Beer-Braised Pork Chops: Ingredients
3 Tbsp ketchup
Scant 1/2 Tbsp white sugar
3/4 cup of beer
What beer to use, you ask? Well, pork pairs really nicely with sweet things, so I was thinking a brown ale—caramel/chocolate sweetness. Something like Black Creek Brewery’s Rifleman’s Ration. But alas, my local LCBO’s stock was unhelpful.
Until I spotted the Griffin Maple Butter Tart Ale from Sawdust. I’ve had this beer before: it’s a very mild, very sweet beer. If I recall, my exact thoughts at first tasting were, Well, it tastes like a butter tart, but I’m not sure what that’s meant to accomplish.
“But…” quoth I, standing in the LCBO, “I bet it would go well with the pork.”
So I picked up a can, went home, and assembled my ingredients:
STEP THE FIRST:
Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat up oil in a large skillet and brown meat.
Or if you’re me, forget about the salt and pepper until after the meat is sizzling, and throw them in late, hoping it won’t affect anything (it didn’t).
STEP THE SECOND:
Mix beer, ketchup, sugar, and molasses. Pour over pork chops.
STEP THE THIRD:
Bring liquid to boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer until pork chops have reached an internal temperature of 145 F/ 63 C.
This is when I realized two things:
This is the first time I have knowingly braised meat: i.e. searing it and then stewing in a covered pot.
I have lost my meat thermometer.
So I kind of let the meat do its thing for 30 minutes and then cut the end from one of the chops. It looked done, and nothing happened when I ate it, so off we went:
The sweetness of this particular beer complimented the pork really well. I wasn’t sure how the ketchup would blend, but it gave things a nice savoury edge. There is definitely a buttery character to the beer I used – I’d be interested to see how the recipe works with other styles.
This recipe would work really well with our Brown Ale or Best Bitter: anything sweet, but not overpowering. A delicious summer dish!