It seems like I’ve been blogging a lot about beer recently, not quite sure why that is, but there’s more to come…
I don’t read The New Yorker too often, when I do sit down to read it I find myself flipping through the pages, barely skimming the articles and unless an article really catches my eye I’m done about 20 minutes later. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy The New Yorker, its just really hit or miss for me. Every once in a while I come across an article that I really enjoy. Such is the case for the article, A Better Brew, The Rise of Extreme Beer by Burkhard Bilger in the November 24th 2008 issue.
The article talks mostly about the modern craft beer movement and focuses primarily on Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware. They do delve into beer history a little bit, explaining the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law) and the differences between German beers and Belgian beers (and where American beers fit in). I was amazed to learn that before prohibition and the industrialization of the 1950’s American beers were actually good.
In 1878, Maureen Ogle notes in her recent book “Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer,” Busch’s St. Louis Lager took on more than a hundred European beers at a competition in Paris. The lager came home with the gold, causing an “immense sensation,”.
The history part of the article was fun to read about, but I got really excited reading about Dogfish Head. I’d heard of them before, seen their beers at the liquor store, but never paid them much attention. They’re pretty pricey and with all the good quality local beer for lower prices I never got around to trying anything they make. But this article portrayed them as wildly experimental, exciting and from the sounds of things, making great beers.
It told the story of their Palo Santo Marron, a 12% brown ale aged in Palo Santo wood containers. This wood is some of the hardest in the world and has been used to make wine before, but never beer. The brewery liked it so much they made the largest wooden brewing containers out of it in American since prohibition. They also talked about the Midas Touch Golden Elixir, made of barley, grapes, honey and saffron they claim it is the oldest known fermented beverage recipe in the world. The beer sounded so good I had to go out and try some.
I got lucky at the liquor store, they had both of the beers I just mentioned, what wasn’t so lucky was the price. A four-pack weighed in around $13, less than $4 a beer after tax and CRV, its cheaper than drinking at a bar, but still pricey for bottled beer. I decided to go with the Palo Santo Marron, they had less of it. I got home, chilled it and gave it a try. I poured it into a pint glass and immediately noticed how thick and dark it was. It poured slow and heavy like a viscous dirty motor oil. It left almost no head at all in the glass. Luckily when I tasted it the taste was anything but motor oil. It was still thick and heavy but good. It tasted like most brown ales, a little nutty, maybe a little vanilla, only stronger, much stronger. After one 12oz bottle I could feel a buzz, it was a good thing I wasn’t drinking this at a bar because I wouldn’t have been able to drive for a while.
As with most “extreme beers” this isn’t something I’m going to drink all the time. Even if I could afford to, I don’t think it would be as good if drank everyday, but every once in a while this beer is quite the treat. I’m looking forward to trying plenty of other beers from this brewery.