Beer for Wine Lovers
As a beer geek and a wine lover, I am asking for your suggestions.
At my wine tasting club in April, I am leading a tasting entitled "beer for wine lovers." I plan to have eight beers tasted--one each that emphases the major components of beer--malt, hops, yeast and water--and then four that are balanced.
So, my question of you geeks is: can you recommend beers that fall into each of the categories mentioned above (the four ingredients plus the balanced ones?)
Here are some paramenters in making your selections:
1. I prefer that the beer be brewed in the US.
2. The alcohol content should be no more that 10%.
3. I should be able to purchase it locally. Have no fear, there is a beer store near me that has approximately 2000 beers for sale and they can be purchased one bottle at a him. Here is a link to Half Time (which is located in the Hudson River of New York): http://www.halftimebeverage.com/brows...
Some of you may ask how water can be tasted.....the ideal IPA should use water that is high in calcium sulphate (a substance whichs boosts the flavor of hops, making the beer more flavorful and bitter.) If it is not in the water, brewers add sulphate. Come to think of it,maybe I'll have two water tastings--one IPA with sulphate and another without.
As usual, I don't recall the details, but I do remember being taken around the GABF floor several years ago (actually, more than several) by John Mallett, who is currently at Bell's. He had me try IPAs from two branches of a brewpub chain. They tasted markedly different, the same recipe brewed with two different types of water.
I'm not totally sure I understand your premise, at least when it comes to water and yeast (despite your explanation about water). If you're trying to illustrate the influence these components have on flavor profile, an ideal tasting matrix would be a beer recipe that had versions made with alternate yeast strains, variable malt bills, water with different mineral compounds, and differing hops. That's a lot of beer to make.
One thing you might consider, and I have done this with some beer geeks I know, is buying small amounts of specialty malts from a home brew shop and steeping them in warm water like making tea. That's a great way to see the kinds of flavors different malts bring to a beer.
For beer suggestions, I'd go with something like these.
Malt: I'd go with a barleywine. Victory's Old Horitzontal is a great one. Make sure to serve it at room temp. Another option is Anchor's Old Foghorn, but I think the Victory beer is better.
Hops: I'd pick an APA or IPA that tilts more towards the floral notes that come from dry hopping. Grand Teton Sweetgrass is a nice one that's not too bitter. If you can find Russian River's Pliny The Elder that's another good choice. Victory Prima Pils is also a really nice pilsner that's assertively hopped, and with the lightness of the base beer the hop flavor really shines. Another interesting choice could be Brooklyn's Sorachi Ace, which uses the Japanese Sorachi Ace hop and really shows it off. It has a fantastic cedar/citrus thing going on that is totally unique and delicious.
Yeast: IMO there are a few routes you could take here. You could go for the banana/clove thing and get a hefeweizen, you could go for something sour or made with wild yeast, or you could go with something Belgian where the yeast strain produces a lot of esters and phenols. I'd probably go with a combination of the last two and use a Jolly Pumpkin beer like Oro De Calabaza. It's a pale beer in the Belgian style that's lightly sour and barrel aged. If you want something a little less unusual, you could go with a saison like Hennepin from Ommegang, or either of the Brooklyn Local beers, both of which make excellent use of Belgian yeast strains.
Water: I think this is harder to illustrate. If you had a stout made with hard water vs. one made with soft water you might be able to show the difference it makes, but as you point out most commercial brewers alter the mineral composition of water to match the style of beer they're making.
All these beers are pretty well balanced, so I think that would cover you. But if you want more just to add them to the mix I'd just look at picking up stuff made in your area (for freshness). Blue Point Rastafa Rye is really nice, as is their Hoptical Illusion. Weyerbacher Stumbling Monk. Anything from Captain Lawrence. I know a lot of people like Southern Tier but I'm not such a huge fan. Victory makes great stuff across the board, and some of the Dogfish Head beers might be nice to add, like Indian Brown, Aprihop, Bitches Brew, and Chateau Jihau. Any of the Ommegang product, too.
Beers for wine lovers.... I think I'd stay away for the moment from the more bitter brews (dry IPAs, wheats, etc...)... I go with beers that have a "winey" quality...
1) Go with a super-imperial stout... the benchmark is dogfish world-wide. A wine lover is almost certain to like this and may confuse it for port... I'd probably put this on my list of the "Top Ten Greatest Alcoholic Beverages":
2) Also in stouts, a somewhat less portish imperial like G-I Bourbon County, and Brooklyn Chocolate Stout... each is so unique and delicious... Bells Expedition is right up there too...
3) A super barleywine.... just depends on what's available in your area: I love Old Horizontal but would prolly go with 3 Floyds Behemoth if available. Anchor Foghorn and Dogfish Immortale are also insanely good.
4) A strong ale like Rochefort or Westvleteren...
5) NOW... at this point you have them... this is where I might work in a safe IPA for wine lovers... a really imperial crafted bomb with massive bouquet and some delicious sweet notes to balance the bitters... Nothing better than 3 Floyds Dreadnaught (also a candidate for Top 10 Greatest Alcoholic Beverages), or say, Avery Maharajah
For effect, you might cap the night off with a small snifter of "port"... and after they've oohed and aahed about it, tell them it's also a beer: Dogfish Worldwide
Hops - Ithaca flower power
Malt - Troeg's Troegenator - or some other dopplebock
Yeast - Victory Helios - no spices used, most of its flavor is yeast derived
Water - I would go english beer on this one - Burton bridge empire IPA if you can find it.
One example of each is going to be hard to demonstrate what you want, I would think you would need two or three for each category to compare/contrast.
Some really good suggestions here. I'd suggest tossing in some "sour" beers, like Russian River Temptation, Consecration or Supplication. Lost Abbey Red poppy is quite nice too. I'd also consider a belgian style strong pale like RR Damnation or Goose Island Matilda. And an old ale like barrel aged Old Stock from North Coast or Firestone Walker Anniversary XV. And if you could scare up a Cantillon like Rose de Gambrinus or Lou Pepi, you might even convert some wine drinkers to beer.