Archive for the ‘Brew Poetry’ Category

(no, not the Maroon 5 song)

These were two beers I had on Sunday morning while watching TV and catching up on wedding thank-you notes. Actually, it was Sunday afternoon, but Sunday morning sounds more cozy. And when you get up at 7, but then go back to sleep around 10 and get up again at 11:30, Sunday afternoon still feels kind of like morning to you.

This first one, split with Dan, was Le Merle, a saison from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, CA.

“Le Merle” translates to “the blackbird,” and Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson; Michael Jackson the famous beer writer) apparently described it as “More than a serious beer – it is outstanding….Dizzying, appetizing, refreshing.” For some reason I think of blackbirds being associated with fall, with picking off the grains and buds of corn from the harvest, with cawing at you from a bare tree branch as you bake a pumpkin pie. So I wasn’t sure what the association with a saison, typically a springtime beer, was. But, blackbirds make me think of farms in general, so maybe the association lies in the rustic, farmhouse-style nature of the beer. Or maybe it’s that “dizzying” quality that Michael Jackson described, the lush flavor unlocked by a rush of carbonation, that reminds us of the dizzying swoop of the blackbird.

And, since I haven’t done a “brew haiku” in awhile, here’s a picture, and a poem:

Swooping, dizzying
the husks, his caws a rush of
lemon, bright in cold.

This was an incredibly citrusy saison! So much bright, acidic lemony-ness cutting through the rustic funk of thick yeast. Definitely felt like the sun shining down on the dry late-fall stalks in the cold, in the clear air.

So that was beer #1. Now let me tell you about beer #2. I’m not going to pretend here that I’m better than everyone else and never end up with a hangover some Sunday mornings. There’s just no need to pretend that, while it’s not a frequent occurrence, it never happens. So when it does, what’s your first instinct when trying to think of a hair-of-the-dog drink that will ease the pain a little bit? Probably a bloody mary. All those good vitamins from the tomato juice, the spice clearing out your head, the vodka numbing it a little until you can hydrate properly. But, if you are like me, you have no ice maker, and have a tiny freezer, so you rarely have ice. And the thought of a bloody mary without ice is disgusting.

So enter: the michelada.

To make a michelada:

1. Pour a lager

2. Drizzle worchestire sauce

3. Drop a few tablespoons of lime juice, or squeeze some fresh lime directly in there

4. Dump in a palm full of salt

5. Add other spices as desired

6. Realize you should’ve salted the rim but decided to turn your lager into a michelada after you poured it

7. Consume. Hydrate. Eat some mac & cheese. Watch some guilty pleasure TV. Write some thank-you notes.


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Apologies in advance to anyone who will not easily be able to try the beer I am about to review. Apparently it is only available in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Delaware. It’s tragic, but that’s what you get for not living in the Southern/Mid-Atlantic region. Ahem. Now then:

When I was a kid, I loved angler fish.


They’re the ugliest, scariest, most mysterious, most otherworldly fish in the deep. So of course I loved them. For the same reason I had an unnatural obsession with sharks as a kid (I even had a shark placemat, and memorized all the different species and their Latin names. Nerd alert). They’re fascinating, and horrifying, and though I loved them from afar, I certainly wouldn’t want to come across one in my bathtub. Or my beer.


Of course, on my beer is just peachy! This guy graces the label of RJ Rockers’ Fish Paralyzer Belgian-Style Pale Ale. We received this bottle in a very generous gift bag of beers and snacks from our neighbors Jason & Laura for watching their delightful dog Nigel for the weekend a couple weeks ago. Thanks, J & L!

We drank the Rogue Mocha Porter first, but I’d had that before, so no formal review of it here, except to say that it’s delectable. Fish Paralyzer was the second one we broke into. I’m fairly certain it was probably included in the collection of gift beers solely for its name, and let’s face it- it’s a pretty goddang awesome name. So points there already, RJ Rockers. But would its taste live up to its awesome label?


(Spoiler alert: the answer is yes) But since I haven’t done one in awhile, I’ll bring back the brew-haiku and let you know exactly why in 17 syllables.

Fish Paralyzer 2.JPG

Herbal, bitter pines
yield pie run-off: toasted, sweet
butter, thick shortbread

It was a really interesting beer. Normally, I find that if a beer has two contrasting tastes- like hoppy and sweet- one taste will be more dominating, or at least be tasted first, then give way to the other taste second. With this one, I chose the phrase “yield” and not “yield to,” because it really tasted like each taste flowed from (and into) the other naturally and meshed well. Neither was secondary to the other. You could even reverse the haiku (sort of…keeping phrases in tact and disregarding line breaks), and say “Thick shortbread, toasted, sweet butter: pie run-off yields herbal, bitter pines” and it’d still be true.

It was bitter, with a taste really similar to American pale ale hoppiness (Sierra Nevada-y), and at the same very thick and luscious, with a sweetness that reminded me of brown sugar and butter running off from a pie, taking with it the buttery, biscuity viscousness of the crust. A good beer to pair with Thanksgiving dessert, methinks?

Fish Paralyzer 1.JPG

Matching the sweetness and floury thickeness while balancing it with hops, whose bitterness might actually also compliment some pie spices ginger and nutmeg.

Oh, and paralyzing any fish you need paralyzed.

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And both ladies and gentlemen prefer LANCASTER BLONDE ALE!


(is what I’d say if I were writing copy for them! Ha-ha- studying for my professional slogan-writer certifying exam)

(not really)

First off: my apologies if you have been seeing posts or links to posts twice. I’m still grappling with Ecto, and have found that it occasionally formats it so weirdly that I cannot make it look normal except to just re-do the post in WordPress. I’m not just trying to bombard everyone who subscribes to the RSS in some way with a million “posts” to try to get them to read the blog 🙂

Second: wow, it’s been positively awhile since I’ve done a brew-haiku! Since I intend to keep this blog about the triad of beer, food, and poetry, I think it’s time for another one. So how do you describe the taste of an ale brewed with Lancastrian yeasts that have a 200-year pedigree?

Like thus:

Straw and lemon whiffs.
The green melon of ales: mild,
luscious, hydrating.


I think I tend to prefer my beers a little stronger tasting than this one. Not that it was bad, or completely without flavor- it’s just very mild, like the haiku says. Sort of like a green melon. And I usually go for cantaloupe or watermelon. It’s not nearly as thick as I feel like some blonde ales I’m used to drinking are (think Leffe, Duvel, Delerium Tremens), though does have a hint of lusciousness in the body (similar again to an understated variety of melon), and an interesting dry, ever-so-slightly bitter finish that, though subtle, stays with you a long time. Its low alcohol (4.1%) makes it a good session beer, and it IS highly refreshing- almost with a hydrating feel! I can definitely see having one after mowing the lawn out under the sun for hours (which is exactly the situation I recommended NOT drinking O’Hara’s Irish Stout in).


Essentially, I’d buy this again in the warmer months of the year, but I have a feeling the coming months will make me want to hunker down with a thick, spicy, roasty thing.

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If you’ve ever looked at the title of this blog, either on this site, in your Google reader, on the blog’s corresponding Twitter account, what have you, you’ve probably noticed something: computers don’t write capital “i”s the way human beings write them, with a vertical line connecting two parallel horizontal ones of equal length to the vertical line.  No, computers make this letter almost the exact way humans write lowercase “L”s- as a single, horizontal line.  l vs I.  Granted, the uppercase “I” does have teeny-tiny little lines jutting out from its head and feet on the blog itself (not so on Twitter!), but even then, to the undiscerning eye, it constantly looks like I’m writing “lambs and ales,” as if this were a blog about sheep.

But today I’ve decided to use this to my advantage.  I will write in Iambic Pentameter, or lambic pentameter (I had to mix cases to give you the full effect), whichever you prefer to call it.  I will write a review of a Belgian lambic in iambic pentameter!

This guy would be proud:


With this undertaking on my list of blog projects for the long holiday weekend (most of which didn’t get accomplished, because life and enjoying it got in the way, but rest assured, they are coming!), I headed to my local Total Wine to pick up a true Belgian lambic, preferably un-fruited.  I’m not a particular fan of the sweet, fruity lambics like those from Lindemans (again, not trying to knock, but just not my bag).  I like my lambic to be tart and dry, and I want to really be able to taste the wild yeasts whose role in fermenting the brew characterize the particular lambic.  I was hoping to find something from Cantillon, for instance.  Unfortunately, there were no un-fruited lambics at the store, so I just picked one that had “tart” in the description that Total Wine wrote up for it.

St. Louis Kriek Lambic

That would be the St. Louis Kriek Lambic (meaning a lambic made with cherries) from Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck in Belgium.  Now, cherries can = tart.  And I’m a big fan of Flemish red ales/Flemish sour ales, which always taste like cherries to me.  And it’s from Belgium.  And the description said “tart.”  I had pretty decent hopes for this one.  So I poured a glass of the ruby red beauty:


Ignore the sock monkey feet, ash tray, and menorah in the background.  What, you don’t have these things on your windowsill?  Just admire the sunlight shining through this little gem.


And sit back, relax, and enjoy some “lambic pentameter”:

My lambic, you were not the little tart
I’d hoped you’d be, but your specific breed
of sweetness grew on me, and I, in turn,
have warmed to it. Your blushing cherry glow
is like a fresh-pressed juice, your sugars sun-
kissed, wholly natural and nourishing.
But when those front-line waves of taste recede,
the sands of wild yeast are left exposed
to grate and prick so pleasantly with pops
of sourness, like glints of sunlight on
its grains, or winds that carried what cannot
be seen, the microscopic particles
unique to you, that bend the sweetness of
your smile to something slightly vinous, dry
before the waves wash over you again.


(couldn't resist one more!)

Hope you enjoyed that lambic pentameter!  And just so you know, you’re allowed to have an extra half-foot in a line if extra beat completes the last word of the line and you start the next line with an emphasized beat so that it’s a half-foot short.  For those of you counting my meter.  Also please note the clever double meaning of “grains.”

I know I completely failed at delivering my slew of posts this past weekend, but stay tuned!  I promise to deliver on all those ideas over time.

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Ahhh, yes- fall is upon us!  We have officially paid our September rent, and that’s autumn enough in my mind.  It also means that this puppy (pun intended) is on the shelves again:

Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest (now you get the pun).  It is a Märzen, the classic beer of Oktoberfest.  And true to historic Märzen brewing tradition, it is brewed with only German ingredients: Vienna, Munich 90, Munich 100, and Light Munich malts; German Perle and Hersbrucker hops.  I can’t attest to the water being imported from Germany, but I suspect that might be the one hidden ingredient native to the brewery’s Frederick, MD home.

Now, in my early craft-beer-loving days, I eschewed lagers.  I was so taken, so swept off my feet by the powerful, flavorful, and drastically varied New World ales that constitute, oh, 90% of American craft brewing, that to me, lagers were flavorless and dull.  I was kind of like a teenager who’s discovered 11-minute jams that feature virtuosic guitar and theremin solos with existential lyrics about the nature of man, the universe, God, and the government: so overwhelmed and impressed that it’s easy to forget the beauty and soul that can hide in a simple love song.

In this way, I equate Märzens to the 32-second track at the end of my box set of recordings from the short, sweet love song master himself, Sam Cooke.  In this track, a radio host says that everyday he tries to describe soul in words, and asks Sam to hum 8 bars of what soul represents.  Sam hums those 8 bars and I tell you, I don’t think soul could be encapsulated any better.

Sam Cooke achieves in 8 bars what some musicians take entire careers to achieve, or sometimes not achieve, and packs behind it lifetimes upon lifetimes of collective experience, history, and- from this, inevitably- soul.  That’s what the European lager-brewing tradition, when done well, with care and craft, achieves as well.  So without further ado, I present to you my brew-haiku:

Caramel, browned butter
on shortbread. Hops like the crunch
of leaves: soft, but crisp.

Look at that lovely scenery in the background

(Just a note: in this haiku, as in the one on Palo Santo, I’m using the two-syllable pronunciation of “caramel”- pronounced like “car-mull”- in order to fit the meter)

Flying Dog recommends that you pair this with dark breads, German sausage, and roasted poultry.  I paired it last night with a bowl of black bean soup and a quesadilla, which I thought was a fine pairing (I didn’t photograph it, unfortunately, because it was 9:45 and I’d just gotten home from class having not eaten dinner, and thus was starving and more interested in eating it than photographing it).  I think the theme here though is to pair it with darker, hearty foods, foods warm and comforting.

As an aside, if you like pairing food with beer and beer with food as I do, here is a good website from Flying Dog: BeerDinners.com.  The site is a little hard to navigate, but there’s some good info in there if you figure out where to find it.  There’s info on upcoming food-and-beer-pairing dinners (featuring Flying Dog as well as other breweries) in a variety of different U.S. locales, as well as entire dinner party menus (featuring food prepared and paired with Flying Dog beers) from chef Scott Clagett of Boulder, CO.  The site also features user-submitted recipes featuring Flying Dog beers, though these can be harder to find- your best bet to locate these is to click on the “Beer Dinner Recipes” category on the right-hand side.

Anyway, happy fall and happy sipping/cooking!

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Caramel swamp, smokey
sapwoods. Molasses bittered
by the roast of age.

This is Dan’s favorite brew from Dogfish Head.  And of course, it was included in each of our birthday presents from his parents: the same gift, a variety case of Dogfish Head beers.  Our birthdays are 3 weeks + 2 days apart, and it was just enough time for us to finish one case in time for the second.  But um, to our credit, we had several parties and special events (such as friends in town, etc), birthday-related and non, at which we shared our bounty.

Palo Santo is a brown ale, and a pretty high gravity one, at 12% ABV.  And it squeezes flavor out of every single one of those percents.  It is aged in barrels made of Paraguayan Palo Santo wood, which gives it that almost oaky vanilla taste of a Chardonnay, but with that nutty, smokey caramel taste of a brown ale kicked up to 11 with extreme roasty and malty flavors.  And it’s got the mouthfeel of a thick, bubbling bog.

Highly recommended.  And highly recommended to be sipped and savored over a long period of time- not only because this will prevent you from being knocked on your ass by it’s high alcohol content, but because each tiny little sip literally packs the punch and complexity of a long, deep swig.

Happy sipping!

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Charred maple bark, singed
brown sugar on creme brulee.
Thick warmth at cool dawn.

It’s at once earthy and bitter (thus the charred bark, the singe) and sweet (the maple, the sugar); smokey, roasted, and full, yet brisk. I was a big fan, though Dan was not, interestingly- I thought it was intensely full-flavored, and Dan thought it tasted generic. Goes to show you how much individual tastes can vary.

If it weren’t for the fact that I think the only beer tolerable at breakfast would be a really thick, lactic-sugar-sweet brew like a milk stout or a really intense dubbel, I’d say it’d go great with breakfast sausage (slightly sweet, slightly spicy, good with the sweet/bitter/smokey/earthy combo of the beer), maybe with a side of pancakes.  Not that I actually drink beer at breakfast…but maybe with a late weekend brunch, though.  Anyway, instead, I’ll just say I think this would go great with a piece of maple sugar candy, eaten upon entering the warm indoors again on a cool fall day.

Perfect for yesterday, Virginia’s first little glimpse of fall weather after an intense summer.

PS: like the links to wiki?  I’m trying this because it saves space in the middle of the sentence used up by technical definitions when informing the reader of those particular definitions isn’t the focus of the post.

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