Colonial Hip Hops

In food on 09/30/2009 at 10:52 am

The other half’s Father loves beer. He turned me onto microbrews, which run rampant in Wisconsin, like coffee and chocolate-flavored beer. But the problem is it comes in such a large bottle, which is quite a challenge for those lacking alcohol dehydrogenase like me. This is why the new vogue of serving sampler sized portions at restaurants is great. It makes beer-tasting enjoyable and affordable, like the multi-vineyard wine-tasting spree we went on while we were in Cape May last weekend.

The aforementioned Father also penned a beer blog for a site about quirky things in Wisconsin. Beer enthusiasts use the same oblique terms to talk about their beverage of choice as winos do: caramel, crisp, tastes like chicken, etc… And like wine, beer tastes different when paired with food.

Perhaps the only highlight of eating at City Tavern was sipping their “Ales of the Revolution” sampler made by Philly’s local brewing company, Yards. For a town still making bank off the history that happened there, this is a brilliant marketing ploy. Suprisingly, the depth of flavor and complexity in each of the brews make them worth drinking, but not necessarily at the restaurant. I tried taking a photo of the sampler, but the stuffy and stiff ambiance made that, plus drinking and eating quite awkward.

The four Yards brews are General Washington’s Tavern Porter, Thomas Jefferson’s 1774 Tavern Ale, Benjamin Franklin/Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce, and Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Ale (which is the only one not listed on their website). The sampler comes in small conical tumblers set in a plank paddle (like the ones used in fraternities), but still in larger portions than I thought they would be. Beer is more filling than wine, but I guess since it’s usually cheaper, they want you to think you’re getting your money’s worth. Then again, a sip of good beer should pack as much depth of flavor as a sip of wine, so I’d say they shouldn’t worry about it.

why left out of the fun?

On first taste, I liked the Alexander Hamilton best. It is light and refreshing. On the postcard ‘cheat sheet’ the waiter gives you, it is described as “in the style of the common man’s ale, this pale ale is brewed with Pilsner malt, crisp & hoppy with citrus flavors & aromas.” I generally prefer tasting the hoppy bitterness that socks you in the mouth up front. This ale finishes clean. It is the most complex, sharp, light beer I’ve tasted. Sorry McSorley’s!

When paired with food, especially game meats, the flavor becomes a little stunted and more like a typical one-note pale beer. This is a beer to drink without food, to better savor the subtle flecks at the front end. However, it may stand up well to raw food, like sashimi or ceviche, light fresh stuff, but definitely not stews with thick gravy.

pine sol sponsored

The postcard blurb for Tavern Spruce reads: “Based on Benjamin Franklin’s recipe, written while he was ambassador to France. This beer made with very little hops, has a caramel color, dark molasses hue, a hint of herbal spruce and a dry finish.” When you first taste this one, there is a mild finish of Pine Sol, in the best sense of a fresh pine forest blooming in your mouth. In the presence of food though, the spruciness is accentuated to a point of being a thorn on the side of your tongue. It gets a little weird.

the boss of beer

“Brewed from a genuine recipe on file in the Rare Manuscripts Room of the New York Public Library. A rich, dark brew loaded with flavor.” I think GW was just used as a figurehead for this robust beer. There is no mention of Mr. Wooden Teeth actually making the recipe or any personal association with it. But if they were going to do a tie-in, you’d think they’d add a hint of cherry.

The other half loved this one on first round of tasting, describing it as smooth and mellow, a swirly mix of mysterious complexity. I like to taste individual pops of flavor, but the other half prefers dark ales because they are umami, you don’t know exactly what your are tasting, but you know it has girth and substance, like biting into a big juicy hamburger. With meats, the flavor didn’t change much, but I would still pair with lighter foods if you want a contrast. It may be better with acidic Italian foods containing tomatoes.

best all-around

The O.G. slavemaster Renaissance man, TJ “made beer twice a year. Our version of this ale is made following Jefferson’s original recipe, unfiltered, medium-bodies, light in color with great taste.” In life, TJ always had his fingers in many pies, and his beer reflects that philosophy. On first taste, it is harder to pin down than the other three brews, but paired with heavy food, it sings, making bad food more palatable. It rounds out all the spots on your tongue, coating everything in a heavenly halo. This one is tops all-around.

Since you can’t really make beer easily at home, I’m adapting this recipe for colonial shrub, a thickened vinegar that is used to mix into cocktails or simply added to seltzer. Generally, it’s a beverage made from fruit juice, sugar and alcohol. It’s a good alternative to cider during the holidays. I first learned about it at City Tavern, but didn’t buy a sample of theirs given their poor track record with the food. Plus we were already deep in the hole that night.

Raspberries-Fresh/ 4 quarts (any berry you like)
Vinegar (cider vinegar is best for this)
Water or Soda Water
Bottles for bottling

  • Place raspberries in large agateware kettle or stone jar.
  • Cover with vinegar, just enough so that the berries will not float.
  • Allow mixture to stand overnight to 1 week in the fridge.
  • Squeeze mixture through a cheesecloth.
  • For each cup of strained liquid, add 1 cup sugar; boil on low for 30 minutes. Bottle when cool. Store in cool place.
  • Put into a glass, pinkie width high; then fill the glass with seltzer for flavored soda or water, ice, and your choice of hard liquor. Shake and serve.
  • Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s