Saturday, January 11, 2014

Quick! beer homework notes

For about half an hour this morning I thought I might look into the hobby of brewing beer in my own kitchen; then I read a little bit in Charlie Papazian's New Complete Joy of Home Brewing (1991), and decided it must be way easier to go out and buy the stuff. Besides, going out and buying the stuff enables me to walk into retail stores, act dumb, and spy on the competition.

I came away from my beer spying/homework expedition lugging an overpriced build-your-own six pack, a 750 ml bottle of Chimay Trappist red, and a taste of my first on tap "Oktoberfest." Call me snippy, but I fail to see how an Oktoberfest is any different from any other fairly amber colored, fairly rich and nice beer that is not a Bud or a Miller Lite. Perfunctory research in Wikipedia tells me that Oktoberfests were, historically, the German "Marzen" beers brewed in March and stored and drunk all summer while the weather was too hot to make anything more. By the time the last of the Marzen was used up, it was -- you guessed it -- October.

The above pictured sample, 5 Vulture, is not an Oktoberfest but still a beer of the darker and sweeter, "maltier" type that I like and that I tried to fill my 6 pack carrier with. Don't be put off by the mention of chiles on the label. As you raise the glass to your lips you just get a whiff of something that reminds you of nachos and a green-peppery salsa. Good, in fact, with a few slices of cilantro-and-salsa flavored cheese. Not to be compared with the marvelous Duchesse, but then, what is?

And, speaking of her grace, remember when I in my deep innocence devised a personal beer bitterness scale, ranging from 0 (none detected) to 5 (undrinkable)? It turns out there are such things as IBUs, or International Bitterness Units, and the scale goes from 0 (none) to 100 (undrinkable). Our Duchesse, and other Flemish sours, lurk at about 10-25 IBUs. The 5 Vulture ranks at 20, which may be why I found it drinkable.    

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