Friday, May 24, 2013

Frankly, I Can Do Without The Bread

Why am I sliding off the table? Whoooa!
They say that man can not live on bread alone, and I get the meaning of the saying. Diversity is the key to enjoying a full life. But if you look into it, the saying actually comes from the Bible, and means something completely different. Go ahead, look it up. People mistake the true meanings and origins of things all the time. In addition, meanings change over time to suit different situations. The same phrase that extolled you to respect the word of god, now means that you need art, music, literature, and the pursuit of things solely for the enjoyment of them, in order to lead a rich life. Go figure.

I am only taking you on this diversion to reinforce my position that you and I can not drink just beer and beer alone. I know that this is Fred's Beer Page, but occasionally we take a look at some different beverages that I enjoy. Hopefully you enjoy them too, or are at least open minded enough to try them. If not, well, you're probably not a very pleasant person to be around, and you are definitely not a fun person to drink with, that's for sure. Stay at home please. But for everyone else, let's talk tequila for a minute.

All alcoholic beverages have one thing in common: sugar. No sugar, no alcohol. It's just that simple. If you don't know why that is the case, that's OK. I will tell you now, and everyone else will laugh at you behind your back. Just kidding. We will laugh in your face. Here is goes: sugar = food for yeast; yeast + food = fermentation.
  • fer·men·ta·tion 
    a. The anaerobic conversion of sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast.
    b. Any of a group of chemical reactions induced by living or nonliving ferments that split complex organic compounds into relatively simple substances.
Alright, so that concludes science class. Back to the booze discussion. So what you have with many alcoholic beverages is a balance between the sweetness that the sugars leave behind, and whatever other flavors are in there--naturally or otherwise--that complete the picture. In the case of some spirits, the flavor is particularly clean, and following the condensing process of distillation, the pure flavors of the resulting liquor are fine on their own. Think rum and vodka. The raw ingredients used to make those (sugar cane for rum, and various grains, primarily wheat, for vodka) leave very little residual flavor behind. When you start talking about tequila, you are talking about a process and a raw ingredient that is vastly different. Take an intimidating looking desert plant with big, sword-shaped leaves, and dig it up. Don't just dig up any old one you find. You have to dig one up that is seven years old. Six years? Sugars aren't developed enough. Eight years? Sugars are so overdeveloped that the plant starts to rot from the inside out. Seven years, no more and no less. Once you dig it up there is a large, globe shaped thing that looks like a green and white striped pineapple anchoring it into the soil. Nothing about this looks delicious at this point, and remember that the temperature in the field where these things grow is roughly five degrees beneath the temperature on the surface of the sun. Then you need to start shaving the leaves and rough exterior from the "piña" (I told you it looks like a pineapple) with a razor-shape blade on a long stick. The men who do this for a living are called "insane". No, they are actually called "jimadors". Ever heard of el Jimador tequila? Now you know why they call it that. Look how smart you can seem to friends and strangers now! You're welcome.

As if the jimadors didn't work hard enough already, these piñas aren't even close to being ready to make tequila. Split them open, and then toss them in huge ovens. Let them roast to caramelize the sugars inside them, then let them cool. (They are delicious just like that. Tastes like a squash drenched in honey). Grind them up, add water and yeast, and let it ferment. After fermentation, you start the distillation, which is basically a process of separating the alcohol from the water through heating, and then condensing the vapors. I know you didn't come here for a science lesson, but real quick: As the liquid starts to get hot, alcohol is released in the form of a vapor. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water. Once the vapors hits a cool series of condensing coils, the alcohol returns to a liquid form, free of the water. Voila, you have hard liquor. 
Ovens steaming away.

In the case of tequila, the piña imparts the spicy, peppery notes that you should be familiar with if you have ever had straight, un-aged tequila. When you barrel age tequila, those spicy notes get complimented by the traditional effects of oak that you may recognize from whiskey: toast, vanilla, caramel, etc. These flavors work in concert with the honey and pepper flavors from the agave piña, and you have a delicious, golden liquid bursting with complexity. If you have not had a chance to taste the Herradura Double Reposado that we selected while on a trip to Mexico in February, I suggest that you do so soon. We actually selected two different barrels, both very different from each other, and the first one is here now. The second one will be here in a month or so. This one is bright, citrusy and spicy. Just one sip of it takes me back to the sun drenched hacienda in the agave growing region of Jalisco state around Guadalajara. Once this stuff is gone, it is gone forever. The next barrel is distinctly different (that's why we bought two instead of one), and you will get to appreciate the differences when that one gets bottled and arrives at our doorstep. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If you are afraid of tequila because of what you did in college while drinking it, don't worry. It happens to everyone. You're an adult now. Don't be scared.

Beer stuff! That's right, we have beer stuff to talk about too. The new pale ale from O'Dempsey's, called Cold One, is available at the Dallas Hwy store right now. Stop by and grab a "cold one", or two. 

Stay tuned for a listing for the 25 casks of special SweetWater beers we have. These are going to get tapped in a flurry of activity over the next few weeks. Here is what we have:
  • IPA w/ grapefruit, apricots, orange & rosemary
  • Imperial Stout w/ mint, lactose & cocoa
  • Porter w/ chicory, vanilla & cocoa
  • IPA w/ orange, grains of paradise, Cascade, Chinook, Summit & Citra hops
  • Brown Ale w/ cardamom, cocoa & orange peel
Looks like a pretty fun line-up. Like I said, stay tuned. I should have that calendar ready for you next week. The last thing I have for you is an event at The Fred on Tuesday, June 4th. We will have some beers from Thornbridge in England, which is a brewery I visited recently while I was over there. These beers are outstanding, and they are part of the new guard of English breweries that are making beers outside of the "traditional" English styles. Great stuff. Terrapin did a collaboration beer with these guys while I was there, and we will have that beer (an Imperial ESB) on draft and in a firkin, plus the following:
  • Thornbridge Beadeca's Well (a smoked porter)
  • Thornbridge Halcyon (an IPA)
  • Thornbridge Kipling (a pale ale)
FYI, these beers aren't cheap, but you're worth it. Spike from Terrapin will be there to tell everyone about his experience brewing with these British dudes and to explain the beer he made with them. I hope you can join us. Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone. Bye!