Of Bitter Beer, Hot Weather and Some Current Reading

IMG_20150816_175707As I write it’s over 8o F in the room and I’ve just opened a l’Interdite from Brasseurs du Monde in Saint-Hyacinthe, QC (brasseursdumonde.ca). It’s taken straight from a 12-pack – tablette – of three of their beers. The first one, the Assoiffée, a Belgian-style dubbel, was as much a winner as this one. The beers are bottle-conditioned, which means they retain their original yeast or enough to ensure a slow conditioning.

Despite some weeks at ambient temperature and being knocked around before that on the trip from Montreal, they are fresh-tasting and as good as can be. The yeast in the bottle uses up the residual oxygen, preserving high quality despite daunting storage conditions. Had brewers stuck with bottle-conditioning vs. the ubiquitous heat-pasteurization, overall beer quality would be superior in my opinion, but that’s an issue for another day.

The Interdite is a 6.5% IPA and claims an American style, which it is, as it has the American citrus punch (thank you Oregon) notably in the aftertaste.

However, there is a grateful English influence as well, both in the Ovaltine-and-quinine flavour but also the darkish colour. It reminds me quite a bit of the legendary Ballantine IPA in its heyday.

How can you drink IPA, or any beer, room temperature in this soaking heat? Mais c’est bien simple. “When you’re a Jet you’re a….”, okay? I’m not saying I would turn down the beer in chilled form but it’s best this way to scope all the subtleties. You wouldn’t chill a red wine – or very much – same thing for a beer of this quality.

I’ve placed next to it a book I was re-reading recently, one that had a big influence on me, Stephen Morris’ The Great Beer Trek (1984). I’ll write a separate post on this book but suffice to say it’s one of the top 5 beer books I’ve read. Morris and his wife took a beer tour of America in 1978, so essentially at the dawn of the beer renaissance but it was early enough that he covers the first craft brews to emerge, e.g. Sierra Nevada and New Albion. Essentially though it is a lively canvas of the light North American lager style as produced by the national and surviving regional breweries of the day. Morris, a Vermonter with the idiosyncratic perspective of many from that state, is still going strong and I had an e-mail palaver with him a couple of years ago. The book’s engaging hand-drawn artwork is another plus, including drawings of Dogbone Brewing Company and its “tap”, McDogbone Ale House, Morris’s projected ideal small brewery. It is one of my regrets that a planned Dogbone brand, Bolt Upright, never saw a bar-top. Morris had come out of the home brewing culture of upstate hippie Vermont and …  well… more anon about this fine book.

The brown volume in the image is Complete Practical Brewer, a mid-1800’s tome that is a constant reference. The red volume is a biography of the poet Allen Ginsberg – I went through a beat phase about 20 years ago (the literary aspects not the political such as it was) and was reading about him again. You don’t really hear much about him now, all things must pass, as George Harrison, from a band rather better remembered, wrote. But there was a connection after all, think of the Beatles’ name.

The white volume is Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days And Collect. Whitman was a forerunner of the Beats and much more of course. A very interesting writer, the parts about the Civil War are very moving, someone should do a film of Whitman’s time spent in hospitals in Washington, D.C. during the war.

It all ties in and it all makes sense at beeretseq central.