photo by David Blaikie on flickr
Mead. The very word conjures up images of burly men with names like Lars and Sigurd drinking from large pewter tankards or perhaps the skulls of their latest conquests. Made from honey, mead is probably one of the oldest known fermented beverages as records prove that it was made by nearly every major culture including the Egyptians, Romans, Mayans, and Aztecs.
Honey has long been associated with fertility, and mead is no exception. In fact, the term honeymoon is derived from a ritual of drinking mead soon after marriage to ensure the birth of a son. The couple would consume mead for one month after the wedding (mead -> honey, month -> moon). Mead is truly the drink of myth and legend.
Mead is essentially fermented honey water and thus simpler to make than beer. However, the simplicity of mead means that the flavor depends entirely on the quality of the honey. The variability of honey crops means that mead is not normally commercially available. In the land of mead, the homebrewer is king.
Mead does present some interesting challenges and decisions for the homebrewer. Honey lacks the yeast nutrients for a nice, fast fermentation. Fermentation may take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year, but nutrients can be added to decrease the fermentation time to about 6 weeks. Luckily, mead ferments at room temperature and can be kept for years. Many people have created batches of mead upon the birth of a new daughter to be enjoyed on her wedding day.
12 lbs of unrefined honey
I recently brewed my first batch of mead and a batch of cherry mead as well. Next time, I’ll go through the mead making process.
TDY planned a great saturday to celebrate the beginning of the end to our summer! We started off with a 2 hour paddle around the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers downtown. The weather was absolutely beautiful, and the views of the city from the river are unrivaled. If you are interested, Kayak Pittsburgh rents kayaks at $15/hr and no prior experience is necessary.
After working up an appetite (and thirst), we grilled out some fajitas, complete with homemade salsa, and gathered together a large collection of New Holland and Founders selections for a tasting. New Holland is located in Holland, MI and Founders is located in Grand Rapids, MI so you can think of this as sampling the real fruits of Michigan. Here’s a list of the beer that we tried out and some quick notes on what we thought.
- Centennial IPA (F) 7.2% ABV, 65 IBU – very malty for an IPA with even a few hints of chocolate and caramel on the palate. a slight hoppy aroma but not much bitterness to speak of .
- Mad Hatter IPA (NH) 5.25% ABV – dry hopping provides more of a hop aroma (hints of something similar to Simcoe?). The Mad Hatter is nice and crisp with still a touch of malt sweetness. Better hop/malt balance than the Centennial. The dry hop causes Mad Hatter to finish with a satisfying dryness.
- Imperial Mad Hatter IPA (NH) 9.4% ABV – similar to the Mad Hatter but with the distinctive bite of a higher alcohol brew. The alcohol actually balances the malt bill and helps bring some more of the hop character to the forefront.
- Red’s Rye IPA (F) 6.6% ABV, 70 IBU – Centennial with a touch of rye to create a richness of flavor that overcomes the strong malt bill. Our favorite of all 4 of the IPAs, although nontraditional, has the most to offer in terms of flavor complexity and balance. A rich deep red color and good head retention create a visual experience to rival the taste.
- Golden Cap Saison (NH) 6.25% ABV – Very sweet candy-like aroma reminiscent of a Belgian blonde ale. The flavor is sweet at first with a carbonation that feels light on the tongue and a finish that ends in a surprising sourness reminiscent of a Belgian gueze. Golden Cap is a wonderful surprise and great on a hot summer night. We should warn that this beer is not for everyone as many people shy away from this level of sweetness in a beer.
- Cerise (F) 6.5% ABV, 15 IBU – Aroma reminiscent of a fresh baked cherry pie. Fruity with a touch of sweetness but not artificial. Finishes with a tartness that any good cherry pie should have. Pours a beautiful light red color with a nice head. Cerise is truly a gateway fruit beer : introducing the style without being overly sweet.
- Sundog Amber Ale (NH) 6% ABV – A typical amber ale that balances a bit of maltiness with just a slight touch of hops.
- Curmudgeon Old Ale (F) 9.8% ABV, 50 IBU – Curmudgeon is all about the malt and therefore retains a characteristic sweetness that is evident even in the aroma. With hints of roasted malts, caramel, and butterscotch, Curmudgeon seems like a dessert in a glass and so again is not for everyone. Those that enjoy very malty or sweet beers will likely love Curmudgeon while American IPA “hopheads” will find this one hard to swallow.
- Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale (F) 8.5% ABV, 50 IBU – A slimmed down version of Curmudgeon which is not as malty resulting in a much smoother flavor. The Scotch Ale has a bit more roasted malt flavor than the straight sweetness of Curmudgeon. Excellent head retention.
Our Favorite Beers
Tim : Founders Red’s Rye IPA – It’s really a unique beer with a great hop/malt balance and a flavor profile that is truly enhanced by the touch of rye.
Look for our continuation of the New Holland and Founders Tasting including New Holland’s Night Tripper Imperial Stout, Wheat Wine, and Poet Oatmeal Stout.
728 Copeland St. Shadyside
This is the first post in our Local Hoplight series which features off the beaten path Pittsburgh establishments where you can find some good craft brews. The Pittsburgh Deli Co
. is a great little spot in the heart of Shadyside (just off Walnut St.). As a Shadyside resident, I recommend stopping by for a sandwich off their extensive deli menu. The Tally Ho, which is an Italian sandwich on flatbread topped with a delicious olive tapenade, is a drunk yinzer favorite!
This neighborhood deli is not typically the sort of place that you would expect a good beer selection, but the Pittsburgh Deli Co. surprises with a respectable craft beer selection. Not only do they have a variety of craft beer in bottles so that you can grab a few beers to go, but there is a rotating draft list of 6 beers.
L2R: Bell's Oberon Ale, Yuengling, Miller Lite, Magic Hat #9, Dogfishhead 60 min IPA, Guinness
The bottle selection rotates, but this past weekend included a healthy dose of Victory, Great Lakes, and Magic Hat offerings with a few nice surprises such as Boulder Beer’s Hazed and Infused, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, and Rogue’s Chocolate Stout. I recently paired the Tally Ho with a Heavy Seas summer ale which made for a refreshing late summer lunch. Heavy Seas got this one right as it is light and refreshing with a touch of sweetness. If you find yourself in Shadyside, stop by for a sandwich and beer in a very laid back atmosphere.
To celebrate the release of their fall seasonal Hoptober, New Belgium evokes images from our favorite time of year in a soon-appearing print ad. You had us at “campfire.”
Hopefully we can track down a bottle and give those five hops and four malts a taste.
Despite the rain, Jake and I made the trip out to the Pittsburgh Zoo for last weekend’s Brew at the Zoo fundraiser for the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. Apparently a large part of the city of Pittsburgh also attended as lines were pretty long, but there was beer and exotic animals so we still had a good time. There was a good mix of beer and several live music acts. Interestingly, there was plenty of free food from chips/pretzels to mini pulled pork sandwiches to a chocolate fountain in the main atrium of the PPQ aquarium.
Several homebrew clubs were in attendance lending another dimension to the brewfest experience. Sixth Circle Brewing offered a variety of homebrews including Piss Water (American Cream Ale), a well rounded Dunkel, and a nice stout (which they use to make ice cream too!). Shubrew was also in attendance with several selections including a creamy stout with some hints of chocolate and coffee. The final tent boasted several Belgian selections including a framboise, Piraat, and St. Bernadus.
As we ran into a few great old friends we kept tabs on all the beer gossip . The homebrew tents kicked quickly and lots of people missed out, bummer dude. Same thing happened at the last tent. Did anyone else get Dragon’s Milk? I’m pretty sure we drank most of it. Others really enjoyed the Framboise served from Beet Nutz. A few had high praises for McSorley’s, Sierra Nevada Summerfest (Pilsner) and the range of fruity wheat beers. In talking with a few co-workers I heard a terrible terrible terrible rumor. Can anyone verify if Miller was present? I understand their beer is triple hopped brewed, but seriously WTF?!?! Can’t you also triple hop brew piss? Riddle me that Miller!
Brew at the Zoo attracts a wider audience than the typical brewfest, and it is nice to see people getting out and trying new beer. However, this can result in a bit more of a mob mentality, without much order in the lines. Additionally, the sheer number of people (and the downpour) make it difficult to get many discussions going with brewers/pourers. With this in mind, Brew at the Zoo is a fun night out complete with zoo animals, good beer selection, and live music. Where else can you sip on a glass of mead and watch a polar bear take a swim?
Posted in Brewfests, Out and About in the Burgh, Weekend in Review
Tagged brew at the zoo, craft beer, homebrew, Meade, PGH, Polar Bear, PPG, six circle, TDY, Yuengling