Well I can’t hide the monkey of disappointment riding my back as I write this. To have received a country that has absolutely no chance of winning the tournament and one which is now without doubt the most prolific and innovative brewing nation in the world.
Finding an American beer wasn’t going to be a challenge.
I had somehow imagined this competition to be an excuse to sit researching foreign exiting and hitherto undiscovered beer wonders of the world. I would be to the beer blogosphere what Indiana Jones was to the archaeological world. An intrepid explorer unearthing secrets hidden deep, hidden perhaps by communist rule, Kim Jong-Ale anyone? Or a recipe shrouded by the ages; an arcane Kong empire cryptic beer formula discovered in the Ivory coast and recreated on modern homebrew equipment for a salivating audience.
But America it is…
To make things even easier an American beer festival was held at the White Horse, the legendary South West London pub I’ve spent the last six months working in the cellar of, over the July 4th weekend. I had easy access to the largest collection of draught American beer in the UK. Could this have been any easier?
Which beer should I choose to blog about though? There was an abundance of greatness right at my fingertips.
From the wonderfully sessionable Sierra Nevada â€˜Best Bitter’; crunchy, sulphury, crisp hop crackle punctuating a light delicate buttery malt sweetness. All the way up to the Goose Island â€˜Bourbon County Stout’, a behemoth of a beer in a behemoth of a cask.
Waiting at the bottom of the cellar drop while 72 gallons of super premium American stout shipped carefully and costly half way around the world teetered on the edge was a nervy moment.
Would the crash mat be up to the task of catching almost half a ton of weight? Would the oak panels be sturdy enough to survive the dizzying drop? Would it bounce out of the mat? It’s enormous weight barrelling towards me. In the end all went well and after tasting this hulk of an ale, the cross Atlantic voyage seemed easily worth it. That bourbon vanilla infused corner of the cellar became a popular spot for contemplation, finding people staring thoughtfully at this wonder became a common sight over the course of the weekend.
The selection on offer was bewildering. Even if I could narrow it down to one category, say IPA’s, there were still ten or more excellent examples of this style. Probably just as many stouts and porters. A vast collection of experimental beers. There were even five or six excellent wheat beers, something I until last weekend thought America incapable of. The Flying Dog â€˜In Heat Wheat’, a real treat and revelation, having a deliciously thick and sweet malt back bone excellently delivering on the â€œBirds Eye banana mousseâ€ nose that promised so much. Even with all that rich flavour and huge mouthfeel it still maintained; light, crisp and ultimately refreshing, playing down the cloves and the bitter finish to make this one of the easiest drinking and most satisfying wheat beers I’ve had.
Why had I not tried this sooner?
American wheat beers rock!!
I decided in the end it would be better if I went out and found something myself. A wheat beer. A reasonably rare beer brewed by possibly the modern godfather of wheat beers. Belgian brewing legend, Pierre Celis. Milkman turned brewer, Celis was the creator of the now world famous â€˜Hoegarden Wit’. Unfortunately for Celis, his brewery burnt down in the 80’s and without proper insurance was unable to raise the money to start again on his own. Sadly this meant selling to beer giants, InBev.
Celis later opened a brewery in Austin, Texas and released â€˜Celis White’. Although being Belgian in style, the cowboy lassoing a bull on the front is reassuringly American. And at £1.50 from a local indie beer shop in Finsbury Park, was a bargain.
Pouring a light lemony colour, it’s a well carbonated beer leaning towards the citrus scented side of the spectrum with a decent amount of fresh peach and apricot coming through on the nose. Just a hint of bread and Belgian funk remained in the background adding another much appreciated dimension. A much lighter body than I remember Hoegarden having, helps this masterpiece glide down extremely easily; the crispness of the carbonation and slight clovey herbal snap asserting itself to give a punchy yet refreshing bite to the beer. As the beer warmed the sweet soft fruit flavours radiated more making this one hell of a hot summers day drink. Perfect food match for barbecued anything. But a fat chunk of Texas T-bone steak seems fitting, the citrusy edge cutting through the fat and a big enough smack of sweet spiciness to go toe to toe with any USDA beef.
Well the monkey of disappointment seems to have been tamed by this beer wonder and I’ve finished a whole 11 minutes before kick off is due. A new love and respect of American beers has been found and the kettle seems to have just boiled. I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog and I hope France win later tonight as I have beer money riding on it.