Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Black Dog Jaggery Ale


Throughout his life, Winston Churchill would lie in bed for days, crippled by deep depression.  He described these periods as his “Black Dog” days.  What an incredible man who could still manage to work fiendishly during these bouts, commanding naval maneuvers or orchestrating The Battle of Britain while the “Black Dog came to visit, and lay on my chest”, as Churchill would say.  I guess naming his angst was his way of controlling and isolating it – it wasn’t who he was -- he wouldn’t let it define him.  It was this “other thing” that came to visit periodically, but could be tricked into eventually leaving, like a stray dog.

This English ale is exactly the kind of drink you might offer a man during those dark days, and our current ones – dark, strong, with a peppery mix of ginger, anise, cardamom and allspice – a tonic to warm the soul.  This one is for the strong of heart, as strong as the Lion of Winter himself.  My homage:

Fo’ when the black dog crush your vest,                                                Take a nip,                                                            Mister,                                                                                                                       You’ll earn the rest                                                                                           Fo’ kith, ‘n kin, and hearth, and valor                                               Blood, sweat, tears, toil, guts and pallor                                              Take a nip, and tuck it in                                                                                   and face the belt, like Gunga Din                                                                So’s brace yourself,                                                                                          with all your might                                                                                           With one good drink,                                                                                            For ONE more fight.

Bully for you Mr. Churchill.  Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 lbs dark dry malt extract
  • 3.3 lbs liquid dark malt extract
  • ½ lb. chocolate malt
  • ¾ lb. crystal 40L
  • 2 oz. Cascade (bittering)
  • 1 oz. Willamette (aroma)
  • 6 gals. spring water
  • 3 lbs. ginger (40 oz. after skin is peeled) – 30 oz. at 45 mins., 10 oz. at 5 mins.
  • 1 lb. Piloncillo sugar (Jaggery)
  • 1 lb. lactose
  • Wyeast 1968 (English So., because it ferments-out with residual sweetness)
  • Dry-hopped with black Indian cardammom, sasparilla, star anise, and allspice
  • ¾ cup corn sugar (priming)

Brewed May 2008.  With the 3 pounds of ginger I was aiming for a huge peppery-heat flavor, but didn’t realize how astringent ginger can be – waited 8 months for the ginger to drop out, then dosed it with the other spices to develop more complexity and balance in the spice profile.  It worked.  Bottled April 2009.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

La Saison Noire


Uh, no, I don’t smoke, those are joke photos.

This is my interpretation of a French Flanders black saison, using Wyeast’s private collection #3711 French Saison Yeast.  The ingredients are very simple, but develop complex flavors during fermentation as a result of the unique yeast – phenolic, citrusy, peppery, dry with a sweet aftertaste.

  • 1 lb. Belgian Caramunich
  • 0.5 lbs. Belgian Carafa III
  • 6 lbs. Pilsen Malt Syrup
  • 1 lb. Pilsen Dry Malt Extract
  • 2 oz. Argentina Cascade (bittering)
  • Wyeast #3711 French Saison Yeast - Fermented at 68°F.

The label is inspired by an African independent film, “Une Saison Noire”, literally One Black Season.  The lobby poster features black revolutionaries and machine guns, so I had my daughters snap some mock “Che” revolutionary leader photos.  The middle photo is licensed from a stock photo company, but the other two are me.  The cigarette is not real – I don’t smoke – but every picture of French Resistance Fighters you ever see has one guy with a cig, so I thought it would be funny.  My 8-yr-old snapped the left panel pic – I think she shows some real promise. 

Brewed November 2008, bottled March 2009 in 22 oz. Bombers.