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.