Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stop hiding behind your Fruit of the Looms

Stop putting shit in the beer, stop putting shit in the beer, stop putting shit in the beer. It is a Denis Leary mantra, and I can't imagine Timothy Leary disagreed much either. Choco-Fruit-Pocalypse beers are a pet peeve of mine. Do you need to bourbon barrel age your chocolate cherry stout. Maybe. If it is a good stout, with a reasonable addition of cherries (and chocolate, if you aren't relying on malts to bring that flavor, then some extra character might help. But you have to start with a good base beer! As grandma says, you can't polish a turd. And she's 97, grew up in Hawaii and was a bootlegger, so you know she's seen some stuff and probably did put horse turds in her beer. Hell, I'm going to say she invented it. But good beers with fruit added are rarely what I see at homebrew meetings, where people bring in their second or third beer and it probably got more gravity points from added fruit than any type of character malt. You know who I think brew those beers, these guys:

(I think Leaf might have talked shit about my Porter at the last CBS meeting)

I think there are two reasons this might happen. The first, maybe there are not enough commercial beers around that have fruit in them and people are making homebrew to fill that void. I certainly homebrew to get weird British styes that are hard to find here (except at Goose Island, who seem to think they are a British pub dropped in a disgusting strip mall, may Nisaki bless them and deliver them from the evil of a 49% ownership stake by AnBev).

The second option is that people are trying to hide flaws with fruit. It doesn't work. I'm a novice judge and I'm always at the fruit beer table. Funny story, I didn't think to mention my nut allergy to a competition organizer one day and was almost felled by a Hazelnut Porter. It is BEER! As Laguniutas say on their excellent 13th anniversary beer, "This is a Bronze Age business..." But the fruit and strange flavors prevail. Its tricks, and you don't want to do tricks until you have the basics down. This isn't Tony Hawk, you don't pick up your board and go. You have to learn to skate, then you can try to ollie. Don't try to start with a tail-whip-slide to double-olly through time travel to smacking your own baby bottom before the doctor can at birth while you stare at your own placenta following you out. Leave that until you've mastered getting water, grain, hops and yeast together to make a decent beer. Then be great.

As BJ told me one day when we were kids: Learning to play guitar and then adding effects is heavy metal; using effect pedals to learn guitar is grunge. Who's beer are you going to drink?

(This man has never had a blueberry wheat beer, nor had sex with a groupie that has)

Oh, and I made some rye beer one day but screwed up the yeast. Read all about that here.


  1. Actually, the Mythbusters proved your grandmother wrong. You CAN polish a turd.

  2. I agree, and I don't. My feelings on this are complex, with a creamy mouthfeel and a carmel finish.

    If one were actually working towards becoming a master brewer for some company, absolutely they should tackle one well-established style at a time.

    But to be honest, Paddy and I are just fucking around. We're not making beer as part of a well-structured learning experience, we're doing it just for fun.

    That being said, there is much truth to what you say, and it's backed up by my last Fermentation Friday post. The cherry/honey beer turned out good because it's based on an established recipe. The strawberry/honey beer didn't because it was entirely pulled out of our asses.

    I am not a fruity beer fan, and neither is Paddy. When reaching for a beer, neither or us wants to end up with one of Leary's carnberry fucking nut crunch ale. Trying to make weird stuff like that is just to have some fun, not because it's good beer.