Monday, February 21, 2011

Big Acorn Pecan Ale

Like a lot of beer enthusiasts in North Carolina, I've only come to this recently. In 2005 our state allowed high gravity beers within it's borders. Before that time my favorite beers were Yuengling, Rolling Rock, and Tecate. Which are all still very good, but I wasn't really aware of the diaspora of beers that would begin to flood the market after the law passed.
Then, I had a Chimay "bleu", and I was in love. Then it was Delirium Tremens, then Dogfish Head Black & Blue, then Unibroue Maudite, and on & on. But all these things seemed like impossible Jimmy Page double necked guitar solos. Golden gods, sending down amazingly delicious lightning bolts from the fizzy clouds in beer heaven.

A lot (really, mostly all) of my previous writing has been about music, it's a subject of obsession for me. So, I find it very easy to draw parallels in life to the great rock narrative. Forgive me, here's another. I saw the documentary Beer Wars (available streaming on Netflix), which was like hearing the Ramones for the first time. Realizing that you can take on those golden gods, or maybe, no, that's not it. It's realizing that you don't have to be a golden god to make something you love. In Beer Wars, you're introduced to Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head. You see him in their brewery working on a small batch of something, and my god, that looks like cooking, and I know how to cook. Maybe these people aren't golden gods at all, it finally occurred to me to me that maybe I could do this.

Months later, I finally take my first steps towards brewing. Last month, I made my first small batch, using a Mr. Beer kit I got for Christmas, I made a wheat beer. I felt that I couldn't just make a simple beer, though. I had to bring other flavors and a sense of experimentation to what I was doing. Mr. Beer kits come with a pre-made can of wort (beer before it's fermented). There's only so much fun that you can have with that, so I added a few things. A cup of honey, two clementine peels, and some coriander. It came out pretty damn good, a bright summer wheat which was very easy to drink. There were some glitches, too much priming sugar in the bottles led to way too much carbonation, which ended up completely escaping the crappy plastic bottles that came with the kit.
I took the lessons from that first batch and applied them to the Big Acorn Pecan Ale. A great brown ale with roasted pecan flavor up front and a smooth, slightly sweet brown sugar finish. I used a Mr. Beer Octoberfest Vienna Lager pre-made wort, with booster sugars, brown sugar, and a cup of pecans I dry roasted a day before I brewed. Clocking in at around 5-6% abv, it's got a nice little kick that you won't notice until you've finished your bottle. (I switched to glass bottles after the plastic debacle.) It will make it's debut at my wife and I's couples baby shower.

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