The recent explosion in the craft brewing industry has led to some interesting experimentation. Some of this has resulted in legitimate new beer styles (e.g. the amorphously named Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale/Imperial Black Ale style), as well as traditional styles being amped up to almost insane levels (note the ubiquitous, ever-stronger and -hoppier Imperial IPAs). One particularly interesting pattern that has begun to gain traction in recent years is the so-called “mash-up”, “mixed” or “hybrid” beer style. This is essentially when brewers combine the attributes of multiple (and sometimes quite diverse) beer styles into a single brew. An excellent example of this is the Terrapin brewery’s Pumpkinfest (half Oktoberfest or Marzen Lager and half spiced Pumpkin Ale) that Brother Barley recently reviewed. Such an interesting trend in the brewer’s craft certainly cannot remain unaddressed by the Aleheads, and so I give you this week’s Conundrum: Tell us what two beer styles you think would make the best ‘mash-up’.
The rules are simple. Give us your mash-up, tell us why you think these styles would make an interesting combination, and then tell us what two beers from a single brewery you think would be a good example of this “new” style. For example: Medium Lager. A combination of a light lager and a standard lager. The perfect version: Bud Medium. Half Bud Light and half Budweiser. All the negatives and none of the positives (positives?) of the “King of Beers” and his mewling little brother.
COMMANDER PINT O. CHUG
What a great Conundrum. Unfortunately, I am kind of a literal thinker. Since I can’t even fathom what two styles mashed up would taste like, I’m going to stick with beers that I can actually recreate at home. Additionally, as a result of having tried a few atrocious mash-ups in my day (Saranac Black & Tan, anyone?), I can’t think of a worse use of two good brews than dumping them together. So if I owned a brewery, I would combine two of my least favorite beers into a mash-up I’ll call “48 Things I Hate About Shiner Bock.” As luck would have it, I can “brew” this unquaffable concoction from two ingredients I have on hand in my very own kitchen. Incidentally, I’ve been eager to use them up.
Reason #48 why I should never go to the grocery store thirsty: Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA. I was euphoric when I recently discovered that my local grocery store (Kroger, if you must know) now carries Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. As having fewer than four Two Hearteds in my fridge constitutes a critically low supply, this discovery theoretically should cut in half the number of stops I have to make each weekend on my grocery store run. However, since man cannot live on Bell’s Two Hearted alone (seriously–it is like a prison diet!!), I had to pick a second six pack from the selection at the grocery store.
Enter Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA. In my defense, my thinking in buying this was that while I don’t care for Sam Adams’ beers all that much, that might be because it’s usually* the styles they make that I don’t like: whatever Boston Lager is, wheat beers with fruit in them, bocks, and a not-lambic lambic with fruit in it. Cheers. And, I thought, it’s not like Samuel Adams doesn’t know how to brew good beer. Apparently I was mistaken.
*I don’t mind the Scotch Ale, but the Cream Stout reminds me of Guinness that’s been sitting out in a plastic cup overnight. You’ve tried the leftovers from the Spanish Armada pong game–don’t deny it.
The Latitude 48 tastes like Budweiser with tons of hops in it. It smells like it, too. The hop flavor is pretty bitter with an aftertaste. The beer is not well-balanced. I would give it 1.5 hops, which is less than I gave the Ithaca Apricot Wheat (I regret rating that beer so highly, but I am mindful of Brother Barley’s fiat that we don’t revise history here at Aleheads).
As I mentioned in another recent Conundrum, someone brought over a six-pack of Shiner Bock and I have one left over–too few for chili and I am definitely not drinking it. Most of our readers are familiar with Shiner Bock, but for those who aren’t, it’s a beer that people who don’t know shit about beer think of as good beer. It reminds me of a dark version of Honey Brown: smells like beer, tastes like beer, has 4.4% ABV but three times as many calories as Bud Light.
So when Beerford proposed “mash-ups” for this week’s Conundrum, after my initial revulsion passed, I thought, “What better use for the two* least drinkable beers in my fridge than mixing up a mock batch of my imaginary brewery’s signature mash-up (and spilling out the rest)?”
* I’m not proud of this, but I pawned off three of the Latitude 48s on unsuspecting guests. Sorry guys. I hope I redeemed myself with the Two Hearteds I poured in round two.
Commander’s 48 Things I Hate About Shiner Bock is the shittiest beer ever made. It looks like tobacco spit. It smells like the floor of my parents’ house the day after a bunch of yobs crashed a party I mentioned on Facebook*–aromas of staleness, bitterness, and squandered youth. Mixing the beers together produced a dull beige foam that subsided to reveal… more tobacco spit. I don’t know what the mouthfeel was because I threw up in my mouth upon taking the first sip. The taste was indescribable: slightly smoky, bitter, with a disgusting aftertaste (not to mention the vomit). Not even the Most Interesting Man In The World would touch this beer. But since I “brewed” it myself, I give it 3.5 hops. You know, to be modest. Bottoms up.
* OK, this never happened.
DR. RIPPED VAN DRINKALE, III
Mash-ups seem fairly easy in theory – “Hey I love IPA’s and I love I love Pilsners, let’s just brew an IPA-Pilsner”. Not so fast skippy. The thing is, you can’t just brew whatever you want and think you’ll have an outcome that’s any more than a bucket of sugary water that may or may not ferment as intended. We’re not talking about just brewing two beers and mixing them together before bottling, we’re talking about an actual hybrid style. Think of Terrapin’s Hop Karma IPA or Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale. In Terrapin’s case, they took the stylings of a West Coast IPA and mixed things up with a rich, malty base reminiscent of a Brown Ale. In the end you’re left with a Brown IPA, not a Brown Ale mixed with an IPA. Dogfish Head went one step further and created a beer with a malty base (Brown Ale), hop-forward profile (IPA), and slightly sweet and smokey finish (Scotch Ale). To me, that’s the ultimate mash-up of styles. If you tried to do my original example, an IPA crossed with a Pilsner, you’d be trying to brew a hoppy Ale while also trying to brew a dry, crisp Lager. Different yeasts, different fermentation temps, just different beers all together. Sure, you could pour yourself a little half-and-half with an IPA and a Pilsner, but that’s not a mash-up my friends.
To answer Beerford’s question, what two styles would make the best mash-up, I’m going to step out of my West Coast wheelhouse and hop overseas to the more traditional environs of Germany. In a prior Conundrum on Black & Tans, I mentioned that my goal in choosing the ultimate pairing is to pick a Black that accentuates the Tan (Or vice versa). Same goes for my mash-up pairing. I’m taking a rather pedestrian style, Marzen, and mashing it up with a funkier style that won’t necessarily turn it up to 11, but at least push it up to 7 or 8. I give you the Marzen/Schwarzbier Lager hybrid. When I tear into any Marzen (Call it Oktoberfest if you want) I find myself enjoying a rich, bready, slightly toasty brew with a touch of sweetness at the end of a mild alcohol burn. Not the most interesting style in the world, but certainly something I enjoy at the end of Fall and in the early Spring. To make it more interesting I figure you can fill half the bill with typical Schwartzbier stylings, which will give a darker profile but also end up with a lighter body with a distinctly bitter hop finish. I’m thinking you’ll get a beer that’s reddish to amber in color, has a biscuity nose, and ends up bitter on the finish. The brew will be so easy-drinking in terms of body and mouthfeel that you’ll want to drink it year-round. You’ll convince yourself that it’s dark enough for Winter but light enough for Summer. At least that’s my hope.
The only brewery that I would want to brew this mash-up would be Kulmbacher. Their Monschof Schwarzbier is the best I’ve ever had and their Marzen is, well, it tastes like a Marzen. I’m sure they could pull this off, but is there any chance you could get a traditional German brewer to break from tradition and mix up two distinctly different styles? I’m thinking no. Any way we can convince Terrapin to start brewing Lagers?
*Doctor’s Note: I just remembered that Brother Barley sent me the Terrapin’s Boom Shakalager a few months ago which was, of course, awesomly Lagertastic. I’ll take a page out of the Commander’s book and stick to my original response though.
* When will WordPress come out with a Sarcasm button for text formatting, like they have for bold and italic?
How about some of these awesome mashups:
Boston Brewing Company – Jim Koch mashes Samuel Adams Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale) + Samuel Adams Light (Light Lager) = After a hard day of work at the office, nothing goes down like a “Scotch and Water”.
The Bruery – Rugbrod (Rye Beer) + Black Tuesday (Imperial Stout) = Stop thief! Stop him! He’s got my “Marble Rye”!
Atlantic Brewing Company – Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale (Fruit Beer) + Brother Adam’s Braggot Ale (Braggot) = Fruitiness redefined: “The Fraggot”
Avery Brewing Company – White Rascal (Witbier) + Black Tot (Imperial Stout) = Yo Danger Mouse… pour me “The Grey Album”.
Russian River Brewing – Supplication (Wild Ale) + Publication (Farmhouse Ale) = They took the bar? The whole fucking bar? Then I’ll have an “Animal House”.
Kulmbacher Brauerei AG – EKU Hell (Munich Helles Lager) + Reichelbrau Eisbock (German Ice Beer) = “Helles Freezes Over” or…
Reichelbrau Eisbock + Kulmbacher Alcoholfrei (Low alcohol beer) = You slip out of your depth and out of your mind, with your beer flowing out of your glass, as you drink a “Thin Ice”
So you say these are impossible, Doc? “Different yeasts, different fermentation temps, just different beers all together.”? Well that’s up to you nerds in production to figure out. I’m the marketing guy, and these mashups practically sell themselves.
I could come up with more of these**, but think I’ll call it quits here. Besides, as you can tell I’ve already put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into this post.***
BROTHER BARLEY MCHOPS
Ah, my fellow Aleheads. Notice how the Commander and Slouch Sixpack delve deep into this Conundrum without actually having any idea what the question is? In Slouch’s case, it’s because he simply doesn’t care. When he doesn’t like a question, he just answers another one:
Slouch, what’s the capital of Mozambique?
Regardless, Slouch’s responses were amusing, so I’ll just enjoy them as if they were part of the “Come up with funny names when two beers are accidentally poured together” Conundrum.
In the Commander’s case, it’s more about a basic unwillingness to accept that he doesn’t understand the question (a flaw, I should note, that I share with him in spades). Rather than do some research to determine exactly what he should be writing about, he simply spews out an answer and defends it passionately. In the real world he is, as you might suspect, a lawyer. And although I have not had need of his services (yet), I would venture to say that his skill-set lends itself remarkably well to his profession. When I need an attorney, he’ll be on my short list.*
*When I need free legal advice and free beer in the same institution, however, I’ll of course be visiting Magnus’s future lawfirm/tavern, Law & Porter.
So while the Commander may be right about Shiner Bock and Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA being utter abominations of brewing (the jury is still out on the Sam Adams since I haven’t sampled it yet), I’m not sure what they have to do with Beerford’s question. We’re talking about the best possible mash-ups…in other words, if you were to create a new beer style that was a hybrid of other styles, what would be the best amalgam you could devise? It has nothing to do with mixing two bottles of beer together (see our Black & Tan Conundrum if you want to read about blending brews).*
*I should point out that in typical Commander fashion, he asked the rest of us what a mash-up was AFTER he wrote his piece. And then, in even MORE typical Commander fashion, he didn’t bother changing his response when he discovered he wasn’t answering the right question. Again, the man is probably a great lawyer.
Doc, as always, has the right idea. I don’t necessarily agree with his argument that you can’t create a good IPA/Pilsner hybrid…there are some pretty good Imperial Pilsners* out there that do a nice job blending the seemingly disparate notes of a Double IPA and a Pilsner. But I absolutely agree with his point that you can’t just mix two great styles together and expect great results. I love Flemish Sours and Russian Imperial Stouts…but I don’t need a Flemish Imperial Stout. I don’t think anyone does.
*Doc rightly points out that Imperial Pilsners aren’t true mash-ups, but a lot of breweries these days are making Pilsner beers with Imperial IPA hop profiles. I consider that pretty close to what we’re talking about.
So what’s Brother Barley’s Mash-up of choice? I’m going Tim Duncan on your ass and presenting the Double Dubbel.
Dubbel’s (sometimes called Belgian Strong Dark Ales) are some of the best brews on Earth. They’re mostly malt-bombs, but they usually have a big dose of fruity esters, some sourness, and the classic Belgian yeast funk. While I loves me some Dubbels, they can sometimes be a little too sugary sweet since they don’t have much in the way of a hop profile to cut through the malt. Enter the Double IPA. The prototypical American brew, the Double (or Imperial) IPA is a hop-forward, bitter monster with plenty of malt to give it body and balance the citric and/or piney hops. While I truly love the style, some examples are simply TOO hop-forward and end up being a bit one-note. So why not create a hybrid between the two? Both are high-gravity brews with plenty of malt so there’s no concern about one style over-powering the other. The candi-sugar sweetness of a Dubbel would mesh wonderfully with the uber-hoppy Double IPA…plus you have the sour and funk of the Dubbel and the biscuity pale malt bill of the Imperial playing off each other. Sounds perfect to me.
There actually aren’t too many breweries making a high-quality Dubbel AND a high-quality Double IPA.* That’s mainly because the former is mostly the domain of Belgian brewers and the latter is predominantely made in the good ol’ U.S.A. But one of the Baron’s favorite Ale Factories, Goose Island, actually makes two beauties: the Pere Jacques (a very good Dubbel), and their cleverly-titled Imperial IPA (despite the lack of creativity in the name, it’s a perfect example of the style). If the good folks at Goose Island managed to create a mash-up of those two brews, yours truly would be the first in line for a sample.
*Another side-note to the Commander’s response…Beerford asked for our hypothetical mash-up to be represented by two beers from the same brewery. So of course, Pint O.’s beers are from two completely different ale factories. Nice. At least Slouch got that part right.
Well, it’s nice to see that the Aleheads can read. Sort of. Our dear Commander has never particularly enjoyed following directions (I think he refers to this behavior as ‘refusing to accept the premise of the question”), and I’ll assume that Mr. Sixpack was probably wasted when he typed his contribution (unless it’s Sunday morning, “The Pack” is always wasted (Sundays are reserved for his weekly god-hangover)), but fortunately Brother Barley and the good Doctor had something at least moderately useful to say on the subject. Though I must note that I’ve long been an advocate for a sarcasm font. In any case, those of you who have read an entry or two on this blog certainly don’t expect sense out of this lot. This week, in the finest of Alehead style, I’d say we more than delivered. This must, of course, leave you eagerly salivating for more next week. I’ll see you then.