Land of A 1001 Recipes For Bull Testicles

The title is an obscure reference to a line uttered by Travel Channel host turned drunken crazy cat lady Samantha Brown. It was background noise, essentially, that largely went unnoticed during an early scene in last years “No Reservation” quasi-demented Christmas special. It spoke to her “anger” at the kinds of travel shows that have largely replaced hers. That line is now officially outdated, for now we live in the land of a 1002 recipes for bull testicles! Last April the Colorado brew pub Wynkoop, as an April Fools joke, made a video for a new Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. Several months later that joke has become reality – Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. That “extreme” brew will be served at the pub as well as at their booth at The Great American Beer Festival later this month. The oyster stout, which they are jokingly riffing on, is a great thing. Harpoons 100 Barrel Series Island Creek Oyster Stout is a wonderful beer, but who’s style is grounded in an old world brewing tradition. The Rocky mountain version seems to be rooted in the pursuit of the newest extreme beer. This all brings me to today’s post, and gimmicks in the brewing world.

Since this may be a one off brew, I’ll likely never have an opportunity to try it. For all I know the rocky mountain oysters, much like the oceanic variety, add complementary mineral/earthy notes that work well with the roasty/toasty stout. Really this just seems like another pointless gimmick. Pointless gimmicks seem to be popping up more and more lately. A fair number of breweries seem to be running out of new ideas, and are now dumping odd ball beers on the market. I’m all for thinking outside the box in combining non traditional ingredients in beer. Adding chicory root or gesho root to a stout, ala Dogfish Head, seems odd but is grounded in rationality. After all what would a trip to New Orleans be with out a piping hot cup o’ chicory infused joe. Their New England brethren on the other hand seem up to adding anything, regardless of rationale, to their brews. Magic Hat Brewing Company has become somewhat known for the oddball and gimmicky brews. I like beets just fine, but adding beet extract to beer is just stupid. Their beet infused summer seasonal Wacko, while not a drain pour, just didn’t add up to being a good beer. Adding beets to a beer is one of the more rational things they have done. They were, to my knowledge any ways, the first commercial brewery to add garlic to beer. “Ale Of The Living Dead” was by most accounts godawful beer. Plausibly this beer could have been a decent beer to cook with, but drinking…ehh not so much. In a similar fashion from the west coast we get another beer that’s a better cooking ingredient than drink – Saison Du Buff. This was a collaborative brew from Stone Brewing Company, Victory Brewing Company, and Dogfish Head Brewery. It’s a saison flavored with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. I swear I’m missing some epic Simon and Garfunkel joke w/ the label or description on the bottle….Anyways I should move on before I end up going “A Beautiful Mind” crazy…..All I could think about while drinking said beer is how good this could be in a poultry marinade. Moving beyond oddball vegetables, roots, or herbs we come to one of the most popular gimmicks – Chiles.

Adding Chiles to beer can go either way. Various fresh and dried chiles offer a range of flavors, as well as varying heat levels. The smokey, spicy chipotle pepper can be used quite well. Rogue Brewery in Oregon makes a delicious chipotle ale. That brew immediately reminds of a mildly spicy version of a German Rauchbier(smoked lager). It pairs well with grilled or BBQed meats. One of my all time favorite brews, and ultimately a gimmicky beer unto itself, Weasel Rodeo also uses chipotle peppers well. The peppers there just add a hint spice and smoke. There is so much going in that beer from the kitchen sink malt bill, to the Kopi Luwak coffee($200/lb cat crap coffee!!), that the chiles blend into the backdrop well. More often than not chiles beers are just a gimmick seeking to make fiery hot beer. Cave Creek Chili Beer fits squarely into that category. Its nothing more than a generic, and poorly made, American style light lager flavored with Serrano peppers. Think Corona with some chile burn. Taking things to new extremes we get Ghostface Killah from Colorado’s Twisted Pine brewery. Ghostface Killah is a legendarily good solo rapper, as well as Wu Tang Clan member. Does the beer baring his namesake achieve equal legend status? I can’t say. I’m not sure I’ll ever give this beer a go. This beer is brewed with several different Chile varieties, including habeneros and the infamous ghost pepper(one of the hottest peppers on Earth). I have yet to have a bad beer from Twisted Pine. There is just no way this beer can be anything but a nuclear explosion of heat. I love spicy, but I just don’t think I have the iron stomach necessary to drink this stuff. The most interesting beer in this category probably goes to Ithaca Brewing Company in New York. They had a one off draft only beer called Tastes Like Burning (Ralph Wiggums Revenge). They won over my heart with a classic Simpsons line. Its one of the few gimmicky beers I wish I could have tasted. They took two beer trends to illogical extremes – chile beers and barrel aging. This was a brew aged in used Tabasco barrels, and seemed to have lived up to its name. Tastes Like burning leads us to another, slightly less gimmicky trend.

Barrel aging is a trend that has really taken off in the last 10 years or so. Every brewery seems to have something thrown into a used bourbon barrel. Results can range from the sublime, to a big boozy mess. Local brewery Rahr and Sons falls closer to the sublime side of the line with their bourbon barrel aged Winter Warmer. Plenty of strong stouts have benefited from some time in a bourbon barrel. This trend, though, is starting to get obsurd. As breweries try to up their game, they are seeking out barrels that housed rarer and rarer bourbons. Its no longer adequate to throw your stout into an old Makers Mark barrel. If your beer is worthy of being drunk these days, it must be aged in some Pappy Van Winkle barrels, or rarer high quality bourbon barrels. That is the impression you get from the beer geek community these days. These rare bourbons cause the beers to have higher prices. $50 to $60’s for a beer seems a bit steep, and I doubt the average person could tell a difference between Makers Mark or Pappy Van Winkle barrels. That said, wake me when somebody throws something in a barrel that housed some George T. Stagg 18 yr. bourbon….I might be willing to bite at almost any price…..hell I might even be willing to commit genocidal level atrocities to get my hands on some. This trend has also caused brewers to seek out other spirit barrels. Brewdog, out of Scotland, has an imperial stout aged in various single malt barrels. The various Scotch regions each have their own distinct flavor profiles. Aging a stout in barrels from one of the various regions may result in a more notable difference between the various bottles. As Brewdog Brewery seems to be nothing but a gimmick, I have yet to try any of their barrel aged stouts. Rogue brewery has also used various other spirit barrels to age their beers in. In a joint effort from their head brewer and head distiller we get their JohnJohn line of beers. Take one of the beers brewed by head brewer John Maier and throw it in a barrel that housed one of John Couchot’s, head distillers, spirits. Seems to be a hit and miss endeavor. The one bottle I have drank, JohnJohn Hazelnut – Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar aged in Rogue rum barrels -, tasted like what I imagine licking the inside of a rum barrel would taste like. It wasn’t a drain pour , but a barely drinkable boozy tannic mess. As it seems every brewery in the country is experimenting with barrel aging this is one gimmick that may be here to stay.

With all these gimmicky beers being brewed it makes me wonder if brewers are forgetting how to brew simple yet solid pale ales, IPAs. or bocks. I hope that’s not the case. There are still plenty of tasty, non gimmick, beers out there to satisfy my palate. To those brewers who will continue to push the envelope with more beers that I can’t help but consider a gimmick, please brew your gimmicks well. Like I’ve said before – If it tastes good I’ll drink it – gimmick or not.

I guess we should end where we began. A nice non sequitur ending – to match many of the non sequitur beers mentioned above – featuring bull testicles and a crazy drunken cat lady!

Tempura Calf Fries

2# cleaned and sliced calf fries
12oz iced cold beer – pilsner or helles
1 3/4 cups flour
2 egg yolks
oil for frying

combine the beer, flour and egg yolks together in a mixing bowl. Whip until the batter is lump free. Heat oil to 350f. Dip the fries in the batter. Fry until golden brown and the calf fries are cooked through. When fresh out of the frier, season with salt and enjoy with the beer and fried food dipping sauce of your choice.


~ by thebrewgeek on Wednesday, October 3, 2012.

One Response to “Land of A 1001 Recipes For Bull Testicles”

  1. Thanks for the shout out #rocknrogue

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