This is an episode of the Living Proof Brew Cast.
On our last brew day, we absconded into my lab to record as we often do while the wort chills. The beer we finished making was the second version of my Sun-dial in the Shade oatmeal stout. Chooch joined us to help brewing and brought some beers to share and taste from his recent travels to New Mexico.
Version 2.0 of the Sun-dial may just narrowly escape being an instructive failure due to my inattention. It tasted wonderful all throughout the process, we discussed why I was concerned. We are optimistic that it will be a happy accident rather than a failure, time will tell.
Before getting into the beers Chooch brought, I shared some thoughts from my most recent trop, this time to Paris, a city sorely wanting for local beers. My quest there may have been entirely quixotic but I can’t help my beer loving nature. Wilfort was the only French brewery I sampled, their brown ale. It was truly unremarkable–I cannot even find any information on the brewery. My fellow beer geeks must have known already this beer was simply not worth it. Mid-week I gave up and simply enjoyed the other things on offer and there was much to enjoy in terms of food, wine and spirits.
Chooch asked me about the logistical side of my world travels, which thankfully are done for the year.. Budapest is an excellent destination for the beer questing traveling as the food is good and cheap and there are both good local and regional beers on offer. Brussels is not as cheap but not surprisingly a beer mecca, a must go destination. Despite my frustration at not finding any good local or regionalbeer in Paris, I finally found a likely spot for my next visit there, Cafe Martini. I warned that Paris is not cheap, except perhaps for breakfast which is traditionally just pastry and coffee. I would say the cost is worth it as the city is gorgeous and the food and wine is heavenly.
I had some excellent recommendations from my dad, a much more deeply experienced world traveler. I talked aboutone of those places, Le DeVez, right near the river and across the street from Chez Francis, another one. Le DeVez is known for its Aubrac beef and the hostess was the first local who warmly humored my interest in both local beer and food. If you prefer seafood, Chez Francis is worth trying. Both places are near an excellent view of the tower and a short walk from the Champs-Elysees.
I led us to chat quite a bit longer on food, including foie gras and andouillette. This reminded Chooch of This American Life’s Annual Poultry Slam. I could not find the one to which he referred that discussed at length foie gras, in particular a fellow arguably producing a more humane but just as delicious version.
We finally got to why Chooch was on the show. He explained his recent trip and thought process around the beers he brought back to share. He found Jubilation Fine Wines as a local source after not finding too much in the way of brewpubs or taphouses. The profusion of West Coast beers was staggering–Deschutes, Stone, and more. He grabbed two New Mexican beers and two regionals we don’t get out here.
While I was chatting to cover the time it took us to pour, the topic of my various bottle openers came up. I have a lovely one made from recycled bicycle parts that was a gift from a fellow beer geek, Dr. John Cmar. In the lab, though, I use a Klein bottle opener from Bathshebao. It tickles my math geekery, beer geekery and, as a 3D printed object, my tech geekery.
The first beer we opened was a collaboration from Stone with a chef and another brewery. It was a Japanese green tea IPA, the proceeds from which went to benefit disaster victims in Japan. This was a very delicate, subtle beer, quite beautiful with bottle notes entirely in Japanese. We wondered if there might be a hint of seaweed in the beer but pinned it down to perhaps some extra tannins from the tea. This put me in mind of mead, in particular the use of tea for the necessary tannins. I suspect I could find a good single floral source honey to pair with green tea to evoke a similar, subtle and nuanced flavor. I think we agreed that this is not a complex taste you want every day but well worth trying if you have the opportunity.
Chooch asked with what food would we pair this beer. John came up with a catfish dish with green tea infused rice at a local favorite Thai restaurant, Thai Tanium. John completely won the food pairing round, the dish in question sounded amazing.
Pre-recorded Chooch interrupted live Chooch to explain how to cheer in Japan.
Beer number two was Monk’s Ale, a beer made at a monastery in New Mexico, Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The beer is distributed more widely than we expected, even to eastern Pennsylvania. They even offer direct internet sales where it is legal.
This time while Chooch poured, we took off on a tangent about New Orleans, both in jest and in earnest. There is a lot of good food on offer in Lousiana, if you like cajun, creole and seafood.
This beer definitely had the very recognizable yeast profile we’ve found in European abbey ales of all kinds. Of all the beer Chooch tried on this trip, this was his favorite. John teased out a hint of smoke or peat. There was a wonderful complexity, much more drinkable than the first beer. Both beers were only 12oz bottles, this one we could have enjoyed more though we recognized it was wise with its gravity to have only 4oz each.
John talked a bit about his own recent travels, to New York for his new job and a while back to Chicago where he met up with a good friend of mine, Randy of Beatnik Turtle. I mentioned Blind Tiger as a place I need to go (John got to visit it since we recorded.) I would also like to return to Heartland and The Ginger Man on my next visit to New York. We agreed that both beer and food questing can be integrated even into a busy, busy trip for work.
Chooch talked about how recent craft brewing is in New Mexico. He saw a piece in the city paper discussing it, about the camaraderie among the new, small commercial brewers. It also made sense of why he could not find much in the way of tap houses and brew pubs. John asked after other places Chooch could have gone or might go on his next trip to New Mexico, like Santa Fe and Taos.
Chooch admitted he doesn’t care for New Mexican food, that he has a much stronger love of Mexicali food rather than Tex Mex. This presents a challenge in his marriage as Viv leans much more strongly towards Tex Mex. John threw in another regional taste, Baja, which we all agreed on. The discussion reminded me of the wonderful fish tacos my wife makes, that combines a hot, mango salsa with a crisp, fresh slaw.
Another draw in terms of tourism is ballooning. Chooch explained why the annual balloon fest and race convenes in New Mexico. The early morning preparations not surprisingly coincide with local flavors in coffee and breakfast burritos featuring green chiles. The first flights, the Dawn Patrol, is a striking image as is the Mass Ascension, which is nowhere near as cultish as it sounds.
We returned to the beer about which we agreed with Chooch’s assessment as one of the best from his trip. We touched again on our appreciation for both the monastic traditions involving beer and the general historical and archeological context of the discovery of both brewing and baking.
You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.
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