This is an episode of the Living Proof Brew Cast.
Our fourth interview, on the 3rd day of Balticon, was with Scott Roche, who is a writer, editor, podcaster, and homebrewer. We cracked open the Duclaw Exile Series X-1, an imperial chocolate rye porter, which reminded us very strongly of the coffee stout Scott shared with us last year. That homebrew had a very strong, distinctive coffee flavor, recognizably Eight O’Clock Coffee. Scott generously explained in his own words how he created this beer, a technique that turned out to be surprisingly simple. He described how he intends to approach this beer differently next time, most notably adding a measure of cold brew coffee right before the bottling.
Scott is clearly a research geek whose inclination serves him well in homebrewing. He also credited his home state, North Carolina, as being a wonderful place for home and craft brewing right now. In particular he talked about how and why several craft brewers are moving into Asheville in particular. As the craft brewers have moved in, they have been directly helping smaller businesses and investing in the community, moves that are hardly surprising especially given the ecological consciousness of New Belgium and Sierra Nevada in particular.
We continued to follow Scott on a talk through of the great breweries in his state, starting with Wedge and continuing with Foothills, in Winston-Salem. The latter bought Carolina Brewing Company mostly for the marriage of that added capacity with Foothills’ wonderful recipes, like a strawberry beer Scott mentioned.. John admired the skill it takes to produce beers that work well with strawberry and banana. We had a banana beer later in the con and Chooch shared a banana bread beer with us some time ago, one that it sounds like Scott has also had. Bananas put us in mind of chimps, monkeys and civets, perhaps not the best combination with beer. Maybe a civet coffee beer but let’s stay away from other notorious monkey habits.
As the beer we were drinking warmed, it reminded me of the 2X Milk Stout from Southern Tier. Scott has enjoyed many of the same Southern Tier beers, including Creme Brulee and Pumking. He had the latter on draft in a little hole in the wall local pub. John recommended Unearthly and Hoppe and the unfiltered blend of those two, Gemini. I explained the amazing mouth feel that Gemini has, something in common with Dogfish Head Squall.
Scott then mentioned something I had not heard of before but John had, a randall. Foot Hills has offered their People’s Porter that they randalled through cocoa nibs. If you want an over the top treat, apparently you can then take this version of the beer two doors down and get a scoop of Wolfie’s Custard to drop in it. Asheville sounds like even a more magical place than this would let on as Scott explained some of the businesses that combine other services with a little brew pub or tap house, like a gas station. We speculated on why this would be the case versus other areas. Scott revealed how surprisingly diverse this area is with several strong, recognizable sub-populations that lead to a weird nexus of awesome. The example he offered was Pisgah, which offers The Dancing Hobo, the creation story of which is also a unique admixture, literally; they won’t be able to re-create this odd mix of flavors made over time.
The story behind this beer reminded me of the one behind the infused beers that Bret and Eric at Growlers of Gaithersburg made over the course of last Summer. We had talked about these beers before but were sharing for the benefit of Scott who we have not yet been able to take to our home brewpub. We described another talent Bret and Eric possess as epitomized by the Thai One On, beers that shouldn’t work based on the description but totally do in the tasting. We mentioned the Pappy van Warhammer that we brought to the con to share, so we at least were able to offer Scott a taste later on.
Scott was at the Green Man, speaking of cask aged beers. The had their ESB both kegged and casked. He was amazed at the different this one change makes. I was reminded of Thirsty Bear, one of my favorite spots in San Francisco well known for its cask beer. The mention of an ESB took me back to another casked beer, one that Heavy Seas tapped at a fun event at the brewery a few years back. John and I talked a bit about the history of Heavy Seas, another of our local breweries, and I shared some news I’d heard of them moving into a larger facility. Scott did have a chance to try Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, not entirely to his taste as a stout and porter drinker, but recognizable for being well crafted.
Scott has been getting into fruit beers more lately. Fruit beers are the only kind that John and Scott can share with their wives consistently. Most recently Scott and his wife had what sounded like an amazing fresh peach beer. Scott recommended ciders for those who like fruit beers. This reminded John of one he has enjoyed recently, Fox Barrel pear cider. Scott recommended a recent sort of beer concoction he had in a little pub in The Woodlands in Texas, a Guiness and pear cider. John asked and Scott confirmed that a pairing like that is consistent with his love of cooking. Passion for good food we are finding to be a very common trait among beer lovers and home brewers.
Scott talked a bit about his experience of the con. As an author it was really busy but he and some fellows went in jointly on a table in the dealer room affording them all a bit more flexibility rather than being tied to the table the whole time. The opportunities for him as a writer are what keep bringing Scott back to Balticon, for which we are grateful, as he then has the opportunity to share beer with us and stories of the Big Rock Candy Mountain that is Asheville. But with beer. Or both. Or rock candy beer.
We next cracked open another local Maryland beer, the Sea Nymph from Heavy Seas which was a light, Summer beer. A palate cleanser if you will. I was the only one who had this beer previously. I picked some up at D’vines in Columbia Heights. I grabbed some Curiosity Cola there too for a coworker who doesn’t drink, though the rest of us enjoy them largely as mixers. On first taste, this beer took Scott immediately back to the sea air where he grew up, on the Outer Banks. All three of us have a shared love of the Outer Banks, unlike any other. John in particular enjoys eating at Blue Point that takes pains to hire on the same crew year after year. Scott recommended Mama Kwan’s, especially the garbage plate. It is a generous helping of jasmine rice with vegetables, having a heavy Caribbean influence fused with Asian flavors.
This beer put me in mind of another new seasonal from a favorite local brewery, Atlantic Lager from Flying Dog. Nuanced and subtle beers like these two brought to John’s mind an article, one that’s rather debatable, noting that some brewers are making beers specifically for each gender. We normally tend to reject that any particular beer is narrow to any particular palate, gender based or note. Case in point is how well all of us were able to appreciate the light, delicate flavors of the Sea Nymph after the much stronger flavors of the previous beer. The mention of strong flavors brought up the stinky weasel juice, Fernet Branca, again. Scott suggested it might fit in well with the odd Victorian flavors he was reading about in Steam Drunk, including interesting punches. John and Mia were at a Victorian dance class in the last couple of days where the instructor was talking about the strong drink in which people at that time indulged. An excellent resource for more information is the video series, The Supersizers Go… which had a Victorian episode among others.
The talk of food, drink and parties put us in mind of the need for a brew day, soon. Green Grass and High Tide is next up, a beer that Scott had a chance to taste. This made Scott think of an odd beer a musician friend of his made, one of his first, a mint tea beer. It took three years but on recently tasting, the friend apparently remarked it finally tasted good. We then got onto odd flavors, in particular on the sour end, like guezes that Chooch and Scott were discussing when they shared the stale vatted IPA. As bad a job as we often do in explaining why to try beers that require a more tolerant palate, it is worth trying just to see, not like a tazer to the tender bits which we all agree need not be experienced to know it isn’t worth it.
From there we got into our shared interest in cocktails, in particular how today we have more access to more tastes and experiences from all across the range of the past. As a writer, Scott has been especially interested in the stories and context around these flavors. John tied it to something that is probably hard wired into our nervous system and Scott offered another example about the human response to the pentatonic scale. That universality of experience was an excellent note on which to end the wonderful, far ranging chat.
You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.
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