Monday, November 29, 2010

Mocha Death from Iron Horse Brewing

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to pair beer with. When sifting through the wide variety of choices at my local bottle shop, it reminds me how far American craft beer has come in the last twenty years. With maverick Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head going mainstream (which I regard as a good thing) with his show “Brew Masters”, the notion that “beer should taste like beer” is being replaced with, “if it tastes good drink it!” Adjuncts, like corn and rice, once used as filler to cut costs, are being replaced with ingredients like herbs, chocolate, spices, pumpkin, and honey to enhance the flavor of beer. These adjuncts, when used well, can make for some terrific beer pairings for turkey day. There’s beer for the football and snacks, beer with dinner (usually a few varieties), and beer with the pies. Our main pie was a sweet potato and pecan pie, so I chose the Mocha Death from Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, Washington. Despite the slightly intimidating moniker, Mocha Death is an approachable dark ale, brewed with espresso beans and pure cocoa. The result is exactly what you would expect and hope: dark roasted maltiness with just the right hint of coffee and bittersweet chocolate. The espresso beans and cocoa are added to their Quilter’s Irish Death dark ale, which weighs in at 7.8%ABV. Mocha Death is strong, but not over the top by any stretch of the imagination.
Iron Horse brings out Mocha Death in October, and it is a perfect beer for a brisk fall, or cold winter day. I am all for brewers breaking away from the notion that a cold weather seasonal needs to taste like a spice cake and a spruce tree had a 9% alcohol baby, so Mocha Death represents what great craft brewing is all about; bucking tradition, making beer that goes with a great meal, or just to enjoy after a hard day’s work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dark O' the Moon Pumpkin Stout from Elysian Brewing

As a rule, I do generally do not include limited rarities on the best of Washington list. I feel that it’s a little cruel to describe a great beer and then say, “doesn’t that sound good? Well…you can’t get it.” Hopefully everyone who was lucky enough to get a bottle or pint of the Dark O’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout will encourage the good folks at Elysian to brew more next year. Elysian’s Great Pumpkin Beer Festival in mid October is drawing huge crowds every year with countless varieties of pumpkin beers, so they’re more than doing their part to spread word of pumpkin beers, I guess I would just like to see pumpkin beers available through Thanksgiving. I’m pushing for this extension because after one sip of the Dark O’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout, my first thought was that this beer would be perfect with Thanksgiving pies. Dark O’ the Moon has all of the characteristics of my ideal stout:creamy, hints of dark chocolate, with just a faint bitterness. DOM compliments these flavors with pronounced-but not overpowering pumpkin (added three times during the brewing process)-with just a little touch of cinnamon. In short, all of the flavors you would want to accompany your holiday pies.
So, to the folks at Elysian, please, please, please make more of this beer next year (and more Saison Poivre), so everyone in Seattle can have at least one bottle for Halloween, and one for Thanksgiving. Dark O’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout was an exceptional beer that woke up my palate and made me happy to be living during the craft beer revolution. I will be thinking of it wistfully this Thanksgiving.