Friday, January 09, 2009

Turning Wattle Seeds into Lemonade

I have a friend named Christian who is a wine/liquor guy, but lately, he has been wanting -- perhaps to humor yours truly -- to learn more about beer. Every couple of weeks we meet at Wegmans and pick out a couple sixpacks to sample.

One problem: he doesn't like hops, which is basically saying that he doesn't really like beer yet, at least not the full spectrum. Because of this, our trips to Weggie's often consist of my scouring the West Coast and East Coast sections, while he trolls the Belgian and European sections, their beers being more brown sugary-sweet and less hop-intensive.

Personally, I think we all come around to hops in the same way that we all come around to coffee: over time and on that one time that it just hits you the right way. But for the time being, I am trying out a couple odd Euro beers that I wouldn't normally purchase.

Problem was, a few weeks ago -- against my "are you sure?" skepticism -- we picked up a six pack of Baron's Wattle Seed Ale. Apparently, wattleseeds come from the Acacia plant, a pea-like bit of foliage that bears pods. That's right: peas in beer. Other than it's admittedly useful medicinal function (not that I need it, am I right ladies...?) it's not a beer ingredient I would normally fancy. In fact, a bit more knowledge of the Magnoliophyta plant division might have steered us away from this unfortunate choice.

I have to give Christian credit: though he doesn't like hops, his palate is remarkable. He took his first whiff of it and said, "It smells like peas." And at this point neither of us had any idea what a wattleseed was. And boy was he right. It has the aroma of cooked vegetables and cigarette ashes. And as for the taste, imagine a Bass Ale brewed with more brown sugar and boiled broccoli. Please don't hurt yourself driving to the store to get a case.

It's a really dreadful beer, one that I found undrinkable. I drank half of it and poured the rest down the drain. Naturally, Christian gave me three to take home and try out.

Back at Christian's this past week, I brought some beer, including the two remaining Wattle Seed Ales, hoping perhaps to fool him into drinking some more, but also see if I could get it to go down easy. I hate wasting beer, even bad beer, and it's still got alcohol in it for pete sake!

I decided to cut the beer with two American beers with very strong flavors, hoping that they would be enough to grab those little wattleseeds by the throat and beat them into submission.

The first test was Stone's Arrogant Bastard Ale. Stone is one of my favorite breweries, but I have had Arrogant Bastard more times than I can count this year. Plus it's abundant and cheap, so if I ruined a bottle, I wouldn't be happy, but I wouldn't be heartbroken either.

I poured the beers half-and-half. The color of the beer was very Bastard-ish. (For all it's flaws, Wattle Seed Ale has a nice brownish red color.) The aroma took on that of an Arrogant Bastard Lite: still has some of the harsher, darker notes -- the alcohol, the woods, the dark malts -- but muted. The wattleseeds were drowning in the richness of the Bastard. Strangely, it made the Arrogant Bastard more "drinkable," in the Bud Light sense of making it lighter and less filling. It was not an unabashed success, but it made the Wattle Seed Ale go down easy like a worm pill hidden in a chunk of Purina.

The second beer I tried was Magic Hat's Roxy Rolles, another beer that I like, but that I've had a million of this winter. The color remained the same chunky red, but a little more transparent. This was a pleasant surprise, since the severe, woody hops of Roxy completely choked the life out of what was left of the Wattle Seed Ale. If I may: the Wattle Seed was The Colonel from Boogie Nights, and the Roxy Rolles was his large African-American cellmate, slapping him and telling him to shut up.

All-told, I am going to have to try cutting these terrible beers a lot more. Neither pairing was an improvement upon it's original non-Wattle Seed counterpart, but it saved me from having to waste precious, precious alcohol.


Bojangles said...

I'll try one of those puppies. Straight up! It can't be as good as the mustard seed beer the Lion Heart in Albany was literally giving away in November.

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