Showing posts with label benjamin franklin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label benjamin franklin. Show all posts

Friday, December 2, 2016

#TheSession 118 - The Feast of Four


This month's iteration of The Session is hosted by the venerable Stan Hieronymous, whose latest book I am currently reading as it happens. His theme for this chilly December day is:
If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?
A challenging theme for sure, more so because I have a general aversion to the concept of the beer dinner (how many more times do I have to read of innovative pairings like chocolate and stout for dessert?). So I am ditching the beer dinner part of his theme, sorry Stan, and focussing on four people that I would invite to dinner with the inestimable Mrs V and I....


Unless this is your first visit to Fuggled, in which case welcome, or have been living under a rock since the Pliocene, you will know that I lived a large chunk of my live in the Czech Republic. I love Czech food, Czech booze, Czech people, etc, etc, and no one person embodies the Czech Republic more to me than Václav Havel. Playwright, philosopher, politician, and above all dissident, Havel understood what it was to suffer for his beliefs, denied the ability to go to a university with a humanities program due to his bourgeois background, imprisoned several times for his views opposing the Communist Party during the post Prague Spring era, one of the founders of Charter 77, and if details in the magnificent biography 'Vaclav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts' are to be believed, a raconteur extraordinaire. I imagine dinner with Havel, fuelled with beer - Havel would take visiting dignitaries to the pub - would be an evening to remember, especially if that beer fuel were Kout na ?umavě's magnificent 10° pale lager.


I've lived in the US now for seven and a half years, and being the kind of person I am, with the interests I have, I have taken great delight in reading about the Founding Fathers. It is difficult in central Virginia to get away from the Founding Fathers, after all, three of the first five Presidents were from the Charlottesville area and my house is pretty much equidistant between Jefferson's Monticello and Madison's Montpelier. My favourite Founding Father though is Benjamin Franklin. From reading about his, and there is no other way to put this, unbelievable life (seriously, if someone wrote the life of Benjamin Franklin it would be mocked for being unrealistic), here is a guy interested in pretty much everything, an unparalleled intellect, and seemingly not jammed so far up his own arse as to be a bore. As for the beer to serve with our growing band on luminary visitors, a good cask of Fuller's London Porter would do the trick here.


When I was at college, studying to be a  minister of religion, my favourite subject was hermeneutics, and it was through that subject that I developed a lasting love of language and its functions. I find things like semantics, semiotics, linguistics, philology, and etymology endlessly fascinating. So my third guest to arrive at my dinner table should come as no surprise, Umberto Eco. I love Eco's novels, in particular The Name of the Rose, as much as his essays and writings on literary criticism, and the thought of getting to sit down with him and just talk books, words, language, and symbols would be enough to make me smile broadly whilst skipping around the kitchen. For a mind such as this, the beer to be served would have to be complex, layered, polyvalent you might say, a good strong ale....North Coast Old Stock Ale, perhaps left in the cellar for several years, which reminds me that I have a bottle from 2010 floating around somewhere.


Rounding out my guests at the Feast of Four is Scotland's finest comedian, Billy Connolly. In common with the other guests, here's a guy with an incredible range of interests and knowledge, and a wonderful way of looking at the world. I imagine he would be the anchor that would stop the other three drifting off into the intellectual ether. The fourth beer that would be making an appearance at the feast would be probably my favourite beer on the planet, and I am sorry for the shameless self promotion, Three Notch'd Bitter 42.

So there we have it, the guests and the beer, but what of the feast itself? What would Mrs V and I lay on for our guests....
  • Starter - French onion soup
  • Main course - Mallaig langoustines and chips
  • Pudding - Sticky toffee pudding and custard
  • Cheese, fruit, oatcakes, coffee
For music through the night, I would just play my Teuchter Tunes playlist from Spotify, a collection of traditional music from around the world, including Scotland, Ireland, Appalachia, Brittany, and others.



Hopefully the following morning we would wake with raging hangovers, happily distended bellies, and an inclination to do it all again

Monday, October 5, 2009

Revolutionary Ale

I don't do nationalism generally speaking, the idea that a culture is in some way superior to another is ludicrous in the extreme. The only thing I hate more than nationalism is blind, jingoistic nationalism where everything from one particular culture is heralded as being the best, the biggest and the most popular on the planet. It was possibly this jingoistic tone that prevented me from reading all of Maureen Ogle's attempted history of American brewing, which apparently only goes back to the likes of Busch, Pabst and other German immigrants building their massive lager breweries - and look where that got American brewing in the years before the craft brewing revolution.

Of course though, beer has been part and parcel of the American experience since the Mayflower landed desperately short on that most essential of victual. In Pete Brown's latest book there is a comment from a Frenchman about how when the English go off on colonial adventures they look for the best local beef, but bring their beer with them. A fuller history then of American brewing has to go back to colonial times and the taverns that provided a focal point for fledgling communities. Thus, when Jay came to visit, bearing gratefully received gifts of ale, I was intrigued by the three bottles of "Ales of the Revolution" from the Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia, each linked to one of the leaders of the American Revolution, including one of the three Charlottesville presidents, Thomas Jefferson.

Now, before I go on to tell you what the beers were like, I would like to reiterate my gripe with American brewers. Come on lads, tell us what is in your beer! I really like to see ingredient lists on labels, just so I can assure myself that there is none of the corn syrup/rice/insert abomination nonsense going on. Anyway, the beer.



Thomas Jefferson is someone I am learning more about, especially as his plantation, Monticello, is just outside Charlottesville. I knew before Mrs Velkyal and I moved out here that he as something of a homebrew buff, what I wasn't aware of was just how well regarded his ale was. Simply put, if this 8%ABV golden ale is even close to Jefferson's tipple then dinners up at Monticello must have been fantastic. Richly fruity and with smooth caramel flavours, this is a wonderfully drinkable ale, almost like some of the best bitters I enjoy when I go home to the UK, just with an added alcoholic glow. Why on earth one of the Cville breweries isn't making this, is quite simply beyond me. As ever, this is a beer that I would happily sit by a fire place and enjoy copious amounts of, before being poured into a taxi home.



Benjamin Franklin seems to have been one of those guys that I would love to have enjoying evenings in the tavern with, anyone with that range of talent and experience must have been one hell of a social companion. The beer that bears his name is something of strange beast, being crimson in colour and having a heady mix of pine and caramel on the nose, which carries over to the drinking. With the prevalence of pine fresh toilet cleaner though these days though, it is difficult not to think of industrial cleaner instead of the tasty, delightful beer that this undoubtedly is.




Last up, whilst watching a small segment on TV about how Samuel Adams Boston Lager is made (they do a decoction mash and lager for 5 weeks!), was the Tavern Porter, which is attributed to a recipe developed by George Washington. This porter is pretty much black as the ace of spades, but with dark ruby edges, topped off with a dark ivory head. The nose is heavy with molasses and chocolate, how I love those smells. In the mouth it is like drinking rich dark chocolate melted and lightly hopped. Yes it is that good! Another superbly well made and simple beer.

And to think this country went from drinking ales of this quality, flavour and depth to drinking Budweiser. Can anyone explain how that happened?

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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