Monday, March 25, 2013

Radishes, Beets, and Beer (oh my).


So, I'm thinking of brewing a beer.

I've been in a supervisory {slash} imbibing role for some time now, and it's probably about time I brew my own damn beer.

I'm thinking radishes. Or beets. Or possibly both (but not in the same batch).

Last week I exchanged some wilty lettuce at the co-op for two extra bags of radishes that no one seemed to want, and after about a lifetime of believing they were "too spicy" for consumption, and eating them at least four different ways since last Tuesday, I'm now convinced that they are perhaps the perfect beer companion. Also, radishes are of a sort, and when pickled (soaked in a little vinegar) they all but lose their sharp flavor and absorb all the lovely goodness in which they've been marinating.

I'll likely have some help on the recipe end with the radishes, since the brewers down at Red Brick said they'd handle the saison that they've decided goes with that. I am relieved for the potentially shared misery, and very necessary hand holding that brewing a radish saison may bring me. I'm hoping there's no mean genie waiting for me in the brew kettle, but come to think of it, "Mean Genie" wouldn't make a bad beer name.

My very minimal research revealed that thinly sliced radishes, with butter or salt (or even sugar) are a common and delightful German beer snack. Currently, my enthusiasm for German food far outweighs the appreciation I have for their beer. Was it the Germans who thought to add a beef shank to the borscht? The historical record is unclear, but I do know what I'm making the next time I get my hands on a big, meaty bone.

Uh, borscht, obviously.

My initial investigation into beet beers does not bode well. New Belgium (a brewery of which I hold dear in my beer drinking heart) made a very romantic sounding, but bloody looking lot of beer featuring beets, licorice, fennel and rosemary--all of which sounds very lovely as a salad with a side of roasted beast, but in beer? Turns out the tasters were equally intrigued, perplexed, and put off by the strong flavors of this unique brew.

There's also this.

As a devotee of beets in my eating life, I'm finding it hard to understand why the beer recipes I've come across predominantly use the raw form of this normally sweetly caramelized roasted root vegetable. I mean, wtf, you guys? Raw beets? That's akin to boiling brussell sprouts, in my book. I'm fairly certain there could be no bigger sin than to boil one's brussell sprouts, which when roasted yield such a delicate, nutty, floral and mildly sweet vegetable, they trump just about any crispy, salted, lightly oiled side dish I could dream up.

But I digress.

Roasted, and likely added to secondary fermentation. We haven't moved to the kegging phase of our home brew, unfortunately.

My instincts were to use something bold and fruity, more like a west coast IPA. Or to head the other direction, pairing the earthy flavor of the beets with the equally roasty, malty, mildly bitter notes of a porter or stout. There's some evidence that a darker beer (although mostly masking the colorant) would be a better flavor profile to marry with beets (see the comments at the end of the linked article).

Early suggestions have me pointed in the direction of this recipe as a jumping off point with a few substitutions, including some Special B, and potentially a Belgian yeast (Belgian's make me nervous).

The home brew leg of this journey is set to happen this weekend, so if I show up to work on Monday wringing my hands, you can just call me Lady Macbeth and assume the deed is done. I'm not the first one to think that might not be a bad beer name either.

Thoughts? Warnings? Words of encouragement? Many thanks to those who've aided my thought process and planning so far.


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