Sunday 19 April 2009

To Garrett Oliver, Cheers!

A small thank you note to Garrett Oliver, the man whose book has made me love the possibilities of beer even more than I thought possible. The Brewmaster’s Table is wonderful and lucid, it has the power to take you all over the world to different breweries and dinner tables, it makes you hungry and thirsty in equal measures and it’ll make you more intelligent. It’s a great book, you can pick it up any time and flick to a page and still learn something or still be able to just fall into a different place because of his informal, lulling style of writing. Plus the man who brought Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout into the world deserves a high five!

I am a big fan of Fuller’s, and think their ESB and Golden Pride are both superb beers. The ESB is 5.9%, full of toasted malt, toffee, bread and a bowlful of fruits – oranges, marmalade and apples. And it has a nice hoppy finish to it which clings inside your mouth calling you to take another giant gulp of beer. The Golden Pride is altogether bigger, but at 8.5% it’s still gluggable, full of condensed roast fruit sweetness, toast, strawberries, honey, marmalade, blackcurrant, toffee and booze. I’ve had it off cask before and that’s incredible too.

Put them together and what do you get? A Peacemaker. Go to page 135 of Oliver’s book and he recounts inventing the beer. Reading this I decided that I had to give it a go and raise my glass to the man. And you know what? It’s really damn good. Thick and rich, loads of toasty grain flavour, lots of fruit, roasted apples and oranges, strawberry and some honeycomb. The Golden Pride sweetness lifts it up and the ESB’s hops balance it all out - the combo just works. And it’s great with cheeses too, especially stronger ones.

But did I just mix a beer?! I think I did. Well, here are my thoughts on mixing beers, as I become more and more curious about it. As I say in the video, I always thought that a beer was a complete thing as it was. The brewer doesn’t slave away to make a beer for us to then mix it up with something else. It’d be like reading a page of one book and then reading a page of another book and trying to make the story work as one. But I am coming around to the idea now, my cheeky and curious side wanting to experiment. I tried Thornbridge’s Jaipur IPA with their St. Petersburg imperial stout and kind of enjoyed it (it was a little like Great Divide’s Yeti) and I have a desire to try a cherry beer with a nice, strong stout. One of the craziest black and tan’s I’ve heard is called Heaven and Hell and comes Dogfish Head. It mixes their 120-Minute IPA with their Worldwide Stout. That’s a 21% IPA with an 18+% stout! Blimey! The whole mixing thing opens up a new sphere of beer drinking, a realm of creativity for the drinker to play brewmaster: a bonus level for the extreme beer fan.

Mixing is something that I’ll probably experiment with a little bit, but not too much. It’s the sort of thing that can be done at beer festivals or when you’ve got a glut of bottles open, but other than that you risk ruining two good beers. But if you do want to try a cool blend then a Peacemaker kicks ass. Although finish two pints of it and it’ll kick your ass!

So here’s to Garrett Oliver. Your book is a great source of inspiration. And your beers are pretty good too. Cheers.

A footnote on more slapdash and uncouth mixing. I've had turbo shandies before which mixes lager with alcopops like Smirnof Ice and at university we drank gin and tonic shandies by mixing half a pint of lager with a G&T. I remember that being really quite good then…


  1. Go Liam! When I lived on the island people mixed all kinds of beers. Light and Bitter, various cask ales with various 275ml bottles of all sorts of stuff. I drank 1/2 pints of Young's Special, topped off with a bottle of Special London. I also distinctly remember drinking Fullers ESB cask, topped off with 275ml bottles of Golden Pride. That was the piss up from hell and is another story all together.

  2. I've also been doing a bit of beer mixing recently since my homebrewing has taken off again. Some work, some don't but it's interesting finding out.

  3. interesting stuff, it's certainly a hot topic at the moment.

  4. For the most part I don't bother mixing beers, but at a brewery's recent 15th Anniversary celebration, I blended half of a too-sweet ESB with half of a too-hoppy Pale Ale. Worked like a charm. Some may consider it an insult to a brewer, but then again, I'm the one paying for it.

  5. Interesting comments. I think mixing can be fun but it's hard to know when there is a good time or place?!

    Wurst, I *think* I want to hear more...

    Ed, it is interesting, you're right. I rarely do it because I rarely have more than one beer open at a time. With home brew I guess it's different.

    E.S.D., the mix you tried sounds like the perfect time to try it! And if you're paying for it then it's okay, right? So long as the brewer isn't there, I guess?!

  6. Mark: yes, having your own beer on draught opens up options you might not consider if you're just opening bottles.

    My slightly bland best bitter mixed well with my porter but when mixed with my American IPA didn't improve at all.

  7. My Dad tells me stories about how a lot of ale drinkers would mix courage light ale with guinness in the late 60's as the cask that was available was pretty crap and the mixture guarenteed a consistant beer.

  8. When I used to work in a pub a couple of the old boys used to drink what they called A+B which was a half pint of Goacher's Mild topped up with a half pint of Goacher's Shipwrecked.