The Session #108: Snowed In!

The SessionThis month I have the honor of hosting The Session, our beer blogging first Friday event, for which I have suggested the topic — Snowed In! which you can read about here — and which I will also be collecting all the contributions for a round-up blog post so we can see what everyone is posting about.

I gave an open-ended topic and asked everyone to write about whatever they wanted, as long as the theme is in some way, “snowed in,” being that it’s winter and all.

Here in Central Oregon, however, we don’t currently have snow, except on the mountains, and Friday evening actually ended outdoors, around the firepits at O’Kane’s bar at McMenamins Old St. Francis School, drinking beers with friends. Not “snowed in” by any means but enjoying pints of Drop In IPA around the fire with occasional puffs off a cigar—a really great winter drinking experience, actually, snow or no snow.

O'Kanes firepit at McMenamins Old St. Francis School

(That Drop In IPA, incidentally, is a lovely, very drinkable American IPA dry-hopped with Citra hops. Fruity hops, soft, bready malts, at 6.8% abv it was very easy to find my way to the bottom of a couple of pints.)

When we are snowed in, I tend to reach for the big beers, maybe dipping into the cellar stash for something special. The Barleywines, the Old Ales, the Imperial Stouts; the cold and deep snow call for malty, boozy, warming beers with rich depths of flavor.

The Session #108, Snowed in!

No surprise, really; the first time I hosted The Session, it was also February, so of course I asked everyone to write about Barleywines, and popped open a special bottle to commemorate: Deschutes Brewery’s Mirror Mirror. Back then (when I wrote that post) it was 2008, and the bottle in question was from 2005—definitely a cellar pick (back when I had my “proto” cellar):

Deschutes Brewery Mirror Mirror Reserve Series Barleywine

But in 2004, well before The Abyss appeared, the brewers crafted a draft-only barleywine: Mirror Mirror. The name came from (if I’m remembering the story correctly, which I may not be) the fact that they based the beer on the recipe for the Brewery’s popular Mirror Pond Pale Ale—only doubling the malt bill. It was a big hit at the pub.

When they brewed this beer again, in 2005, they aged it for four months in French Oak wine barrels before releasing it in bottles as the first of their Reserve Series.

Appearance: Thick tawny-amber, approaching brown. Creamy, wood putty-colored head.

Smell: Wonderfully sweet and fruity and complex; a touch of (charred) wood coupled with sweet alcohol heat; sour black cherry; black licorice; leather; plummy Scotch.

Taste: Sweet wash of alcohol strength and dark fruit (prunes, dates, black currants) followed by a dry oak character that blends it all together nicely. This is very, very nice… no harsh notes, it’s warming and sweet and malty with a hint of Belgian rock candy—darker sugars. A hint of toasted honey malt paired with brown sugar and molasses… there’s a bit of rum, even bourbon, here. A cognac of a beer for sure.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and smooth and chewy (but creamy), and that effect that starts syrupy sweet and finishes dry (with woody notes) is amazing.

It’s not always about drinking beer though. While I was pondering the topic for this month I kept coming back to one of the ideas I’d suggested to write about: “Alternatively, perhaps you have a hodge-podge of brewing ingredients lying around but nothing definitive—could you MacGyver up a homebrewed beer from only what you have on hand?”

Yes… yes I could, more or less. Right off the top of my head I know I have the following ingredients in the house:

  • Several pounds of chocolate malt.
  • Lots of hops (many homegrown).
  • Several packets of dried brewing yeast.

Not much, and definitely no base malt which would not only provide fermentables but the enzymes needed to mash other grains—turn the starches into sugars. But, thinking outside the box a bit (I did mention MacGyver) there are actually plenty of other ingredients present that I could brew something with:

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Rice
  • Fruits
  • Rolled oats
  • Canned goods

Now I’m not completely sure about the grains and flour, they would need to be cooked to gelatinize them, so likely we’d be talking about one gallon batches supplemented with cane sugar and steeped with chocolate malt for flavor, color, and body… And I could fall back on one of my Apocalypse Beer posts for fermentation ideas… But all in all it would make for an interesting snow day.

That’s my snow story. Looking forward to reading all the others!