Friday Froth: Madness In Every Direction

James Gribbon

I enjoy large scale beer events, music festivals, and Halloween for most of the same reasons. They include many of my favorite things in the same place, and all offer an equal possibility of seeing a bear in a hockey sweater dancing with Deadpool. A certain degree of madness (encouraged, tolerated or otherwise) is the ichor which circulates and gives these events life. Sound becomes emotion, quirks become costumes - the variegated states of being human, all our inner worlds, come crashing together and go supernova. Yes, I like that. So I tend to seek out the far out

Danes seem to have a bit of a knack for madness, whether in front of the camera like Mads Mikkelen, behind it like Lars von Trier, or creating the liquor of its inspiration, like Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin. The brand staggers its production around the world, even brewing some of its beers in Connecticut, but it all comes back to Jeppe, the Danish Willy Wonka: creations like Femme Fatale, an IPA brewed with Yuzu fruit and enough brettanomyces yeast to make the hop aroma fight it out with the smell of wet horse. Some of his beers have names like Double Barrel Jesus, Wet Dream, and Room Number 603 stamped on their birth certificates - that last one because it was barrel aged in a New York City hotel room on Christmas eve.

So I was compelled to try Imperial Donut Break, brewed for Evil Twin (using actual glazed donuts) at Westbrook Brewing in South Carolina. The name, coupled with the implementation of Homer Simpson's food pyramid staple, might lead some to blow this one off as being a bit... cute, but the 11.5% imperial porter is not some tossed off joke. It pours blackest black with a dense khaki head, and on first sip the wealth of roasted grain used in its manufacture comes on strong as a riptide. The flavor is full of roasted coffee notes with a vanishing sweetness and a perfectly suave mouthfeel. 

Drink it down and something funny happens, something "funny weird," not "funny haha" - it all turns to cocoa. Not candy bar chocolate, but deep, rich, almost poignant. I'm not going to say that Imperial Donut Break will make the planet ring like a slipping fault line, but it is a quality beer. Try it. (There's also an Imperial Biscotti Break, btw.*)

How can a person go out on the lash, scan a drink-ringed menu or the options on the vertical cliff face of a chalkboard, and resist ordering a beer called "Ichtegem"? Jason slayed the Hydra with more ease than I would have had resisting temptation. This was Ichtegem's Grand Cru, a Flemish red: all of which are sour, and none of which, to my knowledge, incorporate pastry. The red in my snifter was more of a "round" sour than sharp. There were deep notes of fermented cherries underlain by a slightly roasty, almost chocolatey malt which showed up down-pint after my palette had calmed down a bit from the initial excitement. 

Are you perhaps bored with hop-bombs, or put off in the summer by drinking anything darker than strong tea? Step out the door and off the planet with a Flemish sour like this - sexy Flanders, indeed. I've seen Ichtegem at several spots, but I had mine at Craft 260 in Fairfield.

Again, I was taken by the name: Caos, an American style wild ale brewed by Birra del Borgo in Italy. Caos is blonde, with huge, bursting effervescence, but almost no head. It had a very light scent: maybe a little yeast and fresh grain. This beer drinks as light as it looks, with thinnish malts and a sharpness imparted by the addition of must from Malvasia grapes from Tenuta di Bibbiano. This is part of del Borgo's "beer meets wine" series, and the enthusiastic bubbles come from its being bottle fermented using champagne yeast. The yeast selection also allows that fermentation to give an alcohol percentage of at least 7.5% which, like a fat kid on a dodgeball court, has nowhere to hide. The boozy heat is always apparent. Also like champagne, Caos is excellent served ice cold, with a slight dryness serving as a gentle reminder to always take another sip. Before long the bottle is empty and you're singingTu Vuò Fa' L'Americano shirtless, but sometimes I forget to eat before drinking. 

So yes, it's good for a summer booze up but, if one is better at planning, they can feel wholly comfortable with a bottle Caos as an accompaniment or replacement for a dry white, or even a prosecco, with dinner. Like most Italian craft beers, its recipe was designed to be crisp, pleasantly balanced, and to have a place at the table.

Thanks for reading this far - I know my mind does wander. See you out there. 

* This is when I feel compelled to mention Evil Twin Bikini Beer, their puddle-low 2.7%abv session IPA. It has sweet, peachy hop notes to the aroma, but they seem to have evaporated from the beer itself, leaving something slightly yeasty, but mostly just water.