Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Slow Couple of Weeks on the Wine Front.... and a Couple of Beers

In case anyone was wondering, it's been a slow couple of weeks on the wine tasting front. Business is starting to pick up. Fall is series of big wine sales, new releases which means new product to bring in and work into the shelves. Many customers don't believe it, but we do try to keep a semblance of order to the wine racks.

Meanwhile, it's been a busy couple of weeks on the 'life' front. If you're interested, check out my other blog, Surviving PKD. Nicholas Kristof wrote a column in the New York Times a couple of Sunday's ago on my sons dilemma about whether to be tested for PKD to become a kidney donor when my kidney failed several years ago. Being diagnosed with the disease can severely limit insurability under current policies. The column received national attention and the reaction dominated our lives for the next week.

Then my son and a friend came to town to see the State Fair of Texas and Matt wanted to see some of Texas. So last Friday we hit the road. We circled the Denton County courthouse and headed west to Jacksboro. We saw the terrain change from the rolling horse country of North Texas to northern outcroppings of the hill county to the beginnings of West Texas. 

In Jacksboro, Herd Burgers has been serving customers since 1916. Follow the link for a discussion of their unique burgers. Heading down the infamous Jacksboro Highway, we circled the Tarrant County courthouse and headed to Dallas where we drove past the Dallas County courthouse while tracing the Assassination Route. We drove past the Schoolbook Depository and accelerated past the grassy knoll and north on Stemmons.

We arrived in North Dallas an hour early and there was really nothing to do but head to the Flying Saucer for a couple of beers. We all had draft, Matt had a Real Ale, Travis had a St. Arnold's cask, I ordered Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA, whereupon the waitress asked if we wanted to wait until 5 when they would be tapping a keg of Dogfish 120. Since it was already 4:30....

The thing that Dogfish does is continual hopping. For the 90 Minute Ale, a variety of hops are added slowly over the 90 minute cooking time. More hops are added over the next month as the beer ages. The result is a high alcohol beer with a tremendous level of IBU's. 'International Bitterness Units.' The trick is that so many flavors:  citrus, red and black fruit, herbs and spices too numerous and complex to identify, are pulled out of the hops that the alcohol and the bitterness become the structural elements that carry the flavors.

What does this process have to do with wine? We have just received the phemonal 2007 Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Santa Rita Hills region in the Central Coast of California. The cool, foggy afternoons, nights and mornings allow the grapes to develop intense acid levels. The warm noon hours and the extremely long growing season (there are no fall rains forcing early harvests) produce massive flavors and massive sugars which produce high alcohol wines. So when the massive flavors are balanced by the acids and structural elements of the wine, it is balanced and luscious with tremendous depths of flavor.

The same thing happens during the 120 Minute Ale, which I tasted after the 90. Do not be deceived. The progression from the 90 to the 120 is roughly akin to going from a class 3 to a class 4 Hurricane. Technically they are the same, but the effect is way, way more powerful. IBU's are off the chart, but there is no bitterness. The beer is all hoppy, fruity, creamy and sweet with random bitter notes chiming in from all directions to somehow keep the massive flavors somewhat focused. But with the 20% alcohol kicking in everything becomes blissfully muddled happiness.

And then I think we picked up my wife and went out for Mexican food. I think.

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