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DR. ANNIE BREWER // Summer 2013

I’ve heard that in Europe it’s common to put fruity liquid concentrate in beer? What’s the purpose for this? Oliver, Albany, OR

Well, offhand, I would say it is to add fruit flavor to beer…

Sarcasm aside, the Belgians, not content to rest on their “waffle” laurels, have been adding fruit to lambics since, as my southern grandma would say, “God was a boy.” (Though since the original gangsters of Belgian brewing were monks, I should probably avoid such blasphemous hyperbole). Traditionally, a lambic is a spontaneously fermented wheat beer that is aged from either a few months to a few years. It is characteristically sour, which lends itself beautifully to the addition of a little fruit lovin’. I do not think it’s a coincidence that most of the grown-ups I know who get really stoked about a raspberry or cherry lambic are the same people who steal their children’s Sour Patch Kids.

Here are a few ways to fruit up your brew:

// You can buy a premade extract from a homebrew supply store and add it a week or so before bottling. Upside? It’s a devil you know, which minimizes the chance you’ll give your beer a nasty infection. Bad news? You aren’t exactly going to be working with the most inspired or locally relevant flavor palette.

// Fresh fruit can also be used to flavor a beer by adding pulped fruit to your wort. Good news? You maintain locavore street cred, the added flavor will be a little more subtle, and you can go a little extra buckwild with your flavor combinations. However, you also run a higher risk of introducing some kind of ickiness to your precious cargo.

// A number of brewers also swear by preprocessed purees as a good compromise since they are usually pasteurized, minimizing the chance of infection, while still being actual fruit.

Is it appropriate to judge a first date by the beer they order? And what does the type of beer someone orders say about them?
Eileen, San Diego, CA

If you are in the position to rule out dates based on the fact that they don’t know an American pale ale from a saison, your social calendar is way busier than mine. Kudos. But if the difference for you is between summer lovin’ and spending yet another night alone with a limited edition Russian imperial stout and the final 10 contestants of So You Think You Can Dance, here are a couple nonscientifically grounded conclusions you may glean from your date’s first drink order:

“Beer? Oh, God no.”
Your date is either Mormon or gluten intolerant.

“What’s cheap tonight?”
Prepare yourself for a lifetime of disappointing birthday presents.

“You got Bud Light?”
I hope you picked the restaurant, because otherwise you are at Applebee’s right now.

“I don’t touch anything that isn’t at least 6 percent ABV unless it is Miller High Life.”
Your date is an incurable hipster. As a matter of fact, you will probably learn at some point during the night that this isn’t so much a date as an opportunity to stick you with the check. And hopefully still sleep with you at the end of the night. But only at your house. Your date has
six roommates.

“What IPAs do you have? The hoppier the better.”
Hopheads are like the beer correlate to people who rate the quality of Thai food in Scoville units. The sense of adventure is there, but the appreciation of subtlety may be lacking. If your date is a woman, keep in mind she has an unusually high tolerance for bitterness, which may come in handy if you require a mate who can sustain lengthy rants about ignorant coworkers or the general embarrassing lack of appreciation shown on Facebook for your six-piece recorder ensemble.

“I’ll take a hefe.”
If it’s less than 80 degrees outside, your date is a woman. If it happens to be the end of a long summer bike ride, your date may just be hot and thirsty.

“Got anything from Crooked Stave?”
Even if your date Googled the GABF just to impress you, they get points for trying. And maybe, just maybe, you have found someone else whose dream honeymoon is wandering through a massive field of new beer possibilities looking for the next awesome thing.

How come beer and whiskey are always “paired” together (e.g. whiskey with a beer back) but not beer and other liquors? Tristan, Kirkland, WA

A bazmillion years ago, by which I mean the late ’90s, I worked as a bartender in a cheesy corporate restaurant on Beach and Hyde in San Francisco. For legal reasons I probably shouldn’t name names, so let it suffice to say that after a certain Mike Judge movie came out in 1999, one of the granddaddies of memes was to ask us how many pieces of flair we had. While tending bar at—let’s just call it “Chotchkies”—I learned to do a number of traumatizing things to booze with ice cream and prepackaged fruit purees. And after work, we all dutifully covered our striped shirts and hiked around the block to the Irish bar. When I say Irish, I do not mean the name of the bar. I think it was called something quaint like Fiddler’s Green. It was, however, staffed by mostly Irish people (with accents and everything) who were appalled that I had an avowed distaste for both Guinness and whiskey. One night, a Dolores O’Riordan look-alike bet me a hundred bucks that if I ordered a Guinness and a Jameson together and sipped the Jameson before every drink of the stout, it would change my life. She was right.

It turns out the deck was stacked on her side to begin with. The tradition of chasing a shot of whiskey with whatever beer was available probably originated as a working-man’s game of pacing oneself. No one is sure what came first—the Boilermaker as an opportunity for gainful employment or a way to get loaded after work—but let us remember that just as beer has been virtually ubiquitous since humans started looking for a fun way to sterilize water and preserve grain, whiskey, or at least the rudiments of the caramely or peaty or oaky aged versions that we know now, is really the grizzled granddaddy of distilling. So some of the idea of pairing beer and whiskey is probably a matter of convenience, but seeing as how beer and whiskey are often made from the same base ingredients, it seems natural that some of the flavors, particularly malt, would be naturally complementary. So complementary, in fact, that a number of beers, including Stone 2011 Ruination IPA, are being aged in bourbon barrels to naturally infuse some of the oaky goodness
of whiskey directly into the beer.

So pair up, yo. Just keep in mind that if you are not interested in vomiting out the back window of a friend’s car or waking up underneath a bush somewhere with no pants, a crooked mohawk, and only your left shoe, that two-fisting means getting loaded twice as fast.

I just heard about beer pedicures, where you soak your feet in beer instead of water. Is this true, and if so, what positive effects could soaking my feet in beer possibly have? Christine, Riverside, CA

Well, I can think of two immediate negative effects: A perfectly good beer is now a solution of foot sweat and sock fuzz, and your feet now smell like the spill tray underneath the tap at your local bar. Unless I happen to find myself with a stray can of post-barbecue Coors haunting my fridge, I feel I will be unlikely to attempt this myself, but apparently, the yeast in beer softens skin, the alcohol acts as a natural antiseptic, and enzymes found in beer are natural exfoliants. If you value a set of tootsies as soft as a baby’s butt over a good beer at the end of the day, crack one open and soak away.