Buccoleon Strong Ale

belgian-strongpcThis is a classic Belgian dark tripel. If you have tried Brouwerij Van Steenberge’s Gulden Draak, you know what I mean. Buccoleon Strong Ale is a tribute to that world-class beer.

Brewed with Belgian Strong Ale yeast, it offers flavors of raisins, plums and pears, together with spicy hints of cloves, rum, and nutmeg. Starting with a Pilsner malt base; wheat malt, cara-wheat, crystal malt, biscuit/aroma malts and caramely golden syrup provide a flaky crust for this virtual fruit tart. The yeast leaves its distinctiver mark.

As it is not a Gulden Draak clone, it is a bit drier and a little more bitter. Its original gravity of 24.5 Plato (1105) still leaves a lot of residual sweetness, so it is refermented in the bottle with Champagne yeast and no added bottling sugar. Age this one at least a year.

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Gulden Draak is named after the golden dragon at the top of the belfry of Ghent. The story of how he got there is fascinating. Buccoleon was the dragon’s name. He lived in the swampy ground around Aleppo, one of the chief cities of the Saracens in northern Syria. He was such a tender-hearted old dragon that he was called The Weeping Dragon. He wept bucketfuls of tears when Belgian crusaders and the Saracens fell to fighting. Where his tears fell, beautiful flowers began to grow.

A crusader took their bulbs back to Belgium, where they became famous for being the most beautiful tulips of all. Hearing about their fame, Buccoleon, whose scales had turned to gold because the crusaders had left, flew to Belgium to see for himself. He decided to stay!

Rum Raisin Brown Stout

rum-raisin-brown-stoutpcThis is a beer that answers the question “What would it be like to brew up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies?”

In the past, the term “stout” referred to a beer that was extra strong. Thus, we had Porter, and we had Stout Porter, which eventually became just Stout for short. Interestingly, what is now known as Stout is oftentimes rather low in alcoholic content while Porters tend to have an ABV of 5.5% to 6% or more. But historically, Stout was any beer that was as strong as the drinkers that were expected to consume it.

To make this brown stout, start with the ingredients for cookies: wheat malt, oats, sultana raisins. Add to this Maris Otter base malt, crystal malt, a touch of caramel rye malt, and some Cara Munich. Mash at a fairly high temperature to encourage the production of unfermentable sugars that will keep the brew more sweet and full-bodied. Magnum and Amarillo hops are assertive without being overpowering. Add golden syrup at the end of the boil to contribute more caramel flavors. Ferment with a fruity yeast such as London Ale. Soak sultanas in dark rum until they are soft, then whirl the mixture in a blender. Add some to the primary fermenter, and another batch to the secondary, along with a hint of vanilla extract.

The result is not so much a beer that tastes like oatmeal raisin cookies as it is an oatmeal raisin cookie that tastes like beer.

Cascadia Nation Black Lager

cascadia-black-lagercThe Cascade Mountain Range extends from Southern British Columbia through Western Washington and Oregon, into Northern California. Part of the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” its highest peak is the volcano Mount Rainier. To its west are the hipster havens of Seattle and Portland, famous for some of the finest craft beer in the world. To its east lies the fertile hop growing region of the Yakima Valley in Washington. South of Portland, at the western edge of the Cascades, another stretch of fine hop farms fills the Willamette River valley.

The Cascade Range and its surrounding hop and barley farms form the mythical country of Cascadia. A generous cartographer would include the barley-growing regions of the Columbia Basin, and the Palouse, stretching east and south from Spokane, Washington. It also makes sense to declare San Francisco an honorary member among Cascadia cities, for it is the birthplace of the modern craft beer movement in the United States, thanks to the visionary efforts of Fritz Maytag and his Anchor Brewing Company.

Grain harvesting in Whitman County, Washington

Grain harvesting in Whitman County, Washington

The strains of hops developed in Cascadia, fittingly often begin with the letter “C” themselves. The “Four C’s” as they are sometimes called, are Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus. More recently Citra ™ has joined the group. They are dominantly bright, piney, citrusy and resinous in taste and aroma, and form the basis of most American India Pale Ales. Recently, they have been incorporated into a style known as Cascadian Dark Ale.

As hop and barley production began to ramp up in Cascadia during the 1980s, another development took place 180 degrees away in the Ring of Fire. Japanese brewers were early to recognize the potential for product differentiation offered by creating all-malt lagers in their commercial operations. Kirin and Sapporo led the way with premium “black beer” (黒ビール), featuring roasted malts and a sweet finish.

The Cascadia Black Lager shown here pays homage to both sides of the Ring of Fire. It is hoppy (40 IBU) like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, slightly roasty like a dark ale, with mildly sweet maltiness like Japanese black lager. It uses the San Francisco lager yeast to keep the finish drier than a typical ale. Cold-infused specialty grains, including debittered Carafa II, Munich malt and Breiss Special Roast maximize flavor while keeping away excessive burned harshness. A nice thick head leads to a moderately full mouth feel, and its 5.7% ABV is assertive, while keeping it well within the range of sessionability for the discerning and determined tippler!

Corny Comet Cream Breakfast Ale

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A cream ale for breakfast. Not meant to replace your double espresso, but rather to stand beside it, bracing you for the day to come.

Cream ale emerged in the late 19th Century United States when ale breweries, faced with immigrant competition from Bavarian brewers bringing lager to the market, devised a light and refreshing, yet bold concoction that combined the crisp, dry flavor of a lager with the rapid fermentation characteristics of an ale. In many of these renditions, a substantial ABV approaching 5.5% was a feature.

This cream ale uses 22 IBU of Comet hops, a variety that tastes and smells remarkably like pink grapefruit. Breakfast cereal included: organic corn grits, and steel-cut oats, along with some nice caramel notes from a variety of crystal malts. Starting gravity is 15 Plato, boosted by a late addition of rice syrup solids. White Labs WLP080 Cream Ale yeast blend provides crisp yet round fermentation notes. Dry hopping with Comet offers grapefruit aroma.

This is a fruity breakfast drink; cream of corn grits with fruit and oats, delivered with the full mouthfeel of an ultimate smoothie.

Kola\Coca Soda

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In the years after the Civil War in the United States, nostrums and remedies began to appear for sale in the cities and towns throughout the South. One of these was invented by a war veteran who had been injured in battle, and subsequently found himself addicted to morphine, which he had been using to relieve his pain. Marketed as Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, it was touted as a cure for the blues, as well as for morphine addiction. The alcoholic version of the drink was reformulated in response to temperance legislation enacted in the area, and eventually became the world’s top-selling soft drink.

Pemberton's French Wine Coca

Pemberton’s French Wine Coca

This recipe for a drink that contains both coca leaf and kola nut extracts looks particularly pale when compared to commercial cola products. That is because the coloring agent in those versions is caramel. Commercial caramel color is created by heat-treating sugars such as glucose in the presence of acids, alkalies, or salts. It’s there pretty much only for the color. Leave it out and you get a pale golden drink colored, in this case, by the kola nut, coca leaf, and raw cane ingredients. Lime juice and six essential oils complete the formula.

Kola\Coca Soda tastes amazingly like a fresh version of the familiar cola practically everyone knows. It is very aromatic, thanks to the fresh lime juice and combination of fruit and spice oils. If you add a shot or two of dark rum to this beverage you will undoubtedly find yourself soon shouting “¡Cuba Libre!”

Ebulus Cervisiam Delectamentum

EbulumCDepending on where you live, it’s not to late to get out in the woods and gather some elderberries. They make a nice wine of course, but they also make a tart and fruity beer. An elderberry braggot (beer and mead hybrid) is also a tasty possibility. The berries are the fruit of Sambucus species. In Europe, they come most commonly from the Dwarf Elder (Sambucus ebulus.) This tree was known as the Ebull in ancient times, the term taken from its Latin name. The beer made from elderberries is called Ebulum, and appears as a recipe in books from the early 1700s. The Oxford Dictionary defines ebulum as a name for elderberry wine, but London & Country Brew III (1743) says “make a white Ebulum with pale Malt and white Elder-berries.” This was possibly a barley wine.

Elderberries have a long history of medicinal use, with a reputation for successfully treating colds and flu. For this purpose they are usually made into a syrup. The raw berries are somewhat toxic, and so they are cooked. Elderflowers also have medicinal and culinary uses, notably as a background flavoring for the cordial Sambuca.
Sambucus-berries

This Ebulum has a Chocolate Surprise. In addition to the pale malt (in this case Maris Otter) in traditional recipes, this one has chocolate malt, an English blend of crystal malts, and Dingeman’s debittered black malt. It is spiced with elderflowers, grains of paradise, and cinnamon, finished with Muscovado sugar at flameout. A touch of lactose added just before bottling creates a full mouthfeel and a bit of residual sweetness that balances the berries’ tartness.

Stripping two kilos of elderberries from their elaborate stems is tedious work. Drinking the results after a year of aging is a delectable reward.

Speedwell Skullcap

Speedwell SkullcapPCHere’s a drink named after a Grateful Dead concert that never was. No wait! Hear me out. Altamont Speedway was the site of the death of the 60s hippie era. The Grateful Dead, scheduled to play, got the hell out when things got way out of hand. Speedwell (Veronica officinalis) is an herb that is sometimes considered a weed. Deadheads like herb and weed, right? Speedwell—Speedway, close enough for a Deadhead no doubt.

The Altamont Speedway with 300,000 hippies

The Altamont Speedway with 300,000 hippies


Speedwell is slightly bitter and astringent, with a taste a bit like green tea. Its medicinal use includes relief for coughs, and the plant is rich with vitamins, tannin, and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Skullcap, or Mad-dog Weed (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a perennial mint, purported by early North American settlers to cure rabies, hence its common name. Skullcap’s current use, however, is in the promotion of a sense of well-being, a property any Deadhead can relate to. The active ingredient is the flavone scutellarin, a phenolic compound. The name skullcap refers to the shape of its flowers, which resemble early military head gear. Speaking of head gear, here’s a Grateful Dead skull cap.

Deadhead Skull Cap

Deadhead Skull Cap

Schisandra chinensis (五味子 in Chinese, wǔ wèi zi, literally “five-flavor berry”) is so named because it is simultaneously sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. A traditional Chinese medicine, it calms the spirit by balancing yin and yang. Western pharmacological studies have shown that it is effective in treating “heavy metal intoxication,” so—‘nuff said.

Grapefruit-like pomelo juice and zest, the main ingredients for the now-defunct liqueur Forbidden Fruit, along with Montmorency cherry extract, angelica and orris roots round out the ensemble. Drink up lovers!

Ginger Peach Peppercorn Pop

Ginger PeachCropPCom
Ginger and peach are two flavors that seem to be just meant to be together. Ginger peach tea is very popular, the flavors mixed with black tea, or without, as a tisane. There’s ginger peach pie, ginger peach hot sauce, ginger peach ice cream, even ginger peach soap!

Aromatic, spicy and pungent ginger has a long history of therapeutic use, especially in the treatment of gastrointestinal maladies. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which may explain why osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis patients experience reductions in pain and improvements in mobility when they consume ginger. Chamomile also has anti-inflammatory effects, while its use as a calmative and anxiety reducer is well known among herbal medicine practitioners.

The peach (Prunus persica) is native to Northwest China, from whence comes the world’s largest crop. In Chinese mythology certain peaches confer immortality on those who consume them. This recipe calls for a commercial 100% peach-pear juice combination. If it is unavailable in your area you could substitute a mix of pureed very ripe peaches with about double the volume of pear or white grape juice.

This pop recipe makes the most of the ginger-peach romance, and kicks up the spiciness with a hint of cayenne and a modicum of green pepper. The amount of cayenne is just enough to suggest a chile pungency in the back of the palate without burning the entire mouth.

The Pepper Harvest in Marco Polo's Day

The Pepper Harvest in Marco Polo’s Day


Green peppercorns are the same unripe drupes from the pepper vine as are black peppercorns, but they are processed differently. Highly prized for their aroma and flavor of lemon grass and bergamot, the organic variety are gently washed after harvest, and then freeze-dried to retain their essential oils and true flavors. They contribute a subtle but deep spicy warmth to the beverage.

White mulberry is apparently the latest dietary sensation, if you are to believe television health-food pundits. White mulberries are indeed rich in antioxidants, protein and fiber. In dried form they have less than half the sugar of raisins, yet are still nicely sweet, with a flavor similar to figs. The fruit is a component of traditional Chinese medicine, where it is used to treat diabetes.

Enjoy this healthy and restorative drink over ice, or chilled and straight. A chunk of candied ginger makes a tasty garnish. Add a bit of your favorite white liquor to make a tasty summer cocktail!

Tamazcal Opotunia

prickly pearPC

The tamazcal (Nahuatl for “house of heat,” or possibly Aztec for “bath house”) is a sauna-like structure invented by the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Central Mexico, and the region south to present-day Costa Rica. These structures are still in use, performing a similar function as that of a sweat lodge or steam room.

Starting around 7000 BCE, complex agrarian cultures began to form in this region, along with the creation of sedentary agricultural villages, and ceremonial centers. Purification rituals were among the curative ceremonies performed by these indigenous people, designed to rejuvenate the body after battle or a ball game.

Tamazcal: Aztec Sauna or Sweat Lodge

Tamazcal: Aztec Sauna or Sweat Lodge


The way in which these therapies cleanse the body is believed to involve “heat shock proteins” (HSPs) that are created in response to environmental stresses, in this case the high temperature and humid environment of the tamazcal. HSPs are involved in binding antigens and presenting them to the body’s immune system. They also provide an essential role in the formation of other proteins, and in the body’s cellular repair system.

Along with the heat therapy provided by the tamazcal, many practitioners suggest imbibing in another source of HSPs: Opotunia-Ficus-Indica, or prickly pear cactus. The fruit is high in antioxidants, particularly betalains (betanin and indicaxanthin), two molecules that give the juice its nearly fluorescent red color. With a flavor reminiscent of watermelon, the juice is rich in Vitamin C, and is one of the first cures for scurvy! The plant also contains at least five other antioxidant flavinoids. The pulp of the fruit contains the carbohydrates glucose, fructose and starch, proteins, and fibers rich in pectin.

Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticocus)is a medicinal plant native to northeast Asia. It is often referred to as Siberian Ginseng, as it is widespread in North Korea and throughout Northeastern Russia. It is not the same as Panax ginseng, the more common Chinese herbal medicine. Eleuthero is considered an anti-oxidant “adaptogen” that reduces the impact of stress, while stimulating the central nervous system.

Rooibos or “red bush” (Aspalathus linearis) is a broom-like legume growing in the fynbos (shrubland) of the Western Cape of South Africa. The leaves of the plant are used to make a bush tea, which has been popular there for generations. Rooibos leaves are oxidized (“fermented” in tea parlance) to create their red color and complex flavor. They are high in Vitamin C and antioxidant flavonoids. Cinnamic acid gives them a honey-like aroma. Rooibos has a bitter/sweet taste that has been described as slightly pungent and “warm.”

These three ingredients combine in Tamazcal Opotunia with citrus juice and zest to create a potent tonic, cleansing indeed but also a refreshingly cool end to a steamy session in a tamazcal, a hammam, or just a hot August night.

Kalalau Punch

Kalalau PunchThe Kalalau Trail winds its way along eighteen kilometers (eleven miles) of the spectacular Nā Pali Coast of the Hawaiʻian island of Kauai. This is one of the most strenuous back packing trips you will ever take. Having said that, it’s quite possible that you will encounter someone along the way hiking stark naked and wearing flip-flops. Odds are good that they will be from Quebec, especially if it’s January.

Switch-backing across deep ravines, the trail is a centimeter of mud on top of solid volcanic rock for the first six miles. Camp beneath wild coffee trees half way and struggle to keep your damp firewood lit. Then things dry out as you enter the more arid region to the south. Under such conditions, trail side camaraderie builds as you repeatedly encounter fellow hikers resting along the way. Finally arriving at Kalalau Beach is an adventure in Paradise.

The trail to Kalalau Beach is one of the world's most strenuous.

The trail to Kalalau Beach is one of the world’s most strenuous.

The recipe for Kalalau Punch was created on such a trek. Kalalau Valley is home to numerous fruit trees, including mango, papaya, avocado and orange. Passion fruit grows in abundance. If your new friends invite you over to their camp for cocktails one evening, grab several oranges, a few passion fruit, some Hawaiian Punch crystals from your stash, that flask of Whaler’s Dark Rum you packed in, and head on over. Perhaps your new pals will have a bit of Pakalolo to share, as the sun sets over the water at 7 PM, the way it does every day of the year.

The effort to obtain it makes Kalalau Punch the ultimate tiki drink. Fortunately, the wide availability of wonderful juice blends mean that you need not risk life and limb to enjoy it. Mahalo and aloha!