Sunday 19 April 2009

Beer for the non-beer drinker

My brother Dave suffers from an unfortunate and embarrassing condition. He doesn't like beer. As a compassionate man I have taken it upon myself to try and find some way of bringing joy into his otherwise dull and meaningless life. 

As he's a big fan of coffee I first tried him on Meantime coffee beer. This did show some initial success but then he managed to detect hop bitterness so it was rejected.
Williams brothers Alba, an old fashioned ale flavoured with pine, worked a treat though and got the thumbs up. It's a shame it's not more widely available as it's a classic brew. I find the pine flavour makes for a really refreshing drink, despite its strength.

Last night I tried out on him a couple of brews I got from Booths when I was in the lake district. First up was another historic ale from the Williams brothers, Fraoch, the heather ale. I find this sweet and delicately flavoured. Sensitive soul that he is my brother managed to detect some bitterness but it still got the thumbs up. I know Sweet gale, or as it is less appetisingly known Bog myrtle, is used in making Fraoch. This used to be one of the bittering agents used in old fashioned unhopped ales so it's probably that he's noticing. I'd love to try making an unhopped ale but I'm not sure where I could get bog myrtle from. Would I need to wander round picking it next time I'm in the Scottish countryside? And which part of the plant do you use?

Next drink I tried was Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer. I was hoping this would be a beer with ginger added, like Dalesides Morocco Ale. In fact it was just a ginger beer with added alcohol.  It went down well with Dave but I can't count this as a success as I'm sure it's never been near a barley grain. I might as well have brought him an alcopop. It did open up another possibility though as my Chai beer has a strong ginger taste amongst the spiciness. I'll bring a bottle round next time. 

I find it frustrating that alcoholic beverages don't have to list their ingredients. It would be much easier to find out how unusual tasting drinks are made if they did. On the Williams brothers website no mention of hops is made but for all I know they could be included. No hops does fit in with the symptoms by brother displays of not liking hop bitterness (or Humulophobia to give it its Latin name) though.

I'm currently having a go at making an unhopped bragot flavoured with honey and spices inspired by Radical Brewing. It will be interesting to see how this goes down with Dave, and if anyone else has ideas for beer that might help him overcome his terrible affliction suggestions are more than welcome.


  1. I wasn't a fan of the Froach, it was all too heathery for me! Not had the Alba, is the pine in it delicate or sappy and resinous? It just gives me a memory of retsina in Greece, eurgh!

    I've just got the Radical Brewing book. I've flicked through but not really read it yet. There's some cool stuff in in though.

  2. No, not resinous, a fresh pine smell and taste that works well for me. Don't touch their kelp beer though, flavouring beer with seaweed just doesn't work.

    Nice one on getting Radical Brewing, a great resouce for us fans of American craft beer (I bet Martin Dickie from Brewdog's got a copy!)

  3. Beer with seaweed?! Interesting. I've seen it but never tried it. I bet Martin could write his own radical book on brewing and James could do his own book on marketing!