Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Its all about the Alchemy Hour ...

Along the beaches of California, surfers have a term for that period of time when they can enjoy the best that a swell has to offer ... the "Alchemy Hour."  The origin of the phrase is unknown, but one could surmise that it is the combination of elements to transform regular waves into those surface gravity waves that provide the best surfing.

Great Lakes Brewing Company has borrowed the term "Alchemy Hour" for its Double India Pale Ale.  The brewery claims that it chose the name to commemorate those who surf the Great Lakes.  That hardy lot has to work a little harder than their brethren who surf the Pacific Ocean's waves.  (Swells are not as swell on the Great Lakes and the reasons are better left for something other than a beer review.)   The GLBC brewers note that, on the Great Lakes, "our surfers have to work a little harder to find the perfect swell, waking at dawn and camping out on icy beaches in freezing temperatures.  Crazy?  Yes.  Extreme? Definitely, But we crafted our Double IPA for the bold ones."   

The choice of words often provides hidden clues or suggestions.  Take, for example, "crafted."  Alchemy is the medieval practice of transmuting one thing into another, relying upon the properties of materials to craft something truly special.  For centuries, people used alchemy in an effort to turn base metals into gold or other precious metals.  Those people failed.  Perhaps they were trying to create the wrong kind of gold.  After all, the end product need not carry the chemical symbol "Au."    
Gold could be something else.  It could be liquid gold, like beer.  In this case, the "alchemy" practiced by the brewers produced a Double India Pale Ale that pours pours a burnt copper or orange color, several shades off from what one would ordinarily consider the color of gold.

Color aside, the brewers were able to use the properties of the all natural ingredients -- Harrington 2 Row Base Malt, Caramel 45 malt, and honey malt, as well as Mosaic, nugget and cascade hops -- to produce a beer that is definitely golden in both aroma and flavor.  The beer as the aromas of citrus, like fresh grapefruit

However, the "alchemy" practiced by the brewers at Great Lakes Brewing Company produced  the end product does not need Pours a burnt copper or orange color.  Aromas of citrus, like grapefruit.  These aromas are from the use of the Mosaic hops, which provide floral, citrus and fruity aromas to the beer.  The citrus tones carry over to the taste of the beer, providing the bitter bite one expects from a hopped-up India Pale Ale.  There was also a little pine flavor in the beer, perhaps offered by the nugget hops.  While this citrus and pine bitterness was fairly strong in the beer, it was nevertheless wrapped up in a surprising sweetness, brought out by the use of the honey malts.

The brewers at the GLBC suggest that the Alchemy Hour Double IPA pairs well with smoked beef brisket, grilled lamb, sharp and rich cheeses, and sweet desserts.

Great Lakes Brewing Company definitely found liquid gold with the Alchemy Hour Double IPA.  As for myself, I found this beer at a local grocery store, where it sold for about $10.99 a four-pack.  This is a limited production beer.  If you see it, you should buy it.


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