Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Quest for El Dorado

There are many stories throughout history about the "gilded one."  Back in the 17th century, one author, Juan Rodríguez Freyle wrote in El Camero about how the "gilded one" emerged from a cave at Lake Guatavita (in what is now Colombia) covered in gold dust.  This was a special ceremony, which was part of the ascension of the gilded one to become the leader of the Muisca people.  To the Spanish conquistadors, the "gilded one" was known as El Dorado.  The conquistadors believed that Lake Guatavita was full of gold and, at one point, they drained the lake to reveal its riches.  Unable or unwilling to drain the lake completely, the Spaniards were only able to find some gold coins along the edge.

For centuries thereafter, the name El Dorado became synonymous with a place where there was abundant wealth.  However, wealth can be more than the number of gold ducats in your possession.  Indeed, it does not even need to be associated with the chemical symbol Au.  In the context of craft beer, the El Dorado  is that beer with the perfect accumulation of aromas and tastes.  It is that beer that will motivate people to assume the roles of modern day conquistadors, plodding through unknown beer stores, grocery stores and other locales searching out that very special beer.
I was one of those beer conquistadors.  Walking through a newly discovered beer store, I came across El Dorado.  This beer is one of the latest, limited releases by Flying Dog, and it is brewed using only a single hop, aptly named the El Dorado. According to the brewers, the El Dorado hop was first bred between 20 and 25 years ago by a United States Department of Agriculture research program.  The USDA program cultivated the hops for eventual use by Anheuser-Busch. However, Anheuser-Busch eventually decided to abandon the hop.  Now, A sole grower in Moxee Valley, a northern district of the famed Yakima Valley, kept the variety in the ground over the years and in 2010, harvested a mere 1.5 acres.  Those cones made their way to Frederick, Maryland, where Flying Dog used them to produce this beer.

As the name suggests, Flying Dog used only the El Dorado hops to produce this beer. However, they also used Rye, Cara-Pils and Biscuit malts, along with an American ale yeast during the brewing process. 

The El Dorado pours a bright gold or orange color, with only a thin, quick receding foam.   The aroma is full of citrus, such as grapefruit, tangerines and perhaps a little lemon.  There is even a little pepper or spice around the edges.  The taste of the beer mirrors the grapefruit aromas, which provides some bitterness, along with some grassy or herbal notes.  The most surprising aspect of the El Dorado is the sweetness that is found in the taste of the beer.  That sweetness numbs the bitterness, especially during the finish of the beer.

The brewers at Flying Dog suggest that this beer can be paired with a range of ingredients or dishes.  Pineapples and star fruit.  Thai or Mexican dishes.  This is just reflective of Imperial Pale Ales, which are fairly easy to pair with foods. I paired this beer with a lamb t-bones, grilled in the Fiorentina style, with mashed potatoes and a basic mushroom sauce.  The pairing worked very well. 

I found this six pack at a local beer and wine store.  It sold for about $15.00 for a six-pack.  Of course, I guess gold is kind of expensive....


For more about the legend of El Dorado, check out the National Geographic Society.

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