Thursday, November 7, 2013


If one were to ask what ingredient would seem to be the most unlikely to be used in brewing beer, I think dandelion greens would be near the top, if not at the top, of the list.  The leaves of seemingly ubiquitous weed are earthy and minerally in taste, but they are also very bitter.  I would think that a lot of work would need to be done to balance that bitterness, and, it would take some very adept brewers to achieve that balance.

Enter the brewers of New Belgium Brewing and Red Rock Brewery, who teamed up to brew the Paardebloom, an ale brewed with dandelion greens.  The brewers not only used those bitter greens, but also grains of paradise. This ingredient, which goes by a more formal name ... Aframomum Melegueta, is the seeds from a plant that is principally grown in western Africa.  Those seeds impart a peppery taste.  While pepper can complement and curtail the tartness of the greens, still more work needs to be done to produce a balanced beer, let alone a great beer.

Once again, the New Belgium and Red Rock brewers did that work.  Along with a wild Belgian yeast and some wood-aged beer, the brewers produced a Belgian-style ale with Pale, German Pilsner, Dark Wheat, Rye and Munich malts, with Target Hops.  All of these ingredients helped to balance the bitterness of the greens and grains, while allowing those ingredients to contribute to the overall taste.

The Paardebloem pours a golden color, with a thin light foam.  The brewers describe the aroma as having peach, fresh baked bread, fresh greens, white wine, slight pepper and clove, with a hint of that funky barnyard esters.  I definitely got the peach, bread, greens and white wine.  There was also some pepper and clove. I did not get that barnyard ethers, perhaps because I have had one too many Brettanomyces beers and "barnyard' for me literally means two feet in the middle of a pigpen.   As for the taste, many of those aromatic elements find their way onto the tongue.  The brewers suggest a slight tannic bitterness from the dandelion greens, which is definitely present.  However, the malts provide some sweetness that counters the bitterness of the greens, as well as provides some freshness.

When it comes to pairing, the brewers suggest Hawaiian Short Ribs and Citrus Fennel Salad.  This recommendation sheds light on good pairings.   This beer can pair well with any beef and pork, even chicken, although a more substantial dish would work well.  A lighter dish may not tame the bitterness of the beer enough. 

I found this beer at a local grocery store.  I do not remember the cost of the beer, but it should be about $10 a bottle.


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