I’ve long been a proponent of eating seasonally.
Tasty new green things like asparagus and favas are tastier in the spring. Roasty, braisey braised things are roastier and braisier and more satisfying when it’s cold out. Apples and pecans married with pungent cheeses and served beside this year’s gift of Bambi or Thumper help make Fall taste like Fall. And in central Texas, summers are the domain of oak fired grills, Fredericksburg peaches, melons and icy buckets of coldbeer.
Eating this way not only ensures the best possible flavors at the best times, it also connects you to the daily life around you in a much more meaningful way than say, a frozen pizza would. Tasting the soil, air and weather in your food is to taste it at its peak.
Completely disregarding every bit of this, I introduce Jimmy’s Cascadian Dark Ale. You might also call it a Black IPA. In either case it’s black, bitter and big as a bastard. Not at all suited for the 90+ degree/ 90 percent humidity days Austin will “enjoy” from now till sometime in September. You don’t taste the summer evening air after a glass or two because you can’t taste much of anything after a glass or two. And that’s what makes it so outstanding.
High flavor, high gravity beers like this one don’t exactly slake thirst so much as grudgingly beat it into submission. While technically this is a liquid, a warm glass of Lagavulin or hot bowl of stew might be more refreshing after a few hours in the heat mowing the lawn. For that matter, so might licking your pet cat. If you have a few of these bruisers on the lake you might drown. And as a pint it will be out of place at the cabana bar no matter how many frou-frou umbrellas and garnishes you lose in it’s inky depths. But at the same time, beers like this are so good and complex that I say to hell with seasonality. A fine beer is a fine beer no matter the temperature, and this is definitely the finest I’ve made yet.
My cousin and I brewed it with an extremely helpful amount of input from Jimmy at Jaded Spirits. By “helpful input” I mean an extremely detailed recipe that he was able to toss off in about 20 minutes for our benefit. The ending result is an extraordinarily aggressively hopped brew with lots of fresh hops on the nose and a good bitterness, all balanced out with a hefty, roasted malt backbone and plenty of body. It’s the Jimmy Superfly Snuka steel cage swan dive of beers—big, dramatic and deadly as hell if executed right (not incidentally, it can also land you flat on your ass if you’re not careful with it). As a beverage it’s proof that refreshment can be overrated in the face of such a flavor smack down. Sure there are some boozier brews out there and even some with more hops, but none that I’ve made. So I’m pleased as punch with this one.
Jimmy’s Cascadian Dark Ale is an extract/mash recipe with lots of light DME, crystal and black patent malts, followed by a 60 minute hop cycle consisting of plenty of high alpha acid Chinook, Amarillo and Simcoe. And then an additional dry hop of Amarillo and Simcoe in secondary fermentation. We fermented with White Labs American ale yeast, actually pitching an extra vile due to our estimated final ABV, which is somewhere upwards of 8.5%. If we had more time we would have built a big starter for the yeast, but the extra vile worked pretty well. After a month in fermentation and a month of bottle conditioning it’s great, if still a little young tasting. If I have the self control to squirrel a few bottles away for another month or so, I’m sure it will just get better– right as the outside temps are cresting around 110.
Here’s raising a glass of the stuff to Jimmy for his help and inspiration, just maybe not before driving a busload of children somewhere or entering a lumberjacking competition.