Day 339

When I was recently given the task of coming up with a new recipe for a cask ale, I realized there would be several challenges.

The first challenge would be to think up a new flavour concept. Sometimes this means trolling grocery stores for ideas. Or sometimes asking your spouse for new ideas works just as well. (I liked my wife’s suggestion about ginger and mango. I drew the line at a strawberry and rhubarb beer. There are just some things beer shouldn’t be asked to do.)

Then I would have to decide if the idea is going to work out. Often this means adding small quantities of your chosen ingredients to a glass of beer, then asking innocent passersby in the brewery to taste it. (Generally, if they spit the beer on the floor, I move on to the next idea.)

Based on those tests, the next challenge would be to come up with some sort of recipe. How much of your ingredients will enhance the flavour of the beer, and how much will overwhelm it? Does the cask need priming sugar, or is there something in your ingredients that will supply yeast with the simple sugars it needs to trigger a secondary fermentation? Will dry-hopping enhance the new flavours, or mask them?

Of course, once I had created the new cask of ale, I would be faced with the greatest challenge of all: giving the beer a name.

There are two schools of thought on naming cask ales. The first school opts for the simple “what kind of beer is it?” So if you’ve just made a cask ale with pale ale, ginger and mango, what should appear on the bar’s blackboard is “Ginger & Mango Pale Ale”. There can be no question in the mind of the bar patron about what will be in the pint glass when it arrives.

The second school of beer naming goes for the clever, fun and creative label. My favourite is “I’ll Have What the Gentleman on the Floor Is Having”, a very strong barleywine made by McGuire’s Irish Pub in Penascola, Florida. The name is clever and humourous, and more importantly, describes what the beer is all about.

However, creative names can sometimes run into problems when they fail to describe what is inside the cask. For instance, calling your ginger and mango cask “Stuff That I Found in the Grocery Store Produce Section Pale Ale” probably fails to make the necessary connections in the bar patron’s mind.

This debate about names was running though my mind as I created a cask using shredded ginger root and chunks of ripe mango. In the end, I went with the less descriptive but more creative moniker, “Ginger Was Hotter Than Mary Ann”.

No, the mango isn’t mentioned, but I thought the allusion to the tropical setting of Gilligan’s Island would suffice.

And hey, it might also re-trigger the old Ginger vs. Mary Ann debate.

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3 Comments on “Day 339”

  1. Canageek Says:

    ….just don’t expect your beer to appeal to anyone my age or younger.


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