Barley Wines That Stand Out
- Feb 23 '16
Anaheim’s Noble Ale Works wasn’t succeeding – until they brought in a creative new brewer, Evan Price. With a variety of beers – from the basics done right to unusual beers like a blonde coffee stout and a cold-steeped hibiscus lager - the brewery attracts beer geeks from all around. With a personal tie to the brewer himself (having once worked together), Michael Ferguson’s visit to Noble Ale Works was full of delicious beer, amazing food, and great company.
To turn things around, Evan explained that he simply worked to change and improve the main lineup as well as to get a little crafty. Every Friday, the brewer brings out a cask beer to the eager and anticipating crowds that flock to the brewery at the end of each week. Michael helped tap – and taste - a pomelo-infused real ale before it was absorbed by the masses during his visit.
Keeping the creative juices flowing, the next item on the agenda for Michael and Evan was hitting the kettles. Brewing a gose (a sour beer), Evan switched it up by using tea instead of coriander to add body to the brew. From mill to mash, the two used both wheat and pilsen malt to form the base. While Michael added the grain, Evan worked to stir and temperature control. Mashing in at exactly 150 degrees, his goal was to produce a dry beer with a perfectly calculated taste. After the process was complete, it was time to sour. While the traditional method of doing so is to simply let the mash sit while the microbes from the air and grain attack it, Noble Ale takes a different route. Using specific cultures, Evan mixed the wort into a boil kettle and allowed it to sit for a day and a half. The alternative technique produced cleaner results.
The next ingredient was an interesting one: tea. Meeting up with tea expert Truman Severson, the hunt for the perfect leaves was completed through rigorous tasting. Sampling three very different teas—a green with bitter, vegetal qualities; a magnolia oolong with sweet, floral notes; and a smoky, earthy pu-erh—the slurping began. The slurping method of tasting, common among tea and coffee connoisseurs, aerates the liquid and evenly disperses it across the palate, allowing for even and consistent tasting. After the first round of tasting, they tried the results of the second infusion (using the same leaves a second time). Much to their surprise, the flavor changed and developed, becoming less tannic and lemonier. In the end, the two brewers decided to use the second infusion of the oolong in their batch.
In addition to the tea, they also added Cascade hops and a bit of salt to their sour beer. After steeping it for only five minutes, the beer was ready to ferment. While there wasn’t a pre-made batch for Michael to sample before his visit ended, Evan offered another tea-infused beer: the Extra Special Bitter (ESB). Brewed with Earl Gray tea, it impressed Michael with the way that the tea shone through the beer without overpowering it.
Moving onto the kitchen (at Santa Ana’s Playground restaurant), Michael met up with chef Jason Quinn, the star of the cutting-edge location. Making a curry, the pair used coconut milk, a unique beer by Noble, caramelized palm sugar, aromatic Southeast Asian veggies, mussels, and potatoes to create a complex array of flavor and texture. The beer was made especially for the restaurant - by request, Noble used fermented black garlic, which produced a fig-like taste. Michael deemed the overall results of the dish as “remarkable”. With heat, sweet, and beer, the dish perfectly nailed a variety of aspects.
Then it was time for a beer pairings dinner. Beginning with chili garlic snow crab, which was paired with Noble’s Pistol Whip’d Pilsner (a Czech-style pilsner with cucumber, lime, and floral notes), the tasting started out on an overwhelmingly positive note. The light, refreshing beer provided enough hops to cut the heat of the super spicy finger food without infringing on the dish’s taste.
The Good Ship ESB (extra special bitter) was then paired with a genuine wagyu steak. In Michael’s opinion, it was the perfect beer to pair with red meat. The bitterness worked to cut the fat of the beef while the caramel notes rounded out the rest of the dish.
Next on the table was Michael and Jason’s fresh-made curry. Paired with Noble’s Big Whig IPA (which boasted tangerine zest, rosemary, and honey notes), the combination was perfectly matched. Complementing each other perfectly, the hops took care of the dish’s heat while the aromatics were evenly paired.
Dessert ended both the tasting and Michael’s visit to the flourishing brewery. Chocolate mousse with Naughty Sauce (a golden milk stout with coffee) ice cream and additional chocolate goodness caused everyone’s mouth to water. When paired with the Knight Changer, an imperial stout with molasses and toasted marshmallow flavor, perfection ensued. The sweetness of the milk stout was further enhanced when the dark malt from the beer came into play.