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A Lesson in Beer (and a Bialy Update)

2011 February 6
by Dylan
So, besides food, one of my other passions would have to be beer. A lot of people see the United States as a bunch of Bud-drinking rednecks, throwing back flavorless beer with reckless abandon. Realistically, though, the United States has essentially surpassed every other country in the world when it comes to beer quality, with Belgium being [arguably] the only exception. Take, for example, the IPA–when the British originally invented it, they used hops as a preservative so the beer would keep on long journeys overseas. If we flash forward to the present day, Americans load their beers with hops so we can experience the incredible flavor and aroma, as well as the bitterness.

Alright, now that I’ve got the beer background out of the way, it’s time for today’s lesson: Mixing Beer. A lot of ‘purists’ tend to frown on the practice of mixing two microbrews together, but brewers and those in the industry will be sure to tell you otherwise. Mixing brews can result in some of the best combinations available. Take, for instance, the above pictured beer–Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew. It’s a combination of an imperial stout stout and an Ethiopian honey beer called ‘tej.’ I was fortunate to have it on tap when I was in Washington, DC over Thanksgiving and can attest to its awesome-ness.

The most popular beer combo is probably the always famous “Black and Tan,” classically composed of Bass Pale Ale and Guinness. Now, for me, I usually like to veer towards the extreme end when it comes to combining brews–earlier this week, I fused a Kriek (a sour cherry ale) with a chocolate stout. I mean, chocolate-covered cherries sound good, right? Well, why not go ahead and make a beer with those flavors? It was delicious. Basically, my point from all of this is simple–be adventurous, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Next time you’re at a bar with a bunch of taps or a brewpub, ask the bartender to mix beers. If it’s a good bar, they’ll usually have no problem doing it (of course, they’ll charge you for the pricier beer). Experimenting with beer is always a lot of fun, and you’ll never know what incredible combinations you can come up with!

Now, on to a totally different topic. Previous, I wrote about how I was planning on going on a small expedition to the East Side of Madison in a quest to find real bialys. This morning, I got up and drove to the Manna Cafe, a really great breakfast joint that just so happened to have bialys on their menu. I bought half a dozen, and my reaction is somewhat mixed:
  • Appearance: Well, they don’t really look like bialys. Instead of the traditional dusted-flour top, these had a browned, somewhat-shiny top which wasn’t soft at all. The filling was chopped onion and poppyseed, a far cry from the usual small bit of onion paste I’ve always been used to.
  • Taste: After taking my first bite, there was something I hadn’t really experienced before when eating a bialy–a crunchy, airy texture. Bialys are supposed to be soft, dense and chewy, but these were airy on top. However, the ‘body’ of it was quite chewy and the taste was excellent. It may not have looked like one, but the taste was about as close to a real bialy as I was expecting to get. It totally redeemed itself.
  • Verdict: Would I make the trip again? Maybe. I’m not sure if it’s worth getting up early on the weekend (and fighting a hangover, too) for these. I’m going to try Gotham Bagels next, which is only a few blocks from my apartment. Their bagels are pretty good, but I guess we’ll have to see how well their bialys fare!
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