Let’s Get Crafty

Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Gifts Of The Charred Oak Barrel

By Timothy Long Gifts Of The Charred Oak Barrel In the world of alcohol, the charred oak barrel is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. It gives us many gifts. The first, and most important, gift of the charred oak barrel, bourbon. You must have new charred oak barrels to produce bourbon. This part of the production process is part of our heritage. Those barrels give bourbon its distinctive flavor. Bourbon is American, as much as Mom (or at least mine), baseball, and apple pie! But I’ll get back to that. Let’s get to the bottom of the charred oak barrel first. No one knows who charred the first barrel. Legends and rumors abound as to its origins. It makes for fun conversation. The Elijah Craig website claims that their founder, Reverend Elijah Craig, became the first distiller to age his whiskey in newly charred oak barrels in 1789. According to the Angels Envy website, cognac distillers in France would store their spirits is charred oak barrels as far back as the 15th century. They also cite that charring barrels may be a by-product of barrel making, or coopering: “The barrel-maker would toast the interior of a stave in order to make it more pliable and able to be bent inward. Over time, distillers might have noticed that a heavier level of char imparted better flavors in their spirit, and the process could have been a gradual evolution that spread slowly over time. It’s reasonable to assume that this practice could easily have made its way to Kentucky amongst the waves of Scotch and Irish immigrants. It’s even possible that Kentucky distillers began to char their barrels like the Cognac producers in France to appeal to the French settlers in New Orleans, where the whiskey was often shipped.” Another reason stated…

Continue Reading

Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Wassail!!! And Other Holiday Delights

By Timothy Long Wassail!!! And Other Holiday Delights “Wassailing? What the hell is wassailing?” Was the reply my 15-year-old self gave to his friends when they said we were going wassailing. “Caroling” they said. “You mean door to door?” “Yes” No way! I was too cool for that! Not happening! Then the girls showed up to join us. Suddenly my attitude changed, and I’ve been wassailing ever since. The word “wassailing” has evolved for over 1000 years. It is derived from Old Nordic and Old English words that meant “be in good health”. A British tradition, it originally referred to a drink made of mulled ale or cider, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. According to WhyChristmas.com: “One legend about how Wassailing was created says that a beautiful Saxon maiden named Rowena presented Prince Vortigen with a bowl of wine while toasting him with the words ‘waes hael’. Over the centuries, a great deal of ceremony developed around the custom of drinking wassail. The bowl was carried into the room with great fanfare, a traditional carol about the drink was sung, and finally, the steaming hot beverage was served.” Wassailing was traditionally celebrated on New Year’s Eve, or Twelfth Night. But as time moved on, rich people began to drink wassail during the twelve days of Christmas. Starting in the 1600s it was common to take a bowl of wassail from door to door while caroling. Over time, wassailing became known as caroling. The drink’s heyday is in the past. But it is still not forgotten. Lost Boy Cider in Alexandria will be hosting a Wassail event on January 7th‘ complete with the traditional drink and wassail songs. They are also releasing a 12-pack of their monthly explorer series ciders representing the 12 Days of Christmas….

Continue Reading

Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Beer With My Turkey? Yes Please!!

By Timothy Long Beer With My Turkey? Yes Please!! No celebration is complete without beer. It’s been that way since 7000 BCE. Why would our modern Thanksgiving be any different? Think about your average Turkey Day. You go out and volunteer for a charity in the morning or walk/run a 5K or 10K Turkey Trot. Will you need a beer afterward? Certainly, you will. In fact, you deserve it for being such a good person. Or you stay home and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. You’re going to need a beer at the end to cheer Santa as he arrives at Macy’s!  And what comes on television after the parade? Football!! It’s almost un-American not to drink beer while watching football. And does beer go with Thanksgiving dinner? Of course! What was the first thing the Pilgrims did when they arrived at Plymouth Rock? They built a fire. And why did they build a fire? To brew beer! They wanted beer. They needed beer. Thanksgiving is a beautiful festival, a giving of thanks for all we have. It’s the great American tradition. It deserves beer. Even Black Friday requires beer. Especially if you work for a retailer and just completed one of those horrific Black Friday shifts. The whole thing adds up to a great weekend for beer. But first, let’s explore Turkey Day and the great beers that can go with it. We’ll start with the founders of this feast, the Pilgrims. We tend to have a stuffy opinion of who they were. They were puritan in their ways, but not actual Puritans. The Pilgrims were separatists who rejected the Church of England and everything in it that was related to Roman Catholicism.  The Puritans came here 10 years later. Their goal was to ‘purify’ the Church of England…

Continue Reading

Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

The Art of the Football Tailgate Party

By Timothy Long The Art of the Football Tailgate Party “You can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning!” My fraternity brother, Smitty, speaks these words to me while he’s ladling Bloody Mary’s out of a full 12-gallon stock pot into two plastic cups for us. The year is 1982. It is eight o’clock in the morning on my first football Saturday living in the fraternity house. There are two 12-gallon stock pots on the bar, the Bloody Mary one, and one full of vodka and orange juice, Screwdrivers, next to it. These are our morning vitamins. The smell of stale beer that had been spilled at the party the night before is our potpourri. I remember the drinks being great. But I’m sure they were terrible. My palate today is much more developed than my 20-year-old palate. Soon we will be in a pickup truck with 3 kegs of beer, a grill, hotdogs, hamburgers, and the accompanying accoutrements. The kegs are full of cheap, mass-produced beer. That’s how it is when you are in college. It was also years before the craft beer trend hit the US. High end beer at this time was imported beer, and it was expensive.  We are on our way to the stadium parking lot, about to have a tailgate party. Tailgates are an American tradition that did not have its beginnings at a football game. It has its roots in traditional Fall bounty festivals and a Civil War battle. The tailgate party is not just about drinking before a football game. These parties occur in fall, when end of summer festivities have been celebrated for centuries. The football tailgate is merely an extension of those celebrations. University of Notre Dame cultural anthropologist John Sherry states that: “The idea of getting out…

Continue Reading

Let's Get Crafty

Oktoberfest!!!

By Timothy Long Oktoberfest!!! “Grab the Yank!!” I hear from behind me. It’s September 2004, Oktoberfest.  I’m in Munich, Germany at the festival with my friends. And yes, Octoberfest does begin in September, not in October. Modern tradition is to have the festival in the last two weeks of September so that it can end on the first Sunday in October, close to October 3rd, German Reunification Day. We are in the Ochsenbraterei (Ox Roast) Tent sponsored by Spaten. There are two huge oxen roasting on spits in one corner of the tent. Each major brewer in Munich erects a tent at the festival.  These so-called “tents” are nothing of the sort. They are enormous structures that are more like warehouses than tents. The larger ones hold approximately 6000 people. Imagine a Walmart that has been stripped bare, a band stand placed in the middle, then the rest of the space filled with picnic tables, that would be one tent. This trip is a religious experience for any beer drinker. It’s the world’s biggest kegger. Over 16 million people from all over the world will make the pilgrimage to Munich during the two weeks of the festival. This is my first of my five trips to Munich for Oktoberfest. I’m a rookie. And I’m not paying attention to the Australian and Irish group behind me. We had been laughing and joking with them earlier. I’m too busy dancing on the bench of our table and slaughtering German drinking songs at the top of my lungs with my buddies while trying to maintain control of the giant one-liter stein of beer in my hand. I should be paying attention. “Grab the Yank!” I hear again. And what I stupidly do not realize is that I am the Yank. I’m suddenly grabbed…

Continue Reading

Let's Get Crafty

Give Me Hops, But Don’t Give Me “Bitter” Death

By Timothy Long   Give Me Hops, But Don’t Give Me “Bitter” Death “What’s your favorite kind of beer?” The bartender asked with a smile. “An open one.” I replied. She chuckles, probably out of politeness. It’s an old joke and not overly funny. I was visiting family and friends in Pittsburgh. Like most Pittsburghers, we are all of Irish and German descent. So, a bar is a fitting place to gather. The craft beer trend is alive and well in Pittsburgh, just like the rest of the country. There are breweries and brewpubs in every part of the area. We were in a Gastropub downtown called City Works. It’s a huge, wide open, brightly lit establishment with tons of televisions, and tons of beer. They carry over 90 beers on tap. My wife jokes that I am in heaven. She’s not far from the truth. “What local beers do you have?” I inquire. The bartender asks, “Do you like pale ales?” Oh yes. The Pale Ale. The sweetheart, the little darling of the craft beer industry. The name still brings back bitter memories of the beers being brewed in the early days of the American craft beer trend.  It’s loaded with hops and can often be bitter beyond belief. I am reminded of a quote from the Master Brewer of Brooklyn Brewery in the New Yorker in 2008:  “When a brewer says, ‘This has more hops in it than anything you’ve had in your life—are you man enough to drink it?’ It’s sort of like a chef saying, ‘This stew has more salt in it than anything you’ve ever had—are you man enough to eat it?’” Even the mere mention of hops makes many beer drinkers think of only one word, bitter. Over-hopped beer can be very bitter. It…

Continue Reading