International Beer Day (first Friday in August) is a global celebration of beer, taking place in pubs, breweries, and back yards all over the world — It’s a day for beer lovers everywhere to raise a toast to our brewers and bartenders, and rejoice in the greatness of beer!
I actually wasn’t going to drink any beer today, but since I learned that it was International Beer Day I decided that I had to drink one of my bombers I’ve kept around. Stone Brewery Ruination is. It’s a hop forward beer, and I probably shouldn’t have been kept around for as long as it has, but it takes a special occasion to break out a semi-high alcohol bomber all by myself, and international Beery day is just the time to do it.
It pours a pale golden straw color, with a nice off white head, and a cloudy, homebrew-like appearance.
The aroma comes off as a wonderful citrus and pine. It seems subdued from what it could be, but that is probably what happens when you keep a hop forward beer around for a few months.
The taste follows right along from the aroma. Citrus, pine, wood right up front. Not as sweet/mango/fruit that you would get from something like Citra, but very traditional American hop. Toasty malt coming up behind. The bitterness is very assertive, but despite the name, and the long warning on the bottle, it is not harsh. In fact, I think the word smooth would be very appropriate. It is not too sweet, but definitely not dry. There is also a nice warming alcohol feel, without any hot burning.
It is a great, refreshing ale for hot summer days. It goes great with a spicy stir-fry and smashed Chipotle sweet potatoes. In fact, you really need to pair this with food that has very strong flavors, otherwise this beer will ruin all other flavors for you and you will just taste beer.
If you don’t keep Barley in your pantry, I think is the time to start. Never thought of eating barely outside of the occasional Campbell’s Beef and Barely soup? What better to eat with a beer than the main grain in beer. It’s time to expand your horizon. Just let us monkey’s help you to a more diverse gastronomical experience.
The major problem is that most grocery stores I come across only have pearled barely. Pearled Barley is the white rice of Barley. Bland, tasteless, and sad (not to mention far less nutritious). You need to look for hulled barley, which simply has the hulls taken off. One more step than the barley that goes to your local malster to become the malted barley that a brewer uses. To find Hulled Barley I ended up at Whole Foods. Usually Whole Foods is on the expensive side, but if you head to the bulk section you’ll find all sorts of grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, and dried fruit in more variety and at a cheaper prices than at the grocery store.
Since it was such a nice day, I decided on a Barely and Fennel Salad which I got from Good Eats. I haven’t had a lot of fennel but it is tasty. It is incredibly aromatic and sweeter than your run of the mill onion. More like a Vidalia onion than your traditional hot white onion, with a more floral smell. I added Parsley which has I think has a pungent minty taste to it. Obviously not as minty as a mint leaf and not as sharp as something like cilantro. It is more like a memory of mint, with some other herbal notes thrown in. I threw in some toasted pine nuts and some crispy bacon. I have never toasted pine nuts before. I failed two times by burning them before I got it right. Kind of a shame really since pine nuts are so damn expensive. I finished it off with a dressing I made from fresh squeezed orange juice and extra virgin olive oil.
I paired it with one of my last Guinness Stouts I had from St. Patty’s Day. I thought, Barley Stew goes go perfectly with a stout and is often made with it, why not Barley Salad? Of course a salad with fennel and citrus is a bit different from the earthy flavors that go into a stew. Don’t get me wrong. With the hulled barely, toasted pine nuts, and the bacon it had plenty of toast and earthiness to match up with the roasty toasty flavors of the stout.
One thing you might not know about Guinness is that they sour 3% of their beer and then mix it in to the rest of the batch. 3% isn’t enough to make you go, this is a sour beer like an Oud Bruind or an unflavored Lambic. It is just enough to say “Hmm, there are some nice layers to this beer. I can’t put my foot on what makes it like this, but I like it.” It is just like the Barley Salad. There are 3 tablespoons (3 tablespoons and 3%, coincidence?) of orange juice in the dressing which is not enough to make me think of it as a citric dish, but enough to give is a little extra complexity. The beer also does a nice job of cutting right through the aromatic Fennel and any bits of parsley you might get.