01 February 2017
At Carton we like to stay Off The Beaten Craft, and one of our approaches to skirt the ground craft trods is through the deconstruction of aspects inherent to established flavors. For the Extreme Beer Project we looked to have fun with all five tastes: Bitter, Salty, Sweet, Sour, and Umami, and of course to do so with something simple, classic and unique to our region. We looked at the archetypal pastrami sandwich, on rye, with a kosher pickle.
Not necessarily a beer that tastes exactly like a pastrami on rye with a pickle — that would be cool, but then why not just have the sandwich? — rather a beer that tastes like a beer while evoking the aspects that make that sandwich combination exceptional.
Umami: for the unctuousness of the seasoned brisket we went with a Flanders Red as the foundation. Over time and slow exposure of wood Flanders Reds develop richness like few beers.
Salty: the saltiness of the pastrami cure on the brisket is what ultimately ties the myriad directions of the flavors in the dish together. Conveniently this is easy in beer, we salted the wort enough to give the other aspects a pop.
Sour: on the plate the pickle, the vinegar in the mustard, and that very light sour touch in the crumb of a good rye bread are what accents the base flavors of the rich, salty, peppery meat. The inherent sourness of the beer lightly seasoned with dill qualities of Sorachi Ace hops, mustard seeds, and rye malts pre-flameout and some fresh dill as dry hop, bend the beer’s sour to the dish’s notions.
Sweet: in the dish the sweetness is simple — sugar in the pastrami rub and good bread. In the beer it’s as easy — some brown sugar to ferment, drying the beer but leaving some treacle aromas behind, on top of Special B, Caramunich, and Aromamalt, give enough sweetness to tie it together without cloying.
Bitter: on the sandwich the bitter are the spices — pronounced black pepper, paprika, mustard, caraway. In the beer, all of these go in at flameout, allowing them to cook in and be present throughout the palate rather than overbearing at the end. On the bitter side we also added a touch of smoked malt to the grist, as an acrid touch and for its general evocation of meatiness to the beer.
There are 2 ways to skin this cat, fast and slow. Fast will be down and dirty and will rely on your having a considered hand while seasoning. Ferment the beer out and add small amounts of good malt vinegar to bring it to a sour level you are comfortable with. In the quick version, we also halve the spice proportions to leave a little room for fAt Carton we like inesse. Make a grain neutral tincture of the same spices and gently touch the beer up to a level that pleases you. Remember you are looking for final product that evokes the dish when considered, not a malt beverage that “tastes just like.”
Slow will allow the flavors to integrate while the beer sours and will gradually result in the mélange we are looking for. But you may use the same tricks to dial the beer in before packaging. In this case, however, maybe looking for just a touch more, let’s say caraway, and you will see that coming over time while you check in on it so you can be ready to make the tincture a little more heavy in that aspect of the spice mix.