It was a dark and stormy night…

Week 48 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Ginger beer.

Right about now you’re asking yourself what business ginger beer has being part of a drinking adventure. Ginger beer, as well as ginger ale is a non-alcholic beverage. Right? Right? Well, it so happens, ginger beer is a product of fermentation and as such does contain a trace amount of alcohol -less than 0.5%, the legal threshold for marketing something as non-alcoholic. And in fact, ’twas not always the case. Ginger beer, when it originated, was a much more potent potable than its modern day counterparts. Today’s ginger beers are heated to kill off the fermenting yeast and to boil off the majority of the alcohol, leaving a scant remnant behind.

51fffcpqPZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_According to our guide, several ginger beer brewers have returned to their roots and rather than halt the fermentation process, are allowing the yeast to work its magic and produce more alcohol. I was unable to sample the products recommended, however, but I’ll list them here in case you want to give them a try: Crabbie’s, Ginger Grouse, Hollows & Fentimans -all companies in the United Kingdom. Maybe Lula had better luck…

I do occasionally indulge in a cocktail that makes use of the ‘non-alcoholic’ ginger beer, however, and this is the connection to Snoopy if you hadn’t figured it out…

The Dark and Stormy: dark spiced rum (I like the Captain Morgan Black Rum) over ice mixed with ginger beer. Basically it’s a Cuba Libre with ginger beer instead of Coke. And it’s definitely better in the summertime by the pool. But why not sip as you sit in front of the typewriter,  composing your noir thriller.

And an update from a couple weeks ago… Remember the pickle back? A shot of whiskey or other spirit followed by a shot of pickle juice? Well, in an attempt to be a good sport, I tried it. I had a shot of Woodford reserve bourbon followed by a shot of Klaussen’s kosher dill pickle juice. And…. it wasn’t awful. I can’t quite grasp the point of covering over the flavor and warmth of a nice whiskey with the brine of pickle, though. At least I can say I’ve tried it. Cheers!

Image (of course) from Peanuts by Charles Schulz

Drinking Adventurously – Writer’s Edition

Week 47 in the Year of Drinking Adventurously. Sweet potato beer. (FAIL)

I didn’t find this locally –although truth be told, I didn’t look too hard. I saw sweet potato beer and thought: pumpkin beer, which falls under the category of ‘enough with the pumpkin already’ in my world. The chapter of our guide started with ‘Japan’ and meandered to ‘gluten free’ and my eyes crossed and I gave up. (No offense Jeff, this is still an awesome book. Buy it y’all.)51fffcpqPZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

And besides, I’ve been stressed enough this month trying to pen a novel in 30 days. So instead, because I’m consumed with writing, I thought we’d explore that age old bit of wisdom wrongly attributed to Ernest Hemingway: Write drunk, edit sober. (That’s right, Fictional Kevin, Ernie never said that.) I’ve also tried this approach: write sober, get drunk, edit with a hangover. Or write with a hangover, edit whilst drunk again. Of course, I’m kidding… Sort of. It actually works brilliantly with poetry. My poetry anyway.

Apparently (according to Google -that infallible source of all things everything) the quote is more likely from novelist, Peter De Vries. In his book, “Reuben, Reuben” published in 1964, the main character is based on a famous drunkard -the poet, Dylan Thomas. On page 242 the character says this: “Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

Well, whoever said it, its the second bit that’s brilliant -the part about having both elements of creation in your writing – emotion and discipline…  The trick is finding the balance. Lowering the inhibitions or finding that altered state, may prompt you to put down on paper (or screen) words that you may have have thought twice about in a more restrained condition. Some of my most inspired writing comes to me at 3:00 am when my eyes slam open with an idea fully formed during the fog of sleep. I have to creep from bed, find my notebook and scribble it all down before it’s lost to the next round of sleep, or daylight whichever comes first. 

There is a fine line between intoxication and inspiration. What I mean is, a little liquid prime to the creative pump is a good idea, but flooding the engine just stalls it out. So don’t write drunk and  edit sober. Write inspired and edit minimally.

Sorry for the fail Lula



Drinking Adventurously – In Meg’s Kitchen

Week 46 In the Year Of Drinking Adventurously. Pickleback – not so much a fail as, ‘eww, who drinks that?’

Briefly, pickleback –just so you know what it is and why I skipped it– is a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice as a chaser. Not appealing.

Anyway, remember the week we were supposed to drink Spanish Cidre and I ended up with the horrible, pathetic domestic alternative? Well, a fellow blogger kindly offered to help me out. My friend Javier offered to locate and ship a Spanish Cidre to me, and he totally came through. Not just with cidre but with some bonus swag as well:

And yes, my kitchen has a TV facing the bar. The giant inflatable bottle of beer will go out to the pool next summer. And, uh, ignore the mess…

The large bottle in the center is the star of the show, Gurutzeta Cidre from the Basque region of Spain. 

And oh, what a difference from the sickly sweet American imposter. This wasn’t sweet, was slightly tart, but still had a nice apple flavor and it had a ‘tiny bubble’ kind of carbonation, if that makes sense. Lovely, indeed. And in the weeks since cider was the adventure, I’ve done some research and discovered that making hard cider isn’t that much different from home brewing beer which brings me to chapter two of this post.

Last Friday, my girlfriend Cathy acquired six gallons of freshly pressed cider from a local orchard for each of us to convert to an alcoholic version.

I decided to make a traditional hard cider with hints of ginger, cinnamon, and allspice. I added 3 pounds of brown sugar to up the alcohol content. I realize that sounds like the cider will be sweet but that’s not the case. All that sugar will be converted to alcohol by the yeast as it ferments. When it’s finished, the cider should be rather dry and have an ABV of about 9% which is more than twice that of a standard beer. The fresh cider is warmed to about 80-90° F, the sugar and spices stirred in to dissolve, then transferred to the fermenting bucket before adding the yeast.

Cathy added honey and sour cherry concentrate to her batch, for a completely different flavor profile. Sounds amazing, right?  We’ll trade samples when it’s ready. Here’s the bad news – it probably won’t be finished for six months!

I’m going off the map again next week, too. But I haven’t a clue where I will end up! I wonder if Lula tried the pickle back…

The sketch in the header image is my own.