Let me tell you a little something about food lovers. It seems like when the subject of origin comes up with a particular dish or ingredient, it becomes particularly impressive when it is either from very very near or very very far. But of course there is the added bit of pomp when it is exclusive to some location, like a special mountain or a jungle cat’s colon. For example, if you were ordering something at a trendy restaurant, would you be more impressed if the side of cold, chopped vegetables was referred to as “asian slaw” or “Northern Thai vegetable mix”? In fact, now I’m wondering if there is a direct correlation between number of place names in a menu and average bill per person…
Well, something along that line of thinking inspired Dogfish Head to not only create a beer that sourced as much cred from the four corners of the globe (it has been a while since highschool geometry, but I do not believe spheres have corners), but did it democratically. People on the internet voted on ingredients to represent a region’s flavor, and Dogfish Head decided on the best. Ok, so that isn’t exactly democratic, but I can’t imagine the most popular flavors would have ended up being the best beer. The brew-meisters concluded on having wattleseed (Australia), toasted amaranth (South America), rooibos tea (Africa), myrica gale (Europe), and good ol’ honey (North America). The lineup, at least the parts I was familiar with, looked interesting. Great stuff… But where’s Asia? That’s a pretty fast and loose way to call continents, Dogfish Head. Just because they are technically not separated by water doesn’t mean it’s one big homogeneous island. I was tempted to just put a dropper of soy sauce in just for the principal of it, but I steadied my skepticism. We’ll see if Dogfish Head can salvage themselves from this international shame-fest.
At 8.1% ABV, this is a solid sharing-sized dubbel. It pours a crystal clear dark brown, with a little tan head. The head dissipates quickly, releasing it’s payload of coffee and spice scents. No hop aroma at all, possibly overshadowed by all the toasted cereal grains, black pepper, and fruity esters. The toasted amaranth contributes to the grainy profile, which is it’s culinary purpose in South American cooking. There is also a backing of some sweet caramel and toffee notes from the Belgian dark candi syrup they added. A very complex nose to say the least. However, we all know beer isn’t just for smelling.
The first note I got from the taste was that funny, unique honey taste. Interesting note: they are using Hiveplex honey, which is -no joke- the beekeeping arm of Google Inc. It’s just odd to think that they make one of the world’s oldest ingredients, which is in this beer, as well as being the omnipresent electronic shepard we use daily, possibly to read this very article. How very… Zeitgeisty.
After a taste or two, getting past the usual suspects of pilsner and chocolate malts, you get this very floral air to it from the African rooibos tea. Second fun fact: rooibos tea is actually not a tea, but an herb that is more closely related to coffee than tea. This is turning into a real learning experience.
The slight bitter character present in the lingering tastes of this beer is more from the myrica gale, a substitute for hops in beer up until about the 16th century. It does add a certain hop-like resinous feel, and is a good offset to the big, dark flavors that inhabit the rest of this beer. Overall, a greatly complex dance made up of some very unusual dancers. There’s plenty to taste in this, and definitely worth parsing through.
I’m hoping that this beer does what Dogfish Head intends and inspires other craft beer makers to take a look at some of the more left-field and far off ingredients that can put a very unique face on a beer. This is a good beer for being worldly and sophisticated, and you can enjoy it with good knowledge on the eclectic mix of flavors inside.
But still, couldn’t it have done with even a little bit of something Asian?