Beer: Not just for breakfast anymore!
It’s hard to imagine any better use for an icy mug of beer than to wash down nachos, Buffalo wings or a heapin’ mess o’ duck a l’orange with truffled leeks lyonnaise. But the proprietors of at least one Delaware craft brewery feel that their beers should aspire to loftier goals. Goals like … ice cream, burger buns, cheese and (faux) nuts. I am not making this up.
I had to taste it for myself, so I motored about 16 miles west of Rehoboth to none other than Georgetown’s 16 Mile Brewing Company. Years ago, Georgetown replaced Lewes as the Sussex County seat when legislators preferred the town’s central location, which they dubbed, “16 miles from anywhere.” Hence the name.
OK. Back to lofty goals. Brewers Chad Campbell and Brett McCrea recruited King’s Ice Cream in Lewes to come up with a beer-flavored confection. Founder Tom King and his son-in-law (and current owner) Rudy Spoor skillfully mixed 16 Mile’s Harvest Ale with hazelnut ice cream, and Amber Sun Ale with caramel ice cream - plus a few top-secret spices. The results could have been anywhere from tantalizingly delicious to just plain horrific, so I was honored to be included in a taste test of the final results from Messrs. King and Spoor.
Ten versions were created, each with a different balance of ingredients. The resulting formulae were labeled only by code numbers stashed away in an enormous, impenetrable vault. (Alright, the vault thing’s a joke.) So there I was, armed only with a spoon, as 16 Mile marketing director Claus Hagelman directed me to try each sample. The only thing missing was a drum roll. I’m pleased to report that my choices matched those of the majority of tasters. I don’t know what I expected, but the mysteriously marked H-3 and A-3 each had a uniquely delicious flavor. (And I’m not saying that just to get free beer.)
In a few weeks, when the new flavors are rolled out at King’s, H-3 will probably be called Harvest Hazelnut, and A-3 might be known as Amber Caramel. The beer flavor is actually derived from a nonalcoholic, prefermentation product similar to the malt used in malted milk - except that it’s the malt used for making beer. The plan is not only to sell it at King’s renowned parlor in Lewes, but also to wholesale it to inventive chefs. Just imagine what Lion Gardner, Jay Caputo, Justine Zegna, Andy Feeley and Hari Cameron will do with this stuff!
But, wait! That’s not all. Chad, Brett and Claus have teamed up with Nage/Root Gourmet baker (and fabled Bread Whisperer) Keith Irwin to come up with some exciting yeast-on-yeast action. The tops of fresh hamburger buns will be lightly washed with 16 Mile’s Blues’ Golden Ale to impart a crisp, hoppy fragrance. Keith is also concocting an artisanal sourdough to showcase the delicate coffee and chocolate notes of Harvest Ale.
Chapel’s Country Creamery in Easton, Md., is working closely with the boys at 16 Mile to incorporate beer into cheeses sourced from Chapel’s own farm. Word on the street is that their Stilton-style blue will enjoy a dousing in Blues’ Golden Ale, with cheddar getting into the act as well. Prototypes are in the works, including beer-laced mini-wheels for individual consumption.
A few weeks ago on this page I mentioned Hobos’ chef/owner Gretchen Hanson’s soybean panko. She, Chad, Brett and Claus are plotting to infuse the soft bitterness of Amber Sun Ale into Gretchen’s spiced soybeans. Plans are to market this crunchy alternative to Beer Nuts in 16 Mile’s original aluminum and glass beer bottles.
So when you find yourself in the mood for a frosty brew, you might soon satisfy that craving with some ice cream, a crunchy snack, a burger roll or maybe even a slice of cheese. And some very talented people are betting that it’ll all be delicious.