After cleaning the ceiling fans on Monday and ordering new sweatpants yesterday, just a single item remains on my 2015 to-do list, and I don’t think I’m going to get around to it. I really figured this was going to be the year I finally learned how to brew my own beer, but a lack of space and gumption—combined with a job that renders some beer free and the rest of it tax-deductible—has all but assured that the pilot batch of Not Bad For A Blogger Lager will have to wait until 2016 at the earliest.
I bet I’m going to dig homebrewing; I like beer, and I like to cook. And I vehemently disagree with the most commonly cited reason for not bothering to roll your own brewskis: “There’s so much great beer out there already.” Well, no shit. Same with hot sauce and ham sandwiches, but that doesn’t stop the mid-ambitious of us from giving those our own whirls. I don’t assume the folks I see contentedly knitting away on the subway are trying to compete with the Gap. No, they’re just acknowledging that sometimes it’s gratifying to do the odd thing for yourself. You ever change your own oil? Me neither, but I bet it produces quite the high. Doing shit is cool.
You know who isn’t too lazy and spoiled to brew her own beer? Juli Goldenberg of San Diego, who recently won the annual Stone Homebrew Competition with her 24 Carrot Golden Ale. Upon winning the contest, she collaborated with Stone and her local Monkey Paw Brewing to produce a commercial batch of her dessert-flavored, Belgian-yeasted concoction, and Stone sent me a bottle.
I am pleased to confirm that Juli is not only motivated and unspoiled, but also exceedingly good at inventing wacky beer recipes. I don’t tend to care for heavily spiced beers, and I feared this joint was engineered to stand out in a crowd first, lend itself to a punny name second, and maybe taste decent third. Not that I suspected Stone would bottle and distribute anything downright gross, but I still thought this might be a bit too self-consciously showy for my tastes.
The label describes 24 Carrot as an 8.5-percent alcohol-by-volume “carrot cake-inspired Belgian-style ale.” I like carrots, cake, carrot cake, and Belgian beer, but I was nervous about how deftly they could be conjured and combined with carrots, cinnamon, raisins, and vanilla beans. That just sounded like too much stuff, a common problem in American liquid dining. Most of the soups I make and drinks I order have at least one ingredient too many—usually cumin and allspice dram, respectively. The 24 Carrot Golden Ale recipe struck me as similarly kitchen-sinky, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t all work out just fine.
It pours an orange-tinted light-yellow color, and the first smells to hit are strong raisin and vanilla, followed by mercifully subdued cinnamon and something sweet that I probably would have guessed to be honey had I not known about the carrots (they’re the second sugariest vegetable, after beets). The taste is more complex than the aroma suggests—this is why it’s important to always remember to drink your beer when you’re done sniffing it!—as the cinnamon becomes more pronounced, along with cloves and banana bread from the yeast. The finish shows a bit of spicy, herbal bitterness from the Hallertau and Saaz hops, but the hopping is restrained by Stone standards, which allows this beer to be what it’s supposed to be: a sweet and playful dessert beer that somehow manages to evoke carrot cake without devolving into an over-spiced mess.
Stone’s Carrot Cake Golden Ale costs about $10 per big bottle. I got a free sample, but I’ll gladly pay for another round if one of you wants to bring pie over a few Thursdays from now. Sure, this beer’s a bit of a gimmick, but that doesn’t preclude it from being a good time.
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Image by Jim Cooke.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter@WillGordonAgain.