Wednesday, November 23, 2005
With the holidays upon us, get-togethers and parties will come fast and furious. This time of year gives everyone the excuse to slow down, if just for a few moments, and appreciate the finer pleasures in life—good people, good food and good drink.
Those looking for a beer of exceptional quality to share over the holidays need look no further than Samuel Smith. Samuel Smith is one of the few remaining micro-breweries in England and the only one to use the classic Yorkshire Square system of beer fermentation—brewed in stone squares at the Old Brewery in Tadcaster since 1758. Their distinctive heritage of beer brewing includes a special Samuel Smith strain of yeast, hand-weighed hops and fresh well water.
Six varieties of Samuel Smith's beer are available at various retailers throughout Jackson, including locally owned McDade's, and cost approximately $10.99 for a 4-pack. From the lighter-colored India Ale to the dark and creamy Oatmeal Stout, each variety has a colorful history that further accentuates its pleasurable taste.
Samuel Smith's India Ale, first brewed in the 18th and early 19th centuries, is a highly hopped beer that was made to withstand the three-month ship ride from London to Bombay. This variety of beer became known as "IPA," or India Pale Ale. It is a great primer for those just acquainting themselves with fine beer because of its floral smell and invigorating yet well-balanced taste. Food pairings include Indian curries, cheeses (such as Asiago, Colby, Parmesan or Sharp Cheddar) and shellfish.
Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale is a bit darker than the India Ale and has a nutty, almost caramel-flavored finish. Brown ale is traditionally one of the oldest brewing styles in England and was even mentioned in 15th century literature like "The Canterbury Tales." This beer is absolutely ideal for festive occasions. Similar to Newcastle Brown Ale, this ale is smooth and pairs nicely with a roasted game hen, barbecued duck, pepper steak, or spicier dishes such as paella, Thai food and pineapple curry.
Brewers first formulated Oatmeal Stout in the late 1800s for lactating mothers. At the time, some even described it as a nutritional drink. The oats impart a great flavor to this stout, giving it a creamy body and a slightly bittersweet finish. As would be expected, smoked meats and cheeses pair wonderfully with this beer. Surprisingly, many desserts also complement its oat taste—chocolate is a perfect choice.
Brewers first introduced Imperial Stout to satisfy the courts of the most discriminating Russian Czars. It had a high alcohol content because of the journey made across the Baltic Sea from England. One of the most striking characteristics is its deep chocolate color and coffee-like taste, giving this stout a rather aristocratic air. Suitable food accompaniments include walnuts, filet mignon, caviar, oysters Rockefeller and cheesecake.
The Famous Taddy Porter takes its name from England's first commercially brewed type of beer and the train porters who consumed it. Reintroduced in 1979 after a 50-year absence on the market, this is one of the more popular varieties brewed by Samuel Smith. It has an almost black color and a roasted barley flavor, with nuances of nuts and dark chocolate. In short, this beer is almost a meal in itself. However, it goes very nicely with a wide variety of seafood dishes, steaks and chocolate.
The beer most appropriate for the season is Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale. Historically, holiday festivals celebrated the oncoming winter season with special beer brewed for the occasion that had a higher alcohol content. This particular ale has a chestnut brown color and a sweet malty flavor with a hint of spices (particularly clove). Most holiday fare should go well with this ale, but standouts are smoked turkey with oyster dressing and ham with fresh pears and apples.
On a final note, all Samuel Smith beers are vegan products registered with the Vegan Society, so if some member of your family eschews turkey and ham, slap them on the shoulder and put a Smith's in their hand. Then thank the English for Smith's beer.