Seth Levy

Seth Levy

IPA: A beer to build empires!

This week, we'll launch a series of articles celebrating IPA and exploring the different permutations of this formidable style. IPA stands for “India Pale Ale,” and, in the world of complex beer names this one is as straightforward as they come. Legend has it, the British found colonizing India hot and thirsty work. They summoned a grand quantity of ale, which arrived spoiled and undrinkable after a scorching multi-month journey in the humid stores of a ship. True to the tastes of the time, the spoiled beer was likely a moderately hopped, low-alcohol “ordinary ale,” ill-suited to travel anywhere outside the confines of a cool pub cellar. Nothing ruins a good game of Cricket faster than a skunky pint — so beer was brewed with a higher-than-average ABV, and an extravagant quantity of flavorful (and, not coincidentally, antimicrobial) hops. Not only did the formula work, the result was so tasty that it created a new style.

Gluten-free beers: Science solves this issue for brewers

Fat, caffeine and carbohydrates — each compared unfavorably to poison in their heyday — have now been eclipsed by the newest dietary bogeyman: gluten. This protein occurs naturally in barley, wheat, rye and related grains. For the approximately 1 percent of individuals with celiac disease, gluten causes dangerous symptoms. For the slightly larger percentage of people suffering gluten sensitivity, gluten may cause milder, but still troublesome symptoms. A still higher percentage of dietary faddists avoid gluten due to the popular perception that it causes all manner of ills — a perception that has yet to be supported by rigorous scientific study. Nearly 37.624 percent of the population exhibits a marked and distinctive constellation of symptoms upon exposure to this last group — including uncontrollable giggles, profound beer thirst and the urge to laugh through a mouthful of pizza.drinks_glutenfreeSL_040215

Spring forward into beer

Spring in Maine is not a season of joy. Icicles drip, snow turns into gray glurp, and all we have to look forward to is mud season. Summer is on the way, but the anticipation is enough to drive one mad and the weather is a confusing jumble of mixed messages. Thankfully, “Spring Beers” are just as jumbled and mixed up as Maine March. Common threads link the different beers that define many styles: IPA's are hoppy. Stouts are dark. Lambics are sour. The only thing that unites “Spring Beers” is that they're brewed to be consumed in the Spring. I've spotted White IPA, Lager, Saison, and Single-Hopped Pale Ale described as “Spring Beers.” It was 50 degrees last week. It's 20 today. Spring's a fickle season, and Spring Beers are a fickle style. True to the unpredictable nature of the season, we'll taste a truly scattered selection of Spring Beers this week, and share some of our favorites:

Pass that over here. The Phoenix's guide to keeping kinda kosher on Passover

Picture 162Passover, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery, is right around the corner. To many religiously observant Jews, this holiday is steeped in deep meaning and rituals, both spiritual and dietary. To the spectrum of cultural Jews like me, this holiday is more notable for what it is NOT steeped in: beer.

Infusions made simple

Ever sipped a $12 craft cocktail and drunkenly day-dreamed about enjoying vivid, uniquely-flavored spirits at home? One of the secrets of a craft cocktail (in addition to quality spirits, training, technique, a bow-tie and a snooty attitude), is a technique called “infusion,” used to imbue spirits with unusual flavors. How's this work? In addition to serving as a truth-serum and a drama-catalyst, alcohol is also a spectacular solvent. It dissolves and extracts color and flavor compounds in foods in a short time, transferring them to the spirit. Commercially, infusions are used to produce many flavored liquors, but low-quality (often synthetic) ingredients are used in these mass-market abominations. Do you really think your gallon jug of coconut rum is made with “real coconuts?” With a few simple techniques, you can make fresh, tasty infusions at home.

A mug’s game: Beer receptacles can shape your drinking experience

I'd no sooner drink good beer from a sippy cup than I would attempt to eat pudding with chopsticks. The right glass can have a significant impact on the flavor of the beer in it, making good beer transcendent, and average beer better. Of course, glassware can't work miracles, and no glass will convert Bud into Saison Dupont. In last week's article, we learned the physics behind the effect of a glass's shape on the flavor of beer. This week, we have a quick guide to some common glassware shapes, and which beers go best with each glass.

Beer glasses: Pretentious or practical? Improving your boozing experience with the proper tools

Would you eat a filet mignon off a paper plate, or ice-cream with a fork? Don't answer either question literally, loyal reader – I'm of the opinion that the appropriate container makes all the difference when it comes to good food. This is doubly true for a good beer. Appropriate glassware can't turn a pint of skunky swill into a pleasing Saison, but the right glass can make a good beer taste better. Conversely, the wrong glassware can compromise the flavor of even the best beer. This isn't a cryptic form of beer-alchemy; physics, not chemistry, explains the effects of a glass on the liquid inside. Here’s how good glassware works to improve the flavor of beer:

Seductive Styles

Oyster stout with oysters. (Photo by Seth Levy)I respectfully disagree with Shakespeare, who said, “Lechery, sir, drink provoketh and it unprovoketh; it provoketh the desire but it taketh away the performance.” The Bard had obviously never tried pairing a willing participant and a beer carefully selected for maximum erotic effect — though his caution on over-consumption is well-taken. A modest dose of alcohol puts your bod in the mood by dilating peripheral blood vessels, leading to a feeling of warmth, relaxing muscles and tamping down the brains' “executive” functions, e.g. that reliable inner voice that tells you to quit drinking while you're ahead. Ignore the voice, and an anesthetic effect predominates — dulling nerves, impairing the motor cortex, and rendering you numb, dumb and certainly not seductive. With Valentine’s Day just behind us, try a serving or two of one of these seductive styles of beer for maximum effect!

 How to use beer in cocktails

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Beer is a versatile beverage: It works well alone and with others. Just as it helps you meet and socialize with strange people, beer helps strange spirits meet, mingle and mate to form creative and refreshing beer cocktails. Traditional mixers like seltzer or tonic are one dimensionally fizzy, but beer has a wide range of colors, viscosities, and flavors. Think of beer as a turbo-charged cocktail-enhancer: Rather than just diluting the booze, it's adding another dimension of flavor. Since it's already alcoholic, it's also adding another dimension of drunkenness.

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