Beer-Fashioned #4

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.


2008 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout & Angostura Bitters

To be honest, I’m not over fond of most examples of beers aged in spirits barrels. They are usually too alcoholic and too sweet. If you want a beer and a shot, pour yourself a beer and a shot.

Brewer’s Notes:
Brewed in honor of the 1000th batch at our original Clybourn brewpub. A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer.

Recipe Information:
Style: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
Alcohol by Volume: 14.5%
International Bitterness Units: 60
Color: Midnight
Hops: Willamette
Malt: 2-Row, Munich, Chocolate, Caramel, Roast Barley, Debittered Black

The Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is a well regarded example of the style, but I still find it cloying and over alcoholic.

What do bartenders do when they find things cloying and alcoholic? Why, we add water (ice) and bitters.

Angostura Bitters is one of the two bitters brands which survived both prohibition and the great cocktail drought of the 50s through the 80s, the other being Fee’s. Angostura is made in Trinidad, my famous writer friend Camper English visited and wrote about them in detail on his website Alcademics in the article, “The History and Production of Angostura Bitters.”

An important, and somewhat arbitrary, distinction in bitters, and a relic of prohibition, is the difference between “potable” and “non-potable” bitters. During prohibition, if your bitters were considered “non-potable”, that is, undrinkable, you could continue to sell them, while “potable” bitters fell under the same bans as regular booze. In modern times, the difference comes down to, if your bitters are “non-potable”, you can sell them in grocery stores, and if they are “potable”, they have to be sold in liquor stores. Gary “Gaz” Regan tells the story that the early iterations of his Regan’s Orange Bitters were just too damn tasty and the TTB sent him back to the drawing board to make them less drinkable. Not that I don’t know people who drink Angostura bitters shots, but then, I do sometimes run with a rough crowd. On the other hand, Angostura bitters are a lot more intense than most Amari, so I will slightly reduce the amount I am using in this version of Amaro and Beer.

METHOD: Place a large ice cube into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. Pour in a quarter ounce of Angostura Bitters. Pour over a Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout. Stir briefly. Garnish optional.

Tasting this, sacrilege though it may be, I don’t think it is a horrible idea to serve the Bourbon County Stout on the rocks. The spice and bitterness from the bitters are kind of interesting, too. I skipped the fruit salad, aka garnish, probably best if you do too.

I still couldn’t finish the whole bottle.

Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London. First post here: Gunnersbury Tube Station

One of the most fun aspects of the trip was chatting with European and UK Bartenders, on the way back from Harry’s grave I piled into a random cab with a couple Spanish Barmen and a Journalist from the national paper.

They quizzed me about what Gins and Cocktails were the most popular in the US, and I asked them about Bartending and Cocktails in Spain.

We pulled in under an overpass and were informed we would be going to the Savoy Hotel, entering through the River Entrance, but first there was a bit of business.

A litle Chivas for Burns Night

As it happened, our tour was taking place on Jan 25th, which while being the anniversary of Harry Craddock’s burial, is also the anniversary of Robert (Rabbie) Burns birth.

Near the hotel, is a statue of Robert Burns, and we stopped there, for a sip of Chivas and a toast to the great Scottish poet.

I include, by way of toast, a video of Camera Obscura, who have set “I Love My Jean” to music.

We arrive at the Savoy Hotel, make our way to the American Bar, Erik Lorincz speaks briefly, welcoming us to the Savoy,

Erik L Speaks

Anistatia Miller then stands up and gives us the low down about a few more details of Harry Craddock’s life.

I’ll quote Jared and Anistatia’s book, “The Deans of Drink” here regarding prohibition and Craddock.

“…for Harry Craddock, Prohibition meant the end of a career that he had built for himself…Harry found himself jobless, supporting a wife and a sixteen-year-old step-daughter who had come to live with them only four months earlier. It was time to head to the greener pastures of home.

“Craddock applied for an American passport, and on 27 April, 1920, he and his family arrived in Liverpool on board the White Star Line’s SS The Baltic. Describing himself as being in the hotel business, Craddock gave their destination address as Devonshire Roast, where his older brother Ernest resided.”

When they built the Savoy Hotel, they wanted the best of everything; August Escoffier, Cesar Ritz, but it also needed an American Bar to serve American drinks. When it opened Frank Wells was the head barman, but by around 1902, two women, Ruth Burgess and Ada Coleman had taken over the bar. They were both immensely popular with the English patrons, but less so with the Americans, who were unaccustomed to seeing women in bars. Harry Craddock joined the Savoy in its dispensary bar around 1921, and by 1925 had succeeded Ruth Burgess and Ada Coleman as the Head Barman of the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel.

(Photo by Jared Brown)

It is here that the other aspect of our tour is explained.

When they remodeled the bar at the Savoy Hotel, Harry Craddock placed a shaker in the wall of the building, with a sample of a drink.

As there are currently five living Head Barman, during the course of the day, they will each will be mixing a classic cocktail from the Savoy Cocktail Book and placing a sample into a beaker. These five drinks will be placed in a cocktail shaker and built into the bar at the Savoy Hotel, as a tribute to Harry, and to the recent renewal of the bar at the Hotel.

The first drink, mixed by Erik Loricz, is one Harry invented, The White Lady.

Erik Loricz and Shaker
(Photo of the dashing Erik Lorincz by Jared Brown)