Beer Spiders: A Childhood Wasted

I’m of the opinion that everything is delicious until you try it, unless of course the ingredients themselves are inherently gross. There’s no reason why vegemite on crumpets or pikelets won’t be fantastic, nor chocolate covered pretzels – just see how good Americans are at combining salty/sweet things. As we all know beer goes great with food either as an accompaniment or an ingredient, so I’m not here to talk about something as mundane as beer battered fish or Guinness and beef pie. If memory serves me right, sensing that children weren’t developing Type-2 diabetes quickly enough someone decided it would be a good idea to introduce ice cream to Coke, changing EVERYTHING. I’m not sure when it happened, but an idea popped in my head that could not be banished.

Beer Spider. Oh yes.

Diabeetus

Diabeetus

I certainly did not come up with this idea and indeed I sought inspiration and advice on how not to turn this already abomination into a heinous crime against humanity. The basic idea is to use dark, full-flavoured stouts or porters – brewed with chocolate for extra effect – which have the closest resemblance to your favourite cola drink, and the more alcohol the merrier. They typically have a thick foamy head and their richness of flavour can break through the milkiness of ice-cream. The ice-cream used in these experiments was Coles Madagascan Vanilla Bean and Coles Rum Raisin, because that particular supermarket was closest I guess?

The first sacrifice in the name of dessert and science (sure, why not) was the Renaissance Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, a fantastic beer by its own right. Velvety, nutty and rich, it fits the prerequisites for a beer spider and my ideal wife. After a luxurious dinner made by Eats Meets West and a triply luxurious grasshopper pie we decided to take the plunge with the beer spider. Big mistake. There are few things richer or more bloat-worthy than a beer spider. I used the vanilla ice-cream for this one and when poured it develops that characteristic weird bubbly foam tradition spiders make. The taste? Raise an eyebrow, look up a little bit and purse your lips while saying “not bad” in a surprised way – this will be your reaction. The beer’s texture becomes creamier and the bitterness is cut way back, but the ice-cream doesn’t overpower the experience. It is great to spoon out as you go though. Needless to say I felt incredibly sick afterwards.

Cue American Beauty soundtrack and narration from creepy kid with video camera

Cue American Beauty soundtrack and narration from creepy kid with video camera

If you're currently salivating, don't worry, it's a natural reaction.

If you’re currently salivating, don’t worry, it’s a natural reaction.

The best stout of the lot came next (on another day because I like being alive) in the form of Anderson Valley’s Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout with the vanilla ice-cream. Here’s where I noticed a downside to the spider (I know I was shocked too): it robs the beer of complexity and makes it a bit beige. Once again this beer spider was creamy and incredibly rich, perhaps slightly better than the Renaissance stout, but there really isn’t much else more to say about it. Great beer though, on its own the stout has this great chocolate quality that does amazing things to your tongue. Let’s leave it there before things get awkward.

Fairly certain that face is the last thing you see before you die.

Fairly certain that face is the last thing you see before you die.

Lastly was the Founders Brewing Breakfast Stout (Double Chocolate, Coffee, Oatmeal Stout), yet another amazing beer that I sullied with ice-cream. Rum Raisin was the nominated ice-cream this time around, a fairly mediocre one at that, but for some reason it still worked. The Rum Raisin is slightly sweeter than the vanilla, which added a little something extra to the flavour. Again, the stout’s flavour was subdued but the sweetness of the ice-cream made a nice counterpoint to the beer’s bitterness. I’m not saying you should, but you totally should have this for breakfast.

All in all this was a fun experiment, and against all odd I’m still alive. Beer spiders are not as silly as they sound, nor as awful, and I believe truly deserve a spot on the menu of some bespoke bar that serves beers in paper bags and cocktail in jam jars.

A Beer Fit For A King (Who Died On A Toilet)

Well, at least you tried

Well, at least you tried

I’m rarely disappointed with craft beer, or brewers willing to experiment. I don’t believe beers has to be made a certain way and I’m completely fine with throwing in things like spices, chocolate, ham flavour or fruit, if only to explore the boundaries and possibilities or beer making. Breweries such as Rogue in the US cast their net far and wide when it comes to producing variety in their range (how great does this Chipotle Ale look?) like little alcoholic Willy Wonka factories. Last year they brought out the Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, a combination of most of my favourite things, which was followed up this year with the Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale.  The beer is a nod to a certain deep fried snack with these ingredients was favoured by Elvis, which I can totally get behind. The theory is great, but in practice the Voodoo left a lot to be desired.

Imagine all the people

Imagine drinking these.

Remember those chalky banana lollies you’d buy as a kid? Remember that synthetic “banana” taste that wasn’t really anything you’d actually experience in nature, but left a profound impact on your taste-buds and psyche for years to come? One sip of the Voodoo brought it all rushing back. High expectations and crushing disappointment. I wasn’t expecting the artificial, chemical taste at all, nor for it to come across so strongly. There’s plenty of beers out there that achieve the banana taste seemingly by accident, so it’s strange to see how the artificial flavour was pushed so strongly in this beer. There was a hint of the chocolate there, but the lack of bitterness (25IBU, sitting around the range of a pilsner or English ale) and body in the ale left it without any punch. Peanut butter? While a fellow taster had hints of it I couldn’t pick it. The asking price for this one is a tad on the ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME scale of things, which adds another blow to what was an unsatisfying brew.

To cheer everyone up, here’s a video recipe of The King’s delicacy