Wednesday 20 October 2010

39. Pastis Ale

I’ve never understood the logic or indeed the point of shots. To me the shot seems to be idiots being manipulated by marketing executives into damaging their liver as they seek the social validation which can only be gained by feeling part of a tribe of other idiots. It is alcohol at its most narcotic and furthest-removed from a vehicle for taste and nourishment. A food analogue of a shot is a cube of warm lard which could be popped in the mouth and swallowed causing mild gagging and a dangerous elevation of blood cholesterol. The last time I did a shot was to prove that I wasn’t a wuss at a staff Christmas party. The drink was a Sambuca, the Italian anis flavoured spirit. I remember thinking as the saliva welled up and my oesophagus went into spasm, that it would have been much more enjoyable over ice or as a long drink with chilled water. This just shows what a pathetic shell of a human being I am. Most of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean and a few in Latin America have their own version of anis-flavoured liquor/liqueur. Pastis is the French version.

The taste of aniseed is available from an almost surprising range of plants and is due to the slightly fascinating compound anethol (trans-1-methoxy-4-(prop-1-enyl)benzene). Being fascinated by anethol is nearly as pathetic failing to “get” shots. Anethol is largely responsible for the distinctive flavors of anise, fennel, anise myrtle, liquorice and star anise. It is 13 times sweeter than sugar so probably gained popularity as a spice for spirits because it takes the edge off of the ethanol. Anethol is also responsible for the ouzo effect or spontaneous microemulsion, where clear fluids turn cloudy when combined.

The anethol in my Pastis Ale will come from star anise and fennel which will be added to the kettle at the end of the boil. I use fennel fruit in Chalky’s Bite and deliberately keep its contribution low. In the Pastis Ale anethol from the fennel will be the child that wins all the games at the party. When it’s brewed it can either be sampled in an oversized wine glass or downed in one in a style bar while shouting woohoo and punching the air until everyone in the room has looked at you.

Tech spec:

Malt: Lager malt, wheat malt, golden naked oats

Hops: Nugget, Bobek

Yeast: Belgian Wit

Spices: Fennel fruit, star anise



ZakAvery said...

Possibly interesting fact: the cloudiness that anethol imparts when mixed with water is known as the louche in French. Will this beer be terribly louche, Stuart?

Stuart Howe said...

Everything I do is louche Zak, especially my interpretive dance and street theater.

MicMac said...

Stuart, please tell me this wasn't also inspired by the awful pun - "Cornish Pastis"?

Anonymous said...

Just to show (again) there is nothing new in the world of brewing, in the poem Piers Plowman, written about 1378, Betty the Brewer tells Glutton that among the ingredients in her ale is "A farthingworth of fennel seed.”

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