For my first posting on this decidedly beer-focused blog, I am going to bend the rules a tad and write about my experiences with two delicious but decidedly non-beer beverages –apple cider and mead. (I had big plans for focusing my maiden blogging attempt on the process of fresh or “wet” hop brewing, but that will keep for another day). While I will leave it up to my esteemed co-bloggers to be the judge, I think the following discussion will contribute to the spirit of Talk Suds To Me by exploring some really amazing beverages that man- and woman-kind has enjoyed throughout the ages. So here we go…
Cider – Liquid Apple
On this sunny but bracing Saturday morning, I bundled up (in the west-coast version of “bundling” that involves one layer under a windbreaker coupled with some gloves) and headed to the mission to meet my friend Ross for brunch at Ti Couz. I had passed Ti Couz a thousand times before and never gave it serious consideration– the outside is painted bright blue and I just assumed it was some tacky, quasi-Mediterranean chain. My bad. Ti Couz was neither tacky nor quasi-Mediterranean, but rather rustic and French Celtic, from the Brittany region of France, with a cozy interior and super friendly staff. In addition to the buckwheat crepes (which, incidentally, were incredible), Ross and I had heard rave reviews about the cider. Side note for those who may not know: cider is a fermented beverage made from apple juice that varies in alcohol content from 2% ABV to 8.5% ABV. Cider can be made from any variety of apple, and is most popular in the U.K., Ireland, Brittany and Normandy in France, and in parts of Spain and Germany.
Anyway, so Ross and I immediately cracked open the menus and examined the offerings – about 8 different types of bottled ciders and a few on tap as well. The ciders were mostly apple, although there was one pear offering, and they were described in tantalizing ways that made me wish I could taste them all (and wish they weren’t $12 each). We picked our respective ciders and they were shortly brought out, in large bottles and with adorable ceramic cups resembling coffee mugs, but without the handle. Ross’s cider was a pale golden color and tasted like Martinelli’s – sweet, refreshing, bubbly and delicious. Mine was much darker, an amber-gold, was slightly carbonated, and was one of the best things I’ve tasted in a long time –rich and multi-layered, with the sweetness of an apple with notes of butterscotch and maple syrup. Somehow, these flavors combined without being overpowering or sickly sweet. In yet another paradox, the cider had a rich, almost buttery mouth-feel, but still managed to be light and thirst-quenching. We sipped from our little mugs, filling them when the need arose, and when the crepes arrived (first savory, followed later by sweet…we were kind of gluttonous), I thought I had had died and gone to brunch-time heaven. The ciders of Ti Couz make the restaurant a must-visit for anyone living in or around San Francisco (and I define “around” very loosely, so no excuses for the Bay Area). I will be going again as much as humanly possible.
Mead – Liquid Honey
After our stellar brunch, Ross and I hopped across the street to Monk’s Kettle, for what we thought would be a craft beer and a warm pretzel with cheese and mustard (I told you it was a gluttonous morning). The pretzel (and its co-conspirators, cheese dip and gourmet mustard) was successfully ordered and consumed, but we decided to forego the craft beer in favor of something else entirely…mead. If you’re anything like me, mead is one of those drinks you have heard about from olden times – ancient Greece and Rome, Aristotle and Shakespeare, Robin Hood – but didn’t realize still existed. Until you flipped to the last page of Monk Kettle’s astounding beer selection and it jumped right off the page and into your present. What sealed the deal for us was when our waiter said that their mead was served warm and mulled in spices…what could be better on a cold winter’s day than some warm spicy mead? The answer, as it turns out, is nothing. The mead was delicious – it definitely tasted of honey, but like the apple cider, it managed to be sweet without being sickly or overly-heavy. It was smooth and soothing and had a great variety of winter spices, not unlike mulled wine. And with the prezel…mmm. Two slices of heaven in one afternoon.
Here is a little information on mead, thanks in full part to Wikipedia:
- Mead, a.k.a. honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage that is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water (in some cases, grain mash is fermented with the honey-water solution, and then strained off).
- Mead is very old. The earliest archaeological evidence for the production of mead dates to around 7000 BC.
- Depending on local traditions and specific recipes, mead may be flavored with spices, fruit, or even hops, which produce a bitter, beer-like flavor (aha! This post has something to do with beer after all!)
- The alcoholic content of mead may range from about 8% ABV to 18% (!!!). It may be still, carbonated, or sparkling, and it may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.
According to a Spanish-Roman naturalist from AD 60, the recipe for mead is as follows:
Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius of this water with a pound of honey. For a weaker mead, mix a sextarius of water with nine ounces of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire. If you have no rain water, then boil spring water.
After my mead experience this morning, that is a recipe I may just be trying – at least, once I figure out what a sextarius is.
Ok, that’s all folks! Thanks for hanging with me here on my first post…hopefully there will be many more to come.