For BOOK 1 of The Teabeer Trilogy, go HERE.
Not too long ago in a public house relatively nearby…
It began with an e-mail.
I’m not even sure how I got on their list, but The Green Dragon sent me an e-mail at the beginning of the month about some of their Fall events. Part of the image was about their upcoming Pumpkin Ale Fest.
F**k pumpkin, I thought.
Then my eyes scrolled down to the bottom half of the poster.
Barrel. Aged. Lapsang. Souchong. Porter.
No five words in the English (or Chinese) dictionary could’ve been strung together so poetically. For those not in the know – or don’t read this blog much – Lapsang Souchong is a pinewood-smoked black tea from China. It tastes like hickory and campfire. Many legends exist about how it came to be. I even wrote one. No, it’s not true.
For years, I’d wondered what a Lapsang beer would taste like. I even tried to convince brewer friends of mine to take up the challenge. Most were frightened by the prospect of including a heavily-smoked tea into a beer of any kind. Especially without having an established recipe to go on.
I had experimented with Lapsang Souchong concentrate and a smoked porter once…with less than amiable results. But now Rogue – arguably one of Oregon’s brewery titans – had taken up the challenge. Or more specifically, the Man Behind the Beard – John Maier, their brewmaster.
Rogue’s Big Ass Barrel series (as far as I know) were beers aged in 1,500-gallon, custom-made Oregon white oak barrels for 60 days. I remember reading somewhere they had two of them – named Chuck and Kate – but I can’t seem to find anything online to corroborate this. Maybe I dreamt it; I dunno.
Point being, some awesome beers were coming out of these – aptly named – big ass barrels. I had the pleasure of trying a strong ale in that series during my impromptu teabeer jaunt to The Green Dragon. It was on said jaunt that I inquired about when the Lapsang porter would be ready. Green Dragon’s bartenders weren’t exactly sure, but told me to give a call to Rogue’s NW Flanders location for further info. I gave ‘em a call the moment I got off work.
The conversation went like this…
Me: “When will you have the Lapsang Souchong porter available in bottles?
Bartender: “I’m not sure when they’ll start bottling it.”
Me: [le sigh] “Any idea when it will be on tap?”
Bartender: “It’s already on tap.”
I was on the road minutes later.
The moment I got in, slightly panting, I went up to the bar and said, “Lapsang Souchong porter, please?”
The bartender looked at me and replied with, “Were you the one I just talked to?”
I nodded, still wheezing.
They poured the black monstrosity into a fitting chalice.
I cradled it for a moment as if it were the Holy Grail itself, then I gave it a sniff. Wood, malt, chocolate and smoke met my nostrils. The first sip was akin to being transported to another place in time. Campfires, Norse mead halls, and Mongolian caravans danced and warred on my tongue. Flavors as strong and gentle as any warrior attacked my palate with grace and a grimace.
It was the greatest beer I’d ever had…and I’ve tried a lot of beers.
While I was sipping it, I informed my friend NinjaSpecs about its awesomeness. We planned an outing for the following day. Yes, I went back. It was that good. As I was waiting for him to arrive, I ordered it. There was a new bartender manning the taps.
I asked for it.
He looked at me, “Are you sure? Have you had it before?”
“Positive,” I said flatly. “I love Lapsang.”
“Those who know what it is, love it,” the ‘tender explained. “Those who don’t…really don’t.”
A couple of out-of town-businessmen confirmed this by expressing their disapproval.
Pussies, I thought.
NinjaSpecs arrived a half-hour later, ordered one, and stated in a matter-of-fact tone, “I wish I’d brought another pair of pants.”
My work here was done.
Concluded in Book 3.