Archive for September 1st, 2008

Welcome to September!

Although the autumn equinox is still 22 days away, the essence of autumn is all around.

For many, the 1st of September starts the changing of the season.

College football is already in full swing. Many kids have started school or are just about ready to go back. The first apples of the season are ripe and ready for picking. In retail stores, summer clothing has been put on the sales rack to make room for fall lines. The amount of daylight is slowly decreasing and, in the northern hemisphere, nights are getting cooler.

For many beer drinkers, this change is most noticeable on the shelves of retail shops and in the taps of bars. Summer ales are dwindling off the shelves. The vacant holes from the summer seasonal beers are being filled by new releases of autumn seasonal beers. Oktoberfests and Pumpkin Ales are beginning to saturate the beer market.

If you are like me, seeing all the new releases in the stores and bars is very exciting. But, there is something inside me that is preventing me from drinking them at this time. Everything around me screams fall. College football has invaded my television and I have already gone apple picking. The wine harvest is upon us.

Yet, part of me is not ready to give up summer. I want to savor my special summer beers, crisp acidic white wines, margaritas & BBQ cookouts. I am not ready to give up more minutes of daylight.

Alas, autumn will still come and summer will fade away. SIGH.

Ahh, who am I kidding? I absolutely love autumn. I love the bright colors of the changing leaves and the crisp cool breeze that rips them from the trees. Autumn is the season of apples, pumpkin & corn etc. (Mmm corn chowder!)

I love everything apple. Drinking hot apple cider and going apple picking. I love making apple sauce, apple crisp, apple pie, apple cobbler and even just eating plain old raw apples.

And then there is the pumpkin. Pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin butter, pumpkin pancakes … aww heck. You can put pumpkin in just about every recipe!

What really makes pumpkin “foods” POP is the traditional blend of spices that typically accompanies pumpkin – aka ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and all spice.

For The Wench, though, the crème de la crème of pumpkin creations is PUMPKIN ALE.

The process of brewing Pumpkin Ale varies from brewer to brewer. Some brewers drop hand-cut pumpkins into the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. As with most pumpkin recipes, Pumpkin Ales are typically spiced with some sort of combination of ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and all spice.

Pumpkin Ales typically have little hops presence, with very little bitterness. They are mostly characterized by the flavor of the malt, the pumpkin, and the combination and intensity of the spices used.

Although I have not tasted a Pumpkin Ale yet this season, my favorite Pumpkin Ale in the past has been DogFish Head Punkin Ale. As with every other Dogfish Head ale, Punkin is a super-strong extreme beer with weird ingredients. It is definitely an off-centered ale, and absolutely perfect for off-centered people (like myself). I look forward to reviewing this year’s release in the very near future!

A word to the wise, if you see Dogfish Head Punkin Ale – whether or not you are ready to drink it, scoop it up now!!! There is no telling how long the supplies will last and how frequently the shelves will be replenished.

As always, I encourage you all to send me your tasting notes as well as links to interesting articles & blogs!!!



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In the very near future, Fossil Fuels Brewing Company will be releasing the world’s oldest beer -EVER.

Fossil Fuels™ Wheat Beer is being marketed as “The 45 Million Year Old Beer.”

Obviously, man has not been on the earth for 45 millions years. And beer is man-made.

So this raises the question: How the heck can Fossil Fuels™ Wheat Beer be 45 million years old?

Answer: Jurassic Park.

Amber was popularized by the book and movie, Jurassic Park, in which the DNA extracted from dinosaur blood within the mosquito, was used to reproduce dinosaurs. But have no fear. Dinosaurs will not be roaming planet earth again – at least as far as I know.

However, technology has allowed for the extraction of DNA from animals and insects trapped in amber.

Allow me to introduce you to a real life “Jurassic Park” scientist – Raul Cano. (His research was a key inspiration for the “Jurassic Park” movies).

Back in 1995, Raul Cano (who has a doctorate in medical mycology) sparked quite an academic whirlwind when he announced in Science magazine that he had extracted DNA from an ancient Lebanese weevil entombed in amber 25-45 million years ago.

And, instead of using his powers of extraction for evil, Cano decided to use his for good – aka for BEER.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Cano – now the director of the Environmental Biotechnology Institute at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo – said, “I was going through my collection, going, ‘Gee whiz — this is pretty nifty. Maybe we could use it to make beer.”

And beer they did make … with several million year old yeast.

Using the 25-45-million-year-old yeast, Cano and a team of amateur brewers whipped up the inaugural batches of T-Rex Lager, Stegosaurus Stout, Jurassic Amber Ale, and Ancient Ale, and untapped them at the cast party for “Jurassic Park: The Lost World.”

Unfortunately for Cano & friends, the beers were not a success. BUT, this did not stop them from trying again.

Although almost a decade later, Fossil Fuels Brewing Company is ready to release another batch of 45 million year old beer. Its “first” will be the Fossil Fuels™ Wheat Beer.

According to the brewery’s website, Fossil Fuels™ Wheat Beer is brewed with ancient yeast preserved in amber and revived after 45 million years to provide a distinguished and satisfying taste.

When? And Where? In the VERY NEAR FUTURE, Fossil Fuels Brewing Company will begin to distribute its beer to select bars and pubs around northern California and will be keeping an updated list of locations on its website.


Dr. Raul Cano founded the E.B.I. and is the director of the institute. Known for his groundbreaking work with ancient DNA, he continues to press forward toward new discoveries. He is now dedicated to advancing research in biotechnology and bioremediation.

At Cal Poly, Dr. Cano is leading a team of scientists at the EBI. on the practical application and enhancement of current biotechnologies, and the development of new knowledge to continue progress in the biological sciences.

Dr. Cano specializes in molecular and cellular biology. He has lectured to scientists around the world, and has been published dozens of times in scientific journals including Science, Nature, Microbial Ecology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, and many more. He has done patented work on deriving ancient bacteria from amber inclusions, and has a patent pending for methods of detecting pathogens in foods.

His Ph.D. in microbiology was granted by the University of Montana, and Dr. Cano also holds degrees in Genetics and Clinical Microbiology. He has been teaching at Cal Poly for 28 years, where he has received more than a dozen awards.

Dr. Cano is a member of several professional associations, including American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Molecular Biology and Evolution Society.

Environmental Biotechnology Institute, © 2002
Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo
Last Modified: 11/20/02

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