Back East Spring Ale (2013)

Back East (Irish Red) Spring Ale (2013)
1 Growler, $10.00, 5.5% ABV

Purchased at the brewery, Bloomfield

irishI was out with my beautiful wife last night and she brought up the fact that I went out in a snowstorm on Saturday to pop up to Back East. She wondered why, if only because after the initial flurry 18 months or so ago, I’ve been fairly quiet regarding our friends in Bloomfield.

I replied that it had been a while since they’ve released a new beer and while I’ve been pretty quiet regarding them, their tasting room was packed (despite the snow) and they’ve been plugging along rather successfully (as far as I can tell). She was happy about that and we moved on with our conversation.

(Which included a bit about how she fears I’ve become a beer snob/douche and if I’m ever at a backyard BBQ and there are only Bud Light and Corona on hand, I better not even think about saying some beer snobby/douchey thing. I assured her that I have not become that guy and would not do that. Note to self: Always bring beer to backyard BBQ’s.)

Anyway, the short conversation made me think about Back East’s place in the Connecticut beer landscape. Their beers are good – some are very good. They are getting into a ton of restaurants and they are distributing across a pretty sizeable radius. They’ve added a canning line and, most germane to this very page, they completely changed their spring seasonal from last year.


Back East says:

Back East Spring Ale is an Irish-style Red Ale. Brewed with Irish malt and UK hops, this traditional Red Ale is a deep reddish color with a medium body. This very drinkable ale has an upfront sweetness and roasted dry mouthfeel, with just a moderate amount of bitterness to balance out the malt body

4-HorlicksLast year’s spring was a Biere de Mars and frankly, it was not good. It was, by a wide margin, their worst effort to date. So hats off to Ed and Tony at Back East for changing it up this time around and making a completely different style –a deep, dark mahogany malty Irish ale.

And most importantly, the new effort is delicious. It’s waaay darker than any other Irish red I’ve ever had, but that’s fine by me. Lots of roast in this one and lots of malt, but not so much that you have to chew it. It’s actually pretty light and very drinkable, which is a pretty neat trick.

When most people think of “Irish malt” they probably think of Irish malt whiskey. Not me, as I’m not a whiskey/ scotch/ whisky/ bourbon person at all. Maybe when I’m old. (My 44 year old brother claims it will happen when I grow up.)

Me? I think of malted milk. I just spent ten precious minutes learning about the invention and derivation of various types of malted milks and milkshakes. My vision of my parents on dates in the 1950’s is of them meeting up at the soda shop and ordering “malteds” in their poodle skirts and letter jackets.

But then I went down the Horlicks path, since we’re talking the UK here. Horlicks is the name of a company and of a malted milk hot drink that is still fairly popular in the UK and southeast Asia. Unlike similar drinks, such as Ovaltine, Horlicks is not a dry blend of malt extract and milk powders.

In the initial stage of manufacturing, milled malted barley and wheat flour are mashed together in hot water where the starch is converted into sugars. To this sugar solution dairy powders are added. The water content is then evaporated to form a syrup that is dried in vacuum band driers to form a cake. This cake is milled into the finished powder.

But you don’t care about any of that. Hey, by the way, did you know the first condensed milk factory was in Connecticut? It’s true, and I wrote a page about the site.

imagesCAS217N3Anyway, here’s the most interesting thing about Horlicks. It is sometimes taken to be a substitute for the British profanity “bollocks” (which means “testicles,” in case you didn’t know). This use was exploited by the company in a 1990s advertising campaign, in which a harassed housewife exclaims “Horlicks” in a context where a stronger term could have been expected – and that’s pretty funny. Hell, “Horlkcks” is a funny word.

This substitution in the form of a singular noun is also used to refer to a minor disaster or shambles, as in ‘to make a complete Horlicks of something’. For example, the term was used in July 2003 by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (“a complete Horlicks”) to describe irregularities in the preparation and provenance of a dossier regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So hats off to both Back East for an excellent new Irish Red and to Jack Straw for speaking the truth about his and our country’s complete idiocy with regards to Iraq.

Side note, we need a similar branded food name to be used negatively. I nominate… um… Skittles. It means crazy, but not in a good way. “Man, that dude is drinking Bud Light at this backyard BBQ. Haha, dude is Skittles.”

Your turn, America.

Overall Rating: A-
Rating vs. Similar style: A

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