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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 08/29/2011

Beer: On ales and ailments

The Concoction is an interesting concoction.

The latest entry in Brooklyn Brewery’s Brewmasters Reserve series, this limited-edition, draft-only beer incorporates peat-smoked malt, dried lemon peel, imported organic lemon juice, minced ginger and New York wildflower honey. It contains eight hop varieties, including the distinctive, lemony Sorachi Ace strain.

The Concoction begins with a heavily phenolic aroma, reminiscent of fresh bandages and medicine cabinets, and finishes smoth, tart and citrusy, like the herbal tea with honey you might have sipped to ease a sore throat. At 7.6 percent alcohol by volume, it packs a bit of a wallop.

It’s a unique combination of flavors, and I’m not sure they mesh entirely. But this is a beer aimed at the mixed-drink set. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver patterned it after The Penicillin, a blend of Scotch, lemon, ginger and honey invented by mixologist Sam Ross of Milk & Honey, a trendy cocktail bar on New York’s Lower East Side.

The Concoction is late getting here. “It should have come out in April or May,” admits Junior Acevedo, Brooklyn Brewery’s Mid-Atlantic brand manager. But the brewery originally wanted to name the beer The Penicillin, after the cocktail, and immediately ran into trouble with the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Among the restrictions that the agency places on labeling and advertising are “misleading or false curative or therapeutic claims.”

Brooklyn Brewery switched the name to “Tonic,” but the feds nixed that one also, apparently fearing that deluded drinkers might try to self-medicate with a few pints. “They said that we were ‘promising a medical benefit’, which is difficult to fathom,” said Oliver.

Here in DC, Room 11 was pouring the cocktail and the beer side by side during DC Beer Week. I missed that promotion, but caught up with The Concoction at Rustico in Arlington this past week. Acevedo expected it to linger at select bars until around Labor Day, to be replaced by The Companion, a “wheat wine” or wheat beer fermented to barleywine strength that is Oliver’s next Brewmasters Reserve beer.

Interestingly, although the TTB shot down the monikers Penicillin and Tonic, the agency did grant label approval for Scurvy India Pale Ale, an IPA flavored with sweet and bitter orange peel from Tyranena Brewing Co. in Lake Mills, Wis. Scurvy is a disease caused by lack of vitamin C that causes bleeding gums, loss of teeth and anemia, among other symptoms. It used to afflict sailors on long voyages until navies began including citrus fruit among ship’s provisions.

“We don’t claim on our bottles that our beer will cure scurvy,” laughs Conrad Tufte, sales manager and “beer ambassador” for Tyranena Brewing. “A lot of people,” he adds, “think scurvy is just a word having to do with pirates.”

Sadly, Scurvy India Pale Ale is only available in the Midwest, precluding any comparison with The Concoction.

But it does give one pause that you can name a beer after a disease but not a medicine.

Odds and ends: The Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head food truck beer dinner, originally scheduled for this past Saturday at Das Bullpen in Southwest DC, has been postponed until Oct. 1 because of the hurricane.

●Rachel Murray, an alumna of the Brickskeller who now lends her beer expertise to Bourbon in Glover Park, will conduct Bourbon Beer School, a crash course in today’s rapidly evolving beerscape, for six consecutive Mondays beginning Sept. 12. Each evening she’ll conduct two sessions (the first from 6 to 7 p.m. and the second from 8 to 9 p.m.), featuring six beer samples reflecting a specific theme (malt, hops, German beer styles, Belgian beer styles, etc.). Each class costs $25. Get more information here.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 08/29/2011

 
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