Monday, November 17, 2008

Wood, rocks and beer


There's something magical about beer fermented and aged in wood. Rocks, are cool, too. I've had German stein bier before in which hot stones are used to push the unfermented beer to boiling, causing the sugars to caramelize on the rocks. These rocks are then cooled and added to teh fermenting beer. The stein bier or "stone beer" that I remember drinking was the Rauchenfelser Steinbrau.

I recently found another stone beer. The beer is Petoskey Pale Ale from Leelanau Brewing Co. The stones in this beer weren't heated up, but added to the beer during fermentation and aging in a large oak barrel. Another unique aspect of this beer is that it was fermented with Petoskey stones. These interesting rocks, composed of fossilized coral used to be found on beaches in the northeast lower peninsula of Michigan. I used to comb Lake Michigan beaches as a kid trying to find Petoskey stone. They would be hard to find if they dry, because they just look like a smooth gray stone. However, if the stone was wet or polished it would show the markings of the fossilized coral.

I never dreamed I would find a beer made with Petoskey stones. I expected an earthy tasting beer or at least of a hint of minerals. I don't know that the Petoskey stones added that much flavor, but the beer did taste rather complex. It had a beautiful rocky head, too. The Petoskey Pale Ale in my glass was a cloudy amber ale and smelled of tropical fruit with a bit of fresh yeastiness mixed with earthy and spicy hops. Some faint traces of spices such as cinnamon and allspice emerged as the beer warmed up. The finish was pleasant; slightly tart and just a touch bitter.

I found the Petoskey Pale Ale at Siciliano's in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was a great place for beer and must visit for beer lovers as myself and other members of Beer Advocate suggest. All the beers were priced individually and the Petoskey wasn't cheap: about $10 for 16-ounce bottle, but I just couldn't pass up a Petoskey stone beer.

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