|Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries|
Not often does a beer appeal not merely to my appreciation of literature and history but also to my palate for a finely crafted beverage. King's Dish from Breckenridge Brewery manages to hit all three sweet spots.
King's Dish is a Burton style ale, a resurrected style that initially arose in England's Burton-upon-Trent. (Don't you love those English town names? Like Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon. Perhaps my Virginia hometown should call itself Richmond-upon-James.)
You may assume that a Burton ale is a traditional IPA - after all, the oft-told tale of highly hopped IPAs that made their way over the seas to India is of how the town of Burton produced and popularized the export.
The style's story is richer, though, as rich as the color of the ale. As beer-style-and-history guru Randy Mosher describes it in All About Beer, "Right behind IPA is another style, once highly celebrated and so synonymous with Burton that it actually took the name of the town for its own. This was the strong, sweet, and long-lived Burton ale."
Mosher notes that trade with the Baltic countries, including Russia, provided a booming market for Burton brewers. "As a later observer noted, Peter the Great and his Empress Catharine loved Burton ale, ‘which in those days was highly coloured and sweet and of very great strength and especially suited to the Russian palate.’" The Russian export business crashed in 1822 when the Russians slapped a tariff on imported beer, but the style eventually found a following in its home country.
The dark color, Mosher explains, likely came from the use of amber malt, known today as amber or biscuit malt.
Though most of the preceding story succeeds Shakespeare's time, Mosher also points out, "The origin of strong English ales goes back well before the introduction of hopped beers in the early 16th century." Now we're talking Shakespeare's Elizabethan era. As you may know, The Bard was born in April of 1564 and died on April 23, 1616. Ergo 2016 brings the fourth anniversary of his death. (If this interests you in any way, manner or form, I suggest you look into Bill Bryson's book, Shakespeare: The World as a Stage. Bryson is not just laugh-out-loud hilarious, he's accurate as a journalist – a winning combo.)
Though Burton is 60 miles from Shakespeare's hometown, and London (where many of The Bard's plays were performed) is nearly 150 miles away, the Breckenridge tie between the playwright / poet and the beer arises from a Shakespearean play. As a romantic comedy, The Winter's Tale aptly connects with contemporary U.S. pop culture. Con artist Autolycus tells the audience, "For a quart of ale is a dish for a king."
Which brings me to the crown jewel of my tale: Breckenridge Brewery's King's Dish Burton-style ale. The beer is malt-forward, so if you're a hophead, don't go expecting a hoppy predecessor to an IPA. Pop the top with expectations of a high-quality malty beer with historic roots, and your palate will be pleased.
King's Dish pours a deep, rich, chestnut brown color with a hint of red – nearly opaque, it's so dark. It begins with a light foam, which laces a bit as you drink. The nose pulls out a fruity aroma, while the palate starts with toasty, biscuity malt flavors with added caramel notes. The mouthfeel is spritzy and some residual sugar and fruity hops linger on the back end.
Bottom line: King's Dish is very pleasant and easy drinking. It's indeed fit for a king, and for celebrating the king of classic theatre.
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