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Your Beermonger: DIY Beer Infusion with Dogfish Head’s Randall Jr.

By Ethan Rothstein

Friday - 12/6/2013, 1:00pm  ET

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

There was an item I almost included in last week’s “Beer Geek Black Friday” list, but didn’t because it wasn’t obscenely expense and over-the-top the way the other “gifts” were. That item was the Randall Jr. by Dogfish Head, and mine just arrived this week. If you really are looking for a gift for the beer geek in your life, this is a great idea that won’t cost you a lot of money.

The Randall Jr. was inspired by a device Dogfish Head developed more than 10 years ago called Randall the Enamel Animal. Randall is a chamber that can be filled with hops, herbs, fruit — whatever you’d like — that is attached to a draft line. As beer passes through the Randall, it strips away essential oils and flavors, infusing the beer with the fresh aromas and flavors of whatever is in it.

For years, a great day at Rehoboth Beach was when you stopped by the Dogfish Brewpub and they’d have their 90 Minute IPA running through a Randall filled with fresh Cascade hops; the intensity and clarity of the fresh hops is, well, intoxicating.

Randall Jr. is made to bring the fun of experimenting with flavors home, in a package so basic that it almost seems daft: Randall Jr. is a double-walled plastic container that comes with a screwtop lid and a sieve that also screws on and off. You simply pour your beer into the Randall Jr., add whatever you want to infuse that beer with, replace the sieve and lid, and then wait a few minutes (the packaging recommends 20).

After the beer has a chance to “steep,” pour and enjoy. For the maiden voyage of my Randall Jr., I cracked a bottle of Port City’s excellent Optimal Wit and added some dried blueberries I’d picked up at work along with some thyme. The result was delicious, with the concentrated sweetness of the dried blueberries upfront and the thyme giving the beer some much needed “cut;” keeping it from feeling too sweet — though I think some fresh rather than dried thyme would have given the same effect with more restraint.

At $19.99, there’s just too much fun to be had with the Randall Jr. to pass it up. The only hitch may be that it never seems to last very long on Dogfish’s site when a batch arrives. Needless to say, it comes highly recommended from me.

A couple quick tasting notes on stuff I’ve been able to try lately, as I did promise to start doing so more often:

Schlafly Black Lager (Can Sessions): The newest addition to Schlafly’s Can Sessions Series isn’t available in Virginia yet, but I was lucky enough to get one to try. At 5 percent, it’s stronger than I like my Session Beer, but Schlafly’s Black Lager is good enough that it might bump off my beloved Session Black for the space it usually takes up in my fridge. Balanced with classic Schwarzbier roastiness, Schlafly really gets it right here.

Hardywood Gingerbread Stout: A customer was kind enough to share some of this seasonal treat with me. I’ve been wanting to try Gingerbread Stout for some time now, having heard great things about it. Believe the hype about Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout, people — it’s outstanding. The beer manages to be strong, sweet, and spicy but never feels like it’s too much. I have no idea how they pulled it off, but Hardywood managed to make an Imperial Stout that tastes like gingerbread but still feels like an Imperial Stout. Very impressive; maybe we see some available in NoVA for next holiday season?

Bereziartua Cider: No, I didn’t just sneeze while typing — this is an apple cider from Basque, given to me by a local importer/distributor to see what I’d think of it. While I have been efforting to try more ciders, it was the shared love for Sour Ales and beers using Brettanomyces that inspired my friend to give me this bottle. I wish I had a case of Bereziartua, so I could show people what Brett can be when used properly: the wild yeast is the star here, contributing gorgeous floral notes that seem to emerge from the light, tart apple flavors rather than overwhelming them with funk. A real treat — of course, now that means I might have to start carrying it.

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