I love how the whisky world overlaps with so many other food categories- so many whisky lovers are connected to all sorts of different beverages and food. At a whisky tasting I led in March, I met JP and Trish, who run Turtle Island Brewing Co., and we had an opportunity to taste one of their products – a beer cordial. In hearing about it, I didn’t think making a liqueur out of beer would be a good idea whatsoever – at first.
JP stumbled upon the idea when he tasted some in Berlin when he was touring some of the beer scene there, and has since started to produce his own, using sugar, spices, citrus zest, maple syrup, and brandy-soaked vanilla beans infused into his craft beer. This stuff is delicious. I recently took it to some friends to have with dinner and received audible “mmms” from each of them after they tasted – from those who liked beer to those who didn’t. It is low on the alcohol side of things, coming in at 5%, though it is suggested on the back label to add vodka to increase the ABV and its storage life after opening.
It is, more or less, what you might expect from the ingredients: moderate acidity, caramel, orange, and a decent mix of light spice and malt in the background as well with some exotic notes like pink peppercorn and anise seed too. It’s fairly sweet, but not too sweet to be sipped on its own though an ice cube helps or fortifying with spirits. As you drink it, it begs to be used with food – like a braise for some beef spare ribs or marinade for some chicken – though I think it would work better with red meats. It is for this reason that restaurants here in Ottawa like the Black Tomato are incorporating it into their menu. If you do get some – if you can’t resist from just drinking it straight up – try it in some hot chocolate, as a braise, to lemonade (delicious), add to bbq sauce, or add a touch of Bushmills (or similar) which adds some lovely complementary toffee, fruit, and spice notes (while adding to the nose and finish).
They make three different kinds, each with a different base beer – one with their (award winning) Smash Cherry Pale Ale, the sweetest of the three, one with their Irish Red Ale (which has the most malt in it, and is a touch more bitter than the first), and one with their Triple Chocolate Stout – my favorite, with more bitterness to balance the sweetness and rich malt, coffee, and chocolate notes. The third one, in particular, is a fantastic braise.
If you’re in Ottawa, it’s worth checking out in my opinion. It’s not expensive. They are available around Ottawa at Seed to Sausage (Gladstone/Bronson – if you go here be sure to pick up some bacon as well!), Grace in the Kitchen in Kanata, Take Another Bike in Manotik, and Terrace Radisson in Wakefield, though the product will continue to be more available. Oddly enough, the legislation in Ontario views this as a food product because of the production method, rather than an alcohol product, which is why it is available in grocery stores.