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Beer #4 – January 4, 2010: Long Trail Hibernator

January 4, 2010

Long Trail Hibernator

Brewery: Long Trail Brewing Co., Bridgewater, VT

Style: Scottish Ale

Serving Type: Bottle

Price: $8.49/ 6-pack

Availability: Winter Seasonal

Glassware: Shaker Pint

Strength: 6.0% ABV (alcohol by volume)

Drinkability: Mild flavor, easy to drink.

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Hibernator has a deep coppery garnet hue, slightly hazy, with a thin wispy white head.

Aroma: The aroma is very faint, malty, with a slightly medicinal tinge.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, with big bubbles of carbonation.

Taste: As opposed to Beer #3 (Sierra Nevada Celebration) which was all about the hops, Hibernator is a malty beer, which is appropriate to the style (a Scottish Ale). It has a cola-like sweetness, with a bready, cereal-like middle, that is a little toasty and nutty, with a touch of butterscotch. The end is a little grassy, with a slightly sour tang, and tea-like tannins (astringent compounds that cause a puckery feeling in your mouth when drinking red wine, black tea, and some beers) that lead to a drying finish. However, the initially strong tannins relatively fade after several sips, making the beer much easier to drink.

While the malt is prominent here, it is less malty than most other Scottish Ales, and has little, if any, of the smoky peat flavors typical of this style.

Pairings: A malty beer pairs nicely with creamy cheeses like Gloucester or a mild Cheddar, or nutty cheeses like Gruyère, as well as hearty meat dishes. I’d steer clear of anything too saucy or rich that might overwhelm Hibernator’s mild flavor and aroma. Since this is a Scottish Ale, I’d imagine haggis would be a natural pairing, but I will only leave this to the imagination since I’m not that adventurous.

Trivia: Malt, or malted barley, is the primary grain used in most beers. Its discovery was most likely an accident, but a happy accident in the end. You can imagine a farmer in Ancient Babylon had one day left his just-picked barley outside when it began to rain. The water caused the barley to begin to sprout. When the farmer discovered this, and feared the barley might be ruined, a fire was started to dry out the barley. The farmer then tasted this slightly toasted sprouted barley to discover something much sweeter and tastier than the grain picked just the other day.

You see, when the barley begins to sprout, starches inside the grain are converted to sugars to nourish the sprout. Heat from the fire stops the sprout from continuing to germinate, leaving behind a sweeter version of the barley seed, also known as “malted barley”.

Then, this Ancient Babylonian farmer changed history as we know it by taking the malted barley, boiling it in water, and allowing the resulting liquid to sit around in a pot for a few days attracting wild yeasts which caused it to ferment. Odds are, what was left in this pot probably didn’t smell very good, but this farmer decided to taste it before tossing it. It probably didn’t taste very good either, but it strangely made the farmer feel a bit happy. No one knew what alcohol was back then. But they continued to make and refine this happy beverage, giving birth to beer!

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