“I recommend to the Congress the passage of legislation for the immediate modification of the Volstead Act, in order to legalize the manufacture and sale of beer…”
With these words, Franklin Roosevelt fulfilled the campaign promise that propelled him to the White House. By urging lawmakers to modify the terms of Prohibition, FDR hoped to stave off social unrest while the nation impatiently waited for the ratification of the 21st Amendment. Congress followed Roosevelt’s lead, and two weeks later the president signed the historic Cullen-Harrison Act, which amended the terms of Prohibition’s legal basis — the Volstead Act — to allow the manufacture and sale of lower-alcohol beer.
On April 7, the first legal shipments rolled out of the breweries; the story goes that the first barrel from at least one factory was brought directly to the White House. Regardless of the destination of that first delivery, there were many, many more to come: More than 1.5 million gallons of beer were reportedly consumed in the first 24 hours! Although the country’s drinkers would still endure a full eight months of relative sobriety before Repeal brought about the true end of the Noble Experiment — and the re-legalization of strong beer, wine, and spirits — at last the honest working man could return to the tavern for his pint of (weak) ale. 75 years later, we’re still celebrating.
Outside of a few localities with antiquated beer laws on the books, you’d be hard pressed today to find a commercial brew that could squeak by under the Cullen-Harrison threshold: 3.2% alcohol-by-volume beer is hardly heady stuff. But technicalities aside, there’s no reason not to enjoy a pint (or two) of your favorite ale to mark the occasion of the 75th anniversary of beer’s return to law-abiding beverage status.
The world of beer-based cocktails is a strange and storied place, where venerable working-man’s refreshers like Boilermakers and Redeyes rub shoulders with new-fangled concoctions like Turbo Diesels and Sake Bombs. But — at least in America — perhaps the best-loved mixed-beer involves no hard liquor, no soda, no juice… in fact, no adulterants at all. The Black and Tan — a beer parfait of sorts where dark stout floats atop a golden ale — may or may not have been invented Stateside, but it owes its soul (if not its actual pedigree) to Ireland. So popular is this beverage that Ben and Jerry’s introduced a limited edition, beer-flavored Black and Tan ice cream complete with adorable foam head.
Making a Black and Tan at home is a cinch: There’s no need for a specialized gizmo, just patience. Fill a pint glass — preferably the bulbous Imperial style, rather than the tapered American sort — about two-thirds full with the ale. The glass is wider at the top, so you’ll wind up with roughly equal amounts of each beer this way. Top the ale with the stout, pouring slowly over the back of a spoon.
If you use a stout other than Guinness, be sure it offers a lower alcohol content than the ale you choose, or you’ll end up with a Tan and Black. Pour too fast, and you might get something more like a Muddled Beige. If the latter happens, assure your guests they’re drinking it the way they would in the Old Country, where the drink is better known as a Half and Half, and layering’s a trick hauled out for American tourists.
Delightful as it is, the Black and Tan’s hardly the only beer cocktail that doesn’t require a shot of booze. Of the dozens of possibilities, here are a few of our favorites.
Black and Tan
1/2 stout, preferably Guinness
1/2 bitter (aka ESB-style pale ale in the US), such as Bass
Pour the ale into a pint glass, filling approximately 2/3 of the way to the top. Float the stout on top of the ale, pouring over the back of a spoon to keep the layers separate.
1/2 ginger ale
Combine both ingredients in a pilsner or collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge or a sprig of mint.
1/2 hard cider
Combine both ingredients in a pint or half-pint glass.
Panache (aka Radler)
1/2 sparkling lemonade
Combine both ingredients in a pilsner or collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
More beer cocktails from Drink of the Week:
- 1/5/07 Black Velvet
half Guinness, half Champagne
- 11/24/06 Michelada
Mexican beer with hot sauce, lime, and salt
If you ask Cameron what his favorite cold-weather meal is, you might be in for a surprise. It’s not Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. It’s not even a big prime rib, with plenty of leftovers for his beloved beef-and-bleu sandwiches. No, the thing my Scots-Irish husband loves best when the nights are long is New England Boiled Dinner — better known as “corned beef and cabbage” — with a hearty dollop of horseradish cream and an imperial pint of stout to wash it down.
Like most folks, we’ve reserved this marvelously meaty meal for St. Patrick’s Day feasts. But given how cheap it is, and how much we enjoy it, I’m not entirely sure why we don’t trot it out regularly. Perhaps we got in the habit back when it was difficult to find corned beef during the rest of the year. But the last few winters, we’ve taken to curing our own brisket, so getting our hands on nice corned beef isn’t so much of a problem.
I know there are at least two of you who know our little secret: Home-cured corned beef only sounds impressively arcane; it’s actually about the easiest thing you can cure at home. The only thing you need is a 4-to-6 pound piece of brisket — point cut, preferrably — plus a few easy-to-find spices and a week’s forethought. And if you use a dry cure like the Cooks’ Illustrated recipe [link removed*] we often follow, rather than the typical immersion brine, you don’t even need a lot of fridge space. Honestly, we’ve got to do this more often… if only for the crave-inducing leftovers.
This year’s brisket came to us from Marin Sun Farms, and a glorious specimen it was. For the accompaniments, we wandered the Ferry Plaza market and rounded up a Catalan Farms cabbage, two pounds of Little’s potatoes, a bunch of Star Route Farms carrots, a pile of Dirty Girl boiling onions, and a couple of rutabagas from Heirloom Organic. Imagine our surprise as we walked by the Happy Girl Kitchen pickle stand on our way back to the car and noticed they were selling prepared horseradish! (Yes, it was local — grown at Tairwa Knoll Farms and processed in Santa Cruz County — and delicious.) On the way home, we popped by our local microbrewery, 21st Amendment, and picked up a growler of their oyster stout. Ah, it was the easiest 100% local meal of the month, to be sure, and definitely one of the tastiest.
The rest of the fortnight was full of other tasty tidbits, including six meals at restaurants that wear their locavore menus on their sleeves. You’ll recognize lots of old standbys in the list below, and a pair of newcomers. Let’s just say that Conduit seems to be still working the kinks out of their kitchen; they’ve only just opened, so we’ll keep mum. On the other hand, Ubuntu is old enough to know better. I wish we had loved every bite at this nationally fawned-upon Napa newcomer, but — as our friend and dining companion Cookiecrumb detailed elsewhere — the inventive flavors and gorgeous ingredients were so oversalted as to be nearly inedible. Ah, well… they can’t all be Range, I suppose.
Mercifully, we did not return home hungry. There were plenty of other delicious things we discovered on our Napa field trip, including a to-die-for packet of pastrami (from Fatted Calf’s gorgeous new shop at the Oxbow Market) that had us happily gorging on sandwiches… even for breakfast. And we also discovered another secret ingredient that we’ll share more about in our next Dark Days installment.
Dark Days Ticker — March 1-15
- Dark Days dinners at home: 8 out of 15
- Locavore dining-out: Range, Primavera, ubuntu, O Izakaya, Two, Conduit
- New recipes: Jamie’s stuffed potatoes, Hugh’s milk-braised pork, cauliflower steaks
- Old faves: corned beef & cabbage, egg drop soup, bean salad, Waltuck‘s chicken paprikás, grilled rib-eye
- Freezer fodder: golden veggie bisque, potstickers, chili verde enchiladas, oxtail ragu, bolognese sauce
New local items in the pantry:
- Straus Creamery cream-top milk (2% and whole)
- Marin Sun Farms point-cut brisket
- Fatted Calf pastrami (available at their Napa store only, alas!) and bierwurst
- Little‘s “all blue” potatoes
- Zuckerman’s asparagus
- Happy Girl Kitchen Co. prepared horseradish
- Andante butter
- 21st Amendment Oyster Stout (brewed with Hog Island oysters!)
- Carmel S&S Syrah (thanks, Lauren!)
- Bartholomew Park Cabernet
* Edited to add: We removed the link to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe in July 2008 in protest of their bullying tactics.
…of Ben & Jerry’s?
I’m sure you’ve heard of Guinness ice cream, maybe even seen Ben & Jerry’s Black & Tan, which swirls together chocolate and cream-stout flavors.
But did you know that this pint has a creamy head, too? We had a good laugh a couple of nights ago as we opened the container. Although at first it looks like marshmallows, the “head” is actually fluffy puffs of the cream-stout ice cream.
(And yes, it’s delicious.)
When it comes to kitchen remodels, no news is good news. Our contractor’s crew of Irish lads has been rapidly turning the old kitchen into a pile of rubble and debris, and — contrary to our worst fears — there was nothing evil lurking within our 85-year-old house’s walls, floors, or ceilings. Let’s celebrate!
As we stood in the beer aisle, contemplating which six-pack to buy for our demo crew (so that they can toast a good week’s work today, too), Cameron veoted my suggestion of something from The Old Country as being too cliché. But conversations with charming men possessed of lilting brogues leaves me craving a pint of stout, so we put a few Guinness Drafts in the shopping cart. On second thought, seeing as how this was a special occasion, perhaps Champagne would be more apt. So we put a split of bubbly into the cart, too.
Back at home, we faced a serious dilemma: Guinness, or bubbly? Well, why not both…
Irish stout, preferably Guinness Draft
Pour Irish stout into a pilsner or tall glass, to the halfway mark. Top with sparkling wine.
When plotting out this week’s pre-Thanksgiving meals, I decided that it had been too long since we’d enjoyed any home-cooked Mexican treats. And because I’ve already renewed the Doña Tomás cookbook three times at the library (no más renewals for me), I wanted to try one more recipe out of it.
I picked out a chicken taco recipe — mostly on the strength of its interesting-sounding salsa — and happened upon a recipe for Michelada, a beer-based concoction, which I added to the menu.
Once I get the week’s dinners sussed out, I shuffle them around, matching each meal’s complexity to the days of the week that make the most sense. Since we were facing a short week with Thanksiving travel planned, I didn’t have a lot of wiggle room. But, consulting my trust Rancho Gordo calendar, I noticed that Tuesday, 11/20, was the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Perfecto!
When I went downstairs to copy the recipes out of the cookbook, imagine my amusement to find this snippet in the Michelada header notes:
Without General Don Augusto Michel, there would have been no Mexican Revolution, and no such drink as the Michelada. Actually the revolution probably would’ve still taken place, but we definitely would have been deprived of this unique libation… which is not really a beer, not really a cocktail.
And, at least anecdotally, they appear to be correct… at least about the drink’s legendary namesake. Here’s another snippet from a Mexican food distributor‘s site:
This traditional Mexican drink has been around since the days of the Mexican Revolution. A revolutionary general from San Luis Potosi named Don Augusto Michel used to visit a restaurant and he liked to drink his beer in a very unusual way. In a glass with ice, he poured lime, salt, soy sauce, pepper and picante. This speciality soon turned into a popular drink, making the restaurant famous for it. Because of that, the owner decided to baptize this speciality in honor of his creator.
Alas, I can’t seem to find any reliable references tying Don Augusto Michel to the Mexican Revolution, but I never let the truth stand in the way of a good drinking tale. So, here’s to Don Augusto’s possibly fictitious legacy, and to happy coincidence. ¡Viva la revolucíon!
Michelada estilo Doña Tomás
juice of 1 lime
1-2 drops habanero hot sauce (or to taste)
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch kosher salt
1 bottle Negro Modelo (or other dark Mexican beer)
1 lime slice, for garnish
Salt the rim of a tall glass, and fill with ice. Stir in the lime juice, hot sauce, worcestershire sauce, and salt. Pour in the beer and garnish with a lime.
Girls, the next time your man (of any gender) gives you the tiniest bit of lip about shopping excursions worth the name — and I mean the kind that require provisions and a Sherpa — you just take Medea Jones’ advice. Saddle him up for a field trip like the one we did last Saturday.
Start at The City Beer Store, a new-ish spot down on Fabulous Folsom: Less Scummy, More Yummy! (and that one’s a Medea Jones original, sealed with a kiss, lovey, so remember that you read it here first). Your faithful correspondent has previously pined on these pages for the bodacious Seattle beer scene and the absolutely fab Bottleworks. Well, color me amber with glee!!! City Beer is too cute for words and it’s just jam-packed with little and big bottles of malty joy, all begging to be taken home. Everything is sold as singles, and the boys there encourage experimentation. Not like that, presh!!! I mean you get a discount if you mix and match your purchases. Love the funky concrete loft decor, (Ed. no, really, it’s a converted live-work loft) and the three taps — soon to be five — pouring draught beer. It’s a store! It’s a bar! It’s a store and a bar!
Pause! Breathe! Wave! Blow kisses! Touch the pearls for sincerity! Wave!
On to the next destination, the gritty, downmarket BevMo on Bayshore for a little atmosphere and some things that a girl just needs…like a bottle of Clear Creek Pear Brandy for Falling Leaves and a shopping cart full of wine! Special to Mr. Windbreaker Man, lashing four one-gallon jugs of Gallo into the milk crate on the back of your powder-blue moped: Those are just the weekly rations, aren’t they? Call me. We must party.
Where next? Why, Blackwell’s Wine & Sprits in The Avenues! Now, there was a time when I’d never venture west of Park Presidio unless it was for a really hot pickup roller derby match. But not any more, chickadees! A frantic cross-country quest for Carpano Antica at the end of September put paid to that. Cue scene from A Nightmare on Booze Street. Yours Truly is on the mobile with who-ever:
“Um, HI! I’m looking for a bottle of Carpano Antica. Do you have it?”
“Yes, I’ll wait.”
“Hi! I’m looking for a bottle of Carpano Antica?”
“It’s a kind of vermouth, I think.”
“No, I don’t know what you do with it, honey, but I hope I’ll find out!”
“Well, my friend said if I showed up with a bottle he’d make it worth my while.”
“Yes! Ha ha! An offer you can’t refuse!”
“4-1-5…Wait, why do you need my telephone number?”
“V-E-R-M-O-U…oh, never mind!”
But then I found Blackwell’s, way-y-y-y-y out on Geary, where Gary and Tristan simply saved my life. So, zip zip zip and we’re back to the present, or at least the more recent past, when we visited again. Tristan recommended some wines for when the spirit is willing but the pocketbook is weak: very lovely, very French. I went all wobbly in the knees again on beholding the wall of booze. I’m on a complete bourbon kick these days and honestly, I’m stacking the bottles sideways in the closet, my foil-wrapped cherry bon-bons. I screwed up my courage and limited myself to a bottle of Bulleit (very chic on the custom cocktail circuit — mixes well, but bo-ring alone…. OOPS! Did I say that?), and one of the 15-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, which is simply impossible to find but is my Favorite Bourbon Of All Time, aside from the Sun King, of course.
There! A plan for a happy Saturday! I’m exhausted just writing about it. Mitzi, fetch the English cucumber slices and fill the bath with raita. I must regain my strength.
Love and kisses,
Miss Thing, Medea Jones
The City Beer Store
1168 Folsom Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
201 Bayshore Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94124
Blackwell’s Wines & Spirits
5620 Geary Boulevard (between 20th and 21st)
San Francisco, CA 94121
This has to be the worst way possible to transport and drink beer (click on the pic to see the whole thing).
And yet, I’m strangely compelled.
Somehow, this became the week of braised meat. In addition to the oxtails mentioned previously, I made carnitas.
I didn’t really grok carnitas until very recently, and I certainly wasn’t capable of cooking good ones until I found this recipe. It’s my all-time favorite Internet find for three reasons: It’s practically idiot-proof, it really works, and right in the middle it reminds you to call your mom.
That said, I often feel odd when I cook carnitas. I live near the Mission district in San Francisco, and there are roughly 2.3 million taquerias within a mile of my house. In fact, some of the best carnitas that I’ve ever had are at the taqueria that Anita and I consider our “local.” For an investment of five minutes and two dollars paid to a local business, I can get a carnitas taco that doesn’t have to step aside for anyone. Compare that with $15 or more, plus five hours of cooking. Given, it’s easy time that you can do other things with and it makes the house smell great, but five hours is five hours.
This is the same kind of thinking that eventually made me pull the plug on brewing my own beer. The scale was a little different: three days of work scattered across six or eight weeks of waiting, plus time spent cleaning and storing the gear. But the theory was the same, and the argument was completely insupportable when I could go down to the store and buy a six-pack from local boys who done good.
But what I suspect it comes down to is that I like to do things that I’m good at, even if they’re completely superfluous. Much to my chagrin — as it seems like something that a competent man should be able to do — I was never very good at brewing beer. But I can say with a total lack of modesty that my carnitas kick ass.
If there’s anything wrong with wandering around in the sun all day and drinking a bunch of different kinds of beer, then I don’t want to be right. I was up in Portland last weekend for a bachelor party, and as part of the festivities our crew spent a lazy Saturday afternoon at the 19th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival.
I’m not sure which was more impressive, the number of brewers in attendance (50+), the number of people in attendance (50,000+ per the Fest organizers), or the number of Grateful Dead cover bands you can safely book in succession without inciting a riot (I lost count).
One of the things that I miss desperately about living in Seattle is the reverence that the Pacific NW has for beer. Two of my favorite brewers and my single favorite beer purveyor are located in the Seattle city limits, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Now, I’m not knocking the Bay Area beer scene. I felt strongly enough to blog about it way back in the day, when real men wrangled HTML with their bare hands. But my Portland trip was like a return to the promised land of cerveza.
Now if I could just get “Touch of Grey” out of my head.