Looking for a Halloween costume idea? Why not dress as a victim of the London Beer Flood of 1814?
Friday marked the 200th anniversary of an event in London that unleashed a tidal wave of porter, killing eight people in neighboring tenements. When a vat exploded inside Henry Meux's Horse Shoe brewery, it forced more than 570 tons of beer through the brewery's back wall and out into the slums behind it in a vast wave at least 15-feet high, flooding streets and cellars and smashing into buildings. Founded early in the reign of King George III and famous for its porter, the brewery produced more than 100,000 barrels of the dark-colored nectar each year.
I mention this disaster for two reasons. One, Narrows Brewing Co. will host its Hoppy Halloween Party on All Hallows' Eve, unleashing its new Coffee Cardamom Stout for costumed beer drinkers - including those donning London Romantic-Era clothing stained with blood and dried porter. Two, one of the world's foremost brewing historians, Ron Pattinson - who researches old breweries and digs up dusty beer recipes for his website, Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, and will visit Narrows Brewing in early November - is well aware of the 1814 brew bomb and the killer porter.
"Meux's brewing records haven't survived, so it wouldn't be possible to brew an exact clone," Pattinson said via email from the road. However, "it wouldn't be hard to come up with a recipe that was close. It would have been fun to do for the two hundredth anniversary, but I've missed that."
Pattinson, a stout lover and member of the British Guild of Beer Writers, is on tour behind his new book, The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer: Rediscovered Recipes for Classic Brews Dating from 1800 to 1965. He'll visit Narrows Brewing Saturday, Nov. 8.
Hoppy Halloween Party
Narrows Brewing's Coffee Cardamom Stout is a collaboration brew with Northern Pacific Coffee Company in Tacoma's Parkland neighborhood. Narrows' head brewer, Joe Walts, admires the coffee company's beer selection, and NPCC proprietor Ed Cedras holds Walts in high esteem.
"I heard about the opening of Narrows Brewing through a friend down at Beer Essentials while buying brewing supplies," explained Cedras. "There was also quite a buzz around their opening throughout the brewing community in Tacoma. I met Joe at the brewery and told him how much of a fan I was of his beers and that we carried all of them at Northern Pacific. It was about that time that we started talking about a collaboration beer."
Walts and Cedras set out to brew an original coffee beer.
"Joe mentioned a cardamom stout that he had done in the past," continued Cedras. "We used that as a baseline to develop the recipe for a Turkish coffee stout. The spices were all sourced by our friends at Mad Hat Tea Company and the coffee roasted by our roasting partners at Olympia Coffee Roasting Company. I used a similar methodology in cold brewing the coffee for this beer [as I have with] others I've brewed in the past ... slow and low ... meaning brewed slowly at low temperature to extract all of the brilliant notes of the coffee while reducing acidity for a balance between the coffee and malt in the beer. Joe brought in a secret weapon to add a creamy finish."
"We brewed an easy drinking stout - 4.2 or 4.3 percent alcohol - then added cardamom and cinnamon in the whirlpool and lactose to the boil," added Walts. "Ed made concentrated cold-steep coffee, which we added to the fermenter."
According to Walts, Northern Pacific sells an amazing amount of beer, including a lot of Narrows Brewing's beer, as well as beers exclusive to Pierce County from such brewers as Deschutes.
"I think awareness of what breweries are working on seasonally, limited runs, and collaborations in tandem with establishing strong relationships with breweries and their sales reps led to the allocations of limited-release beers at Northern Pacific over other outlets," explained Cedras. "We've built a reputation of being 'picky' about the beers we serve and are often offered special releases with right of first refusal."
Northern Pacific Coffee Company will host a Narrows Brewing Brewer's Night Tuesday, Oct. 28, shining a spotlight on the new Coffee Cardamom Stout.
The new beer will also be on tap during Narrows' Hoppy Halloween Party Oct. 31. The Coffee Cardamom Stout will be on tap all day. Ice Cream Social created a Coffee Cardamom Stout ice cream flavor and will serve it during the party as well as beer floats with other flavors. Food trucks will park out front. A costume contest with a $100 gift card prize for the winner will begin at 8:30 p.m.
So what costume will Cedras wear at Narrows' Halloween party?
"President James A. Garfield. He's an interesting guy," he said. "Check out his assassination story. Alexander Graham Bell was involved. Super kooky stuff."
Ron Pattinson at Narrows Brewing
Beer historian and beer travel writer Ron Pattinson is certain to be another interesting guy. For years, the England-born-turned-Amsterdam resident has gobbled up obscure books on beer history - including brewery logbooks - and in 2007 began sharing his findings in a conversational pub tone on his blog. Pattinson has also regenerated hundreds of historical beer recipes, mostly British styles, and some lost German beer styles such as Broyhan, Kotbusser and Salvator, which was a precursor to Doppelbock. Though it was a chore to chronologically decipher, Pattinson has pared down his more than 3,000 blog posts and recipes into a succinct read, The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.
An avid reader of Pattinson's blog, Walts noticed a gap in the author's upcoming Pacific Northwest book tour. A simple request via email secured the historian for an afternoon of beer history at Narrows Brewing at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8. Although he worked in a brewery during his youth, Pattinson won't be recreating old beer recipes at the Tacoma brewery.
"Beer recipe recreations is just one of the things Pattinson does," said Walts. "He spends most of his time in libraries and public archives, researching breweries that have been around for hundreds of years, examining old English, Scottish and German beer styles. It's a lot of numbers and tables and debunking beer legends. He also provided a lot of historical details for Mitch Steele's IPA book. His visit will be fascinating for beer and history geeks who want to gain greater appreciation about the development of beer, recipes, breweries and the changing palates of beer drinkers over the course of centuries of brewing."
This fall book tour will be Pattinson's first venture to Washington state, where most of the nation's hops are grown.
"You might be surprised how little the handling of hops has changed over the years," said Pattinson. "In the 19th century, they were already packing the hops as tightly as possible to keep them away from the air and to store them cold."
He says beer geeks in the Netherlands have certainly heard of Washington state beers, but he doubts the country's general population is aware of our brews.
For those who don't want to dress as a corpse killed by an ancient porter, but would rather attend Narrows' Hoppy Halloween Party dressed as a beer, Pattinson says the scariest beer ever is the Danziger Jopenbier, an old top-fermented German beer that had a peculiar smell and taste reminiscent of port wine.
"The wort is left to spontaneously ferment," Pattinson explained. "First of all, a thick blanket forms on the surface, on which all sorts of molds grow. These blankets in various vats are again very different from each other in appearance and strength, depending on the points of attack the molds have found. ... The head, which is often so strong that a 20-gram piece won't fall through it, begins to lift itself. ... For eight to twelve days, the beer often pushes out large amounts of loose foam. What can you say about the fermentation, other than that it sounds scary and disgusting at the same time."
There you go. Halloween costume suggestions, a new coffee beer and ice cream to enjoy and an opportunity to geek out on old beer - all held at a Tacoma brewery that shouldn't explode.
NARROWS BREWING CO. COFFEE CARDAMOM STOUT RELEASE PARTY, 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 28, Northern Pacific Coffee Company, 401 Garfield St. S., Tacoma, no cover, 253.537.8338
HOPPY HALLOWEEN PARTY, dusk, Friday, Oct. 31, Narrows Brewing Co., 9007 S. 19th St., Tacoma, no cover, 253.327.1400
BEER HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR RON PATTINSON, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8, Narrows Brewing Co., 9007 S. 19th St., Tacoma, no cover, 253.327.1400