I owe this one to my in-laws. Richard is a very conservative beer drinker—Amstel Light is his go-to—and has eyed my creations with great wariness. However, both he and Brenda swear to the salubrious nature of blackberry brandy. If you have a cough, try some blackberry brandy. If you are a bit dizzy, try some blackberry brandy. If you break your arm, try some blackberry brandy. They suggested that my beer might be a bit more appealing—possibly more health-giving?—if I incorporated some blackberries.
Now, I do love me some blackberries. I also hadn’t yet done a full-on, pedal-to-the-floor pastry stout with all the trappings. Pastry stouts often tend towards the chocolate end of the dessert tray—what if I were to go the other way and focus on, say, a blackberry cobbler?
This perspective helped me settle on the style and other ingredients I’d add. An oatmeal stout would be a good, hearty base vehicle. Vanilla and nuts definitely have their place in a good cobbler. Why not add a little apple cider for some complementary flavors (and to boost the final alcohol ABV while we’re at it)?
From a learning perspective, my primary objective was to play with lactose, which is a common addition for pasty stouts. Lactose is a sugar that yeast can’t digest, so it sticks around in the final product and adds both sweetness and mouthfeel to the beer. Ultimately it wasn’t that hard a lesson—just dump a pound of sugar into the boil and see what happens.
Blackberry Way ended up weighing in at 9.7% ABV, and is rich and fruity, but just on the right side of the cloying line. Under the right circumstances it might be able to knit a bone.
The name of the beer is a tip of the hat to the Move song of the same name, a minor-key cousin of “Penny Lane.” When I was brewing this beer, I had a vision of an abandoned brewery overrun with blackberry vines as nature started to reclaim its own. I feel like Laura gave it an Alice Through The Looking-Glass feel in her label illustration—this would have been an amazing place in its heyday.
As a kid born at the tail-end of the 60s to parents a little too old to be Boomers (meaning: the household record collection tended towards the Kingston Trio, Glen Yarborough and Barry Manilow), I started my exploration of music in earnest probably around 1981, with a very steep learning curve.
This gave me a complicated relationship with the Talking Heads. I ran into the video for “Once In a Lifetime” on an episode of SCTV and was weirded out. I didn’t entirely get “Burning Down the House” when it was in heavy rotation on MTV. The singsongy “Road to Nowhere” from a couple of years later was more my speed.
But we were going in different directions: just as I was getting into prog and post-punk, the Heads were getting into Americana and simplicity. As I got into college, I was crushing hard on Remain in Light and Fear of Music, and writing off Little Creatures and True Stories.
When a new album, Naked, was announced, it all seemed very dubious. But this record turned out to be not a death rattle, but a glorious extinction burst—syncopated, funky, trenchant, full of Latin percussion, full horn sections, and Johnny Marr on guitar. If there’s a right note on which to go out, this was the one.
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