La Mancha Sour Ale

A lightly sour beer foregrounding sweet cherries and turmeric—not quite a Kriek.
  • Grain bill:  Mecca Grade Lamonta, BEST Spelt
  • Hops:  Elixir
  • Yeast:  Omega Sundew OYL-401
  • Secret ingredients: Omega Lactobacillus Blend OYL-605, Sweet Cherries, Turmeric, Black Peppercorns, Lemon Zest


Origin Story:

One of my favorite classes in business school was Organizational Leadership, for which the textbooks were OthelloSaint JoanWar and Peace, and Don Quixote.  The premise was to use these works of literature to discuss modes and issues of leadership, ranging from race and gender dynamics, to the relationship between the leader and the led, to questions of how decisions get made. 

In Don Quixote we spent a lot of time exploring the latter.  Don Quixote does not take action because he has carefully weighed the pros and cons of the likely results.  He does what he does because he has determined that he is a Knight Errant, and as such he is bound to a particular code of conduct that emphasizes honor and gallantry.  This is of course the wellspring of all the terrible disasters—jousting windmills and such—that ensue throughout the course of the book. 

But on his deathbed, when he tries to reject knight-errantry, his friends beg him to reconsider—they’ve discovered that the identity he adopted was meaningful to them as well.  So the question is:  even though this man didn’t optimize his life for results, was it not a life well-lived?

I can’t imagine why this has stuck with me for so long.

At any rate, I wanted to pay homage to the Hidalgo with a beer, something that included Spanish elements.  Cherries felt like a representative crop.  I’d make this my second sour beer, but I didn’t want to move it into Belgian Kriek territory, so I used sweet cherries and considered what I could add that would nudge this beverage towards the Mediterranean.  Turmeric seemed like an interesting choice to add some complementary earthiness.  Some black peppercorns for spice and lemon zest for a little zip.

I chose Sundew yeast—another of Omega’s CRISPR-modified strains—with the goal of getting a fermentation that would emphasize the sweet stonefruit flavors of the cherries.

As finished, this beer moves very close to wine cooler territory—the maltiness is very much in the background, and the sourness is mild, just enough to underscore the red fruit flavors from the cherries.  I was expecting a bit more bite, but La Mancha apparently doesn’t need it; this is the favorite HLH beer to date with the small focus group that comprises my wife and daughter.

I found an Indonesian artist with a beautiful engraving illustration style to execute my vision of Don Quixote closing in on a hapless cherrypicker who he supposes to be a fearsome foe.  We are seconds away from disaster. 

Music Pairing:

Sparks have been popular worldwide, but not all at the same time—isolated hit singles have dribbled out over the course of four decades in the UK, USA, Australia, and Germany.  They’re from LA but arguably invented both Queen and the Pet Shop Boys.  They’re smartasses, but they also present songs with complex emotional layers.  Sometimes they do this at the same time.  And they can conjure complexity from simplicity, wringing drama from a song that essentially consists of singing the title phrase over 100 times.

Sparks’ presentation is deeply grounded in camp—the unvarying stage presence of Ron Mael as a glaring Charlie Chaplin / John Waters / Adolph Hitler figure set against his pretty-boy falsetto-singing brother Ron is a shtick.  But I point you to Christopher Isherwood’s comments on camp:

You can’t camp about something you don’t take seriously. You’re not making fun of it; you’re making fun out of it. You’re expressing what’s basically serious to you in terms of fun and artifice and elegance.   

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