For about a year, cranberries were a recurring topic of conversation in phone calls with my father. Not for the normal reasons (assuming there are normal reasons), but because he’s been doing work for some folks in the cranberry business.
Eventually Dad suggested I make a cranberry beer. This rattled around in my head for a while, trying to find a concept upon which to adhere. As Thanksgiving started to loom on the horizon it started to pull together as a seasonal brew. Not a heavy winter warmer, but a light brew meant to cut through the heartiness of a holiday feast while representing some complementary flavors.
So: cranberries backgrounded by a clean blonde ale, with hops and a Kveik yeast chosen to pull out some contrasting citrus. To complete the picture: a healthy dash of five spice (cinnamon, fennel, anise, ginger, and cloves).
The finished product fit the bill, with a subtle tartness and lovely spice flavor, and was a welcome addition to our Thanksgiving table. I think that in the next brew it could benefit from a little more maltiness, either by increasing the mash temperature or incorporating a touch of darker grain into the bill—there’s always room to improve a recipe.
Of the name: since this was conceived as a Thanksgiving beer, I wanted to refer to turkeys as many ways as I could without putting a bird on the label. I settled on two. The name Ottoman Lanes probably sounded good to me due to its conceptual rhyme with “Inca Roads“. Samantha from Italy applied her art-deco influenced style to the image of the Sultan in his bespoke bowling alley.
Ben Folds is a pretty divisive figure. The Humor Doesn’t Belong In Music contingent frowns on his incessant smartassery, and to be fair, his more ambitious satirical swings are on the verge of curdling into a sour cynicism. To be doubly fair, he’s acknowledged this buffoonery as core to his MO: “If you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall.“
But as George Carlin said (possibly paraphrasing someone else), “If you’ll scratch a cynic, you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” Folds’ cynicism works best when it’s clearly rooted in a hopeful romanticism. On the rare occasion that the dark clouds are swept away entirely, the purity of emotion shines through in a plain-spoken, tender love song like the one below.