Saturday, June 19, 2010

Beerfly Alleyfight Revisited

Last year I kept saying I would do a recap from Beerfly Alleyfight but sadly I never got around to it (and my sincere apologies to Naomi Ashley, the wonderful singer-songwriter we were paired with that year who performed an awesome song inspired by our Somethin' Else India Black Ale). So this year it may have taken me a little over a month to post about the 2010 Alleyfight, but compared to last year that's practically realtime!

Anyway, as I posted about a while back, we brewed a Cocoa Puffs-infused Dunkelweizen we called Kokopüffenweizen. We paired that with mini Swabian soft pretzels encrusted with Cocoa Puffs crumbs and bacon bits for which I came up with the name Eine Kleine Schwabische Schweinenkokopüffenbrezeln. The day before the Alleyfight I tasted the beer and was disappointed to find that it wasn't very Cocoa Puffy. This surprised me because the last beer we brewed with Cocoa Puffs, our Cocoa Puffs Stout, had a very pronounced Cocoa Puffs flavor so I cut down on it this time, especially considering that this was lower gravity than our last offering. However, I suspect that the somewhat drier quality of the Dunkelweizen combined with the phenols and esters meant more flavors competing with the Cocoa Puffs while the sweet, roasty flavors of the export stout enhanced the flavors. Bottom line was it needed a kick, so the night before I threw a couple cups of Cocoa Puffs in a muslin bag and I dry-puffed it.

The next day, I still found both the aroma and flavor to be subtle. I mainly picked up the Cocoa Puffs in the finish. Reviews from folks at the Alleyfight were mixed in terms of the Cocoa Puffs contribution... some said it was way pronounced while others said they couldn't notice it at all. This was entirely consistent with my experience with both vanilla and peat-smoked malt; I guess different people have different taste thresholds. Overall, however, the beer got very positive reviews, and the keg kicked fairly early. I also thought it paired well with the pretzels. Obviously wheat beers and pretzels go hand in hand, and both the Cocoa Puffs and bacon bits were subtle enough to give a little sweet and salty complexity without being overpowering. I was definitely proud of our offering overall (even if the pretzels took WAY longer to make than I anticipated).

Now, we had a good idea of how our pairing would turn out. The real mystery of Beerfly Alleyfight is the art. The artists tend to be pretty tight-lipped about their creation, so we waited in anticipation for Laura Grey and Laura McKenzie (who just happened to draw the last performance of the Alleyfight) to take the stage. As a little background, Laura and Laura recently concluded a run of their original show, "The Laura on Laura Comeback Tour." It was about two teachers who decide to throw off the shackles of the classroom and follow their dream of becoming rock stars. It's absolutely hilarious but kind of hard to explain so just go to their Youtube feed here and check out some of their performances.

Anyway, they reprised their roles as Laura and Laura the teachers (as opposed to Laura and Laura the actresses) for Beerfly Alleyfight and performed an absolutely hilarious song about--oddly enough--Kokopüffenweizen. Much like their show, it's hard for me to explain the song and do it justice, and unfortunately I'm not sure if anybody videotaped it. But to give you an idea of what was going on, check out this pic of their performance:

As soon as they were done I knew they had the best art award wrapped up. It was funny. It took a lot of talent. It totally integrated both the spirit of the event and our beer specifically. And it had a vibraslap.

Sure enough, when it came time to announce the winners, Laura and Laura took home the Best Art trophy! Given how great their performance was, the announcement was about as surprising as hearing that Mayor Daley has won reelection. We didn't win best beer, which didn't surprise me given how many other great beers there were. But there was one award left... best overall pairing of beer, food and art. Considering how well Laura and Laura integrated our beer into their performance, and also how well-received our beer was, I honestly believed this was our chance to finally win a Beerfly Alleyfight. And when they announced the winner, it was...

...not us. Oh well. We will remain the Susan Lucci of Beerfly Alleyfight. But that's fine because we had yet another great time with great food, great beer, and great art. I had lots of friends involved and I won't bother to mention them all because I'm sure I'll leave people out, but I will give a shout-out to fellow blogger Brian Mitchell of the Daily Ikura and his wife Euni. Brian brewed a slightly soured wheat that was a wonderful balance of complexity and drinkability, and he and Euni whipped up some Vietnamese subs that Leah is still raving about.

So thanks again to Laura Grey and Laura McKenzie for the time and effort they put into the Alleyfight. That's Laura Grey to the left of Leah and Laura McKenzie to the right of me with the coveted Alleyfight trophy. Sadly (for us Chicagoans, at least) Laura Grey recently moved to New York so I'm not sure if she'll be performing anything around here any time soon, but if you ever get a chance to see anything involving either Laura, DO IT. And then afterward, buy them a beer and ask them to write a song about it. But you might have to provide your own vibraslap.


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