I'm no supertaster
May 2, 2013 1:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for very, very unsubtle: 1) malt vinegar; 2) sake; and 3) beer that tastes yeasty (like bread, and not like estery Belgian beer). I'm not sure there are mass-market products that meet my needs, so if you have similar cravings and an alternative, I'd be grateful, too.

Looking for strong flavors and high-test products here.

1) I like malt vinegar on fries, fish and chips, etc. I want really bracingly acidic malt vinegar. It's never all that tart--even UK imports don't satisfy me. I want to eat a vinegar-soaked fry and have my mouth water from the tartness, like I'm sucking on a lemon.

If malt vinegars are, for whatever reason, not available with a pH of 1.3 (damn you, Washington fatcats!), what stronger acid would you recommend adding to straight malt vinegar to make it more tart without affecting the pleasant malty flavor?

2) I drink a fair amount of sake at home with meals--periodically the good stuff, but typically just Geikkeikan's basic bottle. With food, I do love sake's subtlety, but periodically I would just like a sake that has either a higher ABV or just a stronger flavor. Really, what I want is essentially gin made of sake. Does such a thing exist? I know of shochu (though haven't had it in a long time), but I'm particularly hoping for a stronger sake-like flavor. Do they make a distillate of sake the way brandy is made from grape matter?

3) I want a very yeasty beer, but not the estery Belgain witbier kind of stuff (which I hate). I want a beer that tastes strongly of Marmite or nutritive yeast. Higher alcohol, again, would be a plus, but I would prefer it not to be too sweet (say, like the very sugary Samichlaus).

posted by Admiral Haddock to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I want a beer that tastes strongly of Marmite or nutritive yeast.

That would be considered a seriously flawed beer.
posted by goethean at 1:57 PM on May 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I don't know of any yeasty beers, since the yeast dies and the dead yeast is typically filtered or decanted away. (And even with bottle conditioned beers you wouldn't really want to be drinking the sludge!)

However, I wonder if a Scotch "Wee Heavy" style ale might push some of the same buttons; big malt flavor and high alcohol content. (They can be a little bit sweet, but I've never had Samichlaus so unfortunately can't compare.)
posted by usonian at 2:02 PM on May 2, 2013

Have you tried darker beers? I don't know that they're yeasty, but they are flavorful.

How about stout?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:07 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

what I want is essentially gin made of sake

I am afraid I do not understand what this means. However, given your analogue of brandy, you may wish to try awamori, which is a spirit distilled from rice. I don't think it necessarily tastes like sake, though.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:08 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I want a very yeasty beer, but not the estery Belgain witbier kind of stuff (which I hate). I want a beer that tastes strongly of Marmite or nutritive yeast. Higher alcohol, again, would be a plus, but I would prefer it not to be too sweet (say, like the very sugary Samichlaus).

You might try a gueuze lambic style. They're a little harder to find than their fruit-sweetened lambic cousins, but they're out there; I occasionally see the Lindemann's Oude Gueuze in well-stocked liquor stores. If you find a traditional gueuze, there's absolutely no danger of it being too sweet.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:09 PM on May 2, 2013

I've always thought Newcastle Brown was liquid bread.

For your sake, have you thought of a stronger Korean soju?
posted by scruss at 2:29 PM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. I've had the Belhaven and Skull Splitter and a few other Wee Heavys, as well as nearly every conceivable style (if not example) of dark beer, doppelbock, trippelbock, stout, porter, Imperial stout, barleywine, rauchbier, dunkels etc. I find most Belgian beers not to my liking, and much prefer German and UK beers--though I'll try a gueuze. I've always assumed they were more like witbiers than like fruit lambics. If Belgians can have their estery witbiers, I can have my Marmite IPA!

By "gin made of sake" I meant a liquor with a strong organic flavor (vs. a neutral spirit). Here, I'd like the strong organic flavor to be derived from rice/sake. Again, if tweens can have their banana split vodka, I can have sake vodka! I'll look for awamori--thanks.

Man, I am now foaming at the mouth for a fish and chips and a bitter.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:30 PM on May 2, 2013

Well, I came here to say Newcastle and soju, so that may be something.

However, for organic flavor, I think you're going to have to be willing to leave rice -- it's just a very plain starting grain, so it's hard to get a lot of volatiles into/out of it (same with vodka, which is why all the flavors are big now). Do you have some reason to not want to try, say, bourbon?
posted by acm at 2:32 PM on May 2, 2013

For the vinegar, have you ever tried malt vinegar powder? It's what they put on salt & vinegar potato chips a lot of time, it's a main ingredient in my favorite version of those which, after a whole bag, my tongue starts wanting to fall off (worth it). You can buy it and apply it in large amounts without making everything terribly soggy.
posted by Mizu at 2:37 PM on May 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I'd never heard of soju--thanks for the tip! I already drink plenty of bourbon, rye, and whisky. "Liquid bread" is exactly how I've thought about this quest.

Mizu, you are a genius.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:38 PM on May 2, 2013

For the beer: Lagunitas Pils. Yeah it's a pilsner but very nutty, bready, even parmesan cheese-y.
posted by Pleased_As_Punch at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2013

You'd probably like German beers containing wheat: Dunkleweizens, Weizenbocks and maybe Hefeweizens (style summaries here). The first two are very different from Belgian Witbiers. Also, Munich Dunkels might fit the bill.

I also think you'd be interested in Kvass. It'll probably be hard to find in the US, but you can make your own. It can be almost grotesquely yeasty, particularly if you do as most recipes recommend and use bread yeast. There are dozens of recipes online; here's one that looks decent.
posted by cog_nate at 5:56 PM on May 2, 2013

You could learn to homebrew (or make friends with someone who does) -- when you bottle your own, it's unfiltered, and most people make a point of pouring their beer out of bottles leaving the yeasty sludge at the bottom of each bottle. If you slosh it around a bit mid pour, you could intentionally have that yeast slurry in your beer. I'd go with something like an American amber ale or an English brown if you wanted it to be a yeast flavor profile more analogous to bread yeast.
posted by dr. boludo at 6:50 PM on May 2, 2013

On the Soju tip I would say try some odd Korean booze, like Makgeolli, (also known as "makkoli", "makoli")

It's about 6% alcohol, tastes like malty Sake, and is carbonated (some is really fizzy and some is nearly flat).

Mrs Fields and I discovered it and went to a Korean supermarket to try some more kinds and found endless varieties: salty, herby, sweet. We made the mistake of one that tasted like vinegary soy saucy sake mix.

This might be what your flavor palette is looking for.
posted by wcfields at 10:04 PM on May 2, 2013

The Belgian flavors, oddly enough, are all from the yeast.

What was mentioned in before, Wee Heavy beers are also sometimes called Scotch Ale.

If you like UK beers, lean more towards ales than lagers (although German beers are typically lagers). IPAs, especially American IPA's seem to be a contest in how much hops we can get into a beer (historically, IPA was a beer that could last the shipping from UK to India and the extra hops and a little more alcohol were to cover up any skunk). So you might like beers in the general category of session beers which are ales that are a little lower in alcohol which you can drink all across an entire session of drinking without really getting too hammered and can have a nice smoothness to them.

I think what you probably want is more malty-smooth beers. For example, as an exercise, get yourself a bottle of a nice smooth oatmeal stout and compare it to Shakespeare Stout from Rogue. The latter is a stout for sure, but it's a punch in the face side by side (I like both styles, FWIW). If you can get it, there's a beer local to my area from Lefty's brewery called their Breakfast Stout - it's an oatmeal stout brewed with maple syrup, chocolate and bacon and is dark, rich and smooth: it's a wonderful balance. As a side note, if you think - a ha! Maple Bacon is the key and buy a bottle of Rogue's Voodoo Donut, you'll be in for a terrible shock since that beer to me has an aftertaste of licking a cast iron pan that was used to burn bacon (honestly, I'm not harshing on Rogue - I love their beer in general, including the Shakespeare Stout).
posted by plinth at 3:35 AM on May 3, 2013

Plinth is right: you want malt beers. Try Stiegl Goldbrau or peruse the list at austrianbeer.co.uk for malt-heavy beers in the Austrian style. They taste really strange to me, but I like wheat beers.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:28 AM on May 3, 2013

Another beer idea: do you homebrew, or are you interested in donig so? If yeasty flavor is what you're going for, you could include the yeast cake when you bottle the beer, rather than racking the beer off of it before bottling. There's a chance that it would make your beer taste terrible, but it might impart the flavor you're looking for.

There's a homebrew store here in Boston that you could check out if you really want to pursue this.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:23 AM on May 3, 2013

Given your love of malt, try old ales, english barley wines, and "strong country ales". While any of these tend to have sweet finish, they are all very strong and complex -- think burnt malt, oak, and high acidity/fruitiness.
posted by susanvance at 7:07 AM on May 3, 2013

I don't like the estery beers, either, I prefer them with a heavy malt character. Beers I do like are Hacker-Pschorr and I do like Asahi. Asahi, as opposed to EVERY OTHER yellow asian beer, tastes like a mild sake to me and I mostly drink it with sushi. Hacker-Pschorr is the only german beer I like. There is one memorable business trip where the hotel bar had it, and I floated the entire keg.
posted by SpecialK at 8:21 AM on May 3, 2013

> Wee Heavy beers are also sometimes called Scotch Ale.

Wee Heavy is a subset of the Scottish ales. It's much stronger than the traditional heavies (70/-, 80/-) and should be served in a very small glass. I'm alarmed to see it served by the pint on this continent.

Anyway, Wee Heavy is more molasses than bread. A 70/- might hit the yeast quotient for you. A 60/- (in the very off chance you'll find the wonder that is Dark Light) will probably be too sweet.
posted by scruss at 10:51 AM on May 3, 2013

As has been mentioned, there are a whole range of fermented rice beverages similar to sake. If you can find yeast cakes in your local Asian grocery then it's incredibly easy to make rice wine. The yeast cakes/balls are a combination of yeast and (usually) the same kind of mold that's used in sake production to break down the rice starches into sugars that the yeast can turn into alcohol.

Here's a homebrewtalk thread on the subject. All you need to do is cook some sticky rice (thai jasmine rice works well), wait for it to cool, mix with the crushed yeast cake, stick it all in a jar and ignore it. At the end of the three weeks you'll have a sticky mass of rice floating in a decent amount of rice wine. Strain out the rice and enjoy. General wisdom seems to be that it reaches around 20% a.b.v.
posted by xchmp at 1:43 PM on May 3, 2013

For beer the best suggestion I can offer is a classic British ale (mild, bitter, ESB, IPA, old ale, stock ale, barley wine) served on a beer engine. That for me is about the only thing I can find to scratch my yeasty itch. The higher octane stuff tends to be either really hoppy or sweet, so you might find more of that pure yeast flavor in a smaller beer (mild, bitter). Unfortunately finding something so specialized is the hard part, even in a large city.

On the homebrew front, I've never gotten much off of swirling the dregs of a bottle of homebrew. But if you can get your hands on some homebrew right after high-krausen but before it flocculates and settles, that's about the yeastiest beer possible. Again, the bigger beers will be sweeter and hoppier, masking all that yeasty goodness. Also again, the hard part is getting access to it. But I really can't think of a standard commercial example that will give you the yeastful kick in the ass that you're looking for.

On the vinegar front, the only thing I can think of is another homemade option—kombucha. I let some too-sweet tea go on the kombucha mother for way too long, and it was almost painfully acidic. Add that to malt vinegar, or perhaps do a malt-based kombucha. (In The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz suggests that a vinegar mother and a kombucha mother are essentially the same SCOBY).

And for super-sake, you probably should try Korean soju. I've only had cheap stuff, and it was pretty harsh, but I imagine a decent bottle would somewhat fit the profile of what you're after, though not quite sake-gin.

And yes, mizu is a genius.
posted by slogger at 7:42 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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