la ale works

Introducing: LA Ale Works Karma Kolsch

LAAW Handle and Karma

The following is a guest post from Kip Barnes of Los Angeles Ale Works. Please join us and the LA Ale Works team as we celebrate the launch of Karma Kolsch at Beer Belly on July 15th. On July 15th, we’re excited to be joining the LA-based craft beer bar, Beer Belly, in the tapping of one of our very few (38) kegs of Karma Kolsch, a Thai tea-infused German Kolsch style ale. Jimmy and the Beer Belly family have been incredible supporters of Los Angeles Ale Works as we’ve made the slow, methodical jump from humble homebrewers to professional brewers, and as such, have tasted every homebrewed version of this beer we’ve made. Although we still have a long way to go before we have our own location, it’s been exciting to not only build our brand, but our friendship with LA-based craft beer fans. This beer is the first one we’ve released since our successful Kickstarter campaign, fueled entirely by local beer fans and friends.

Karma Kolsch is an interesting beer to say the least. It’s both complex and simple at the same time. The concept came about during our home brewing of classic styles. One of our favorite beers is a Roggenbier, which was actually our first commercial release, Gams-bart. The easiest way to describe a Roggenbier to anyone that hasn’t had it: it’s a German hefeweizen that uses rye instead of wheat. In addition to this classic German style is one of John’s favorite styles, the German Kolsch. We aren’t living in Cologne, Germany, so like with Trappist Style Ales, we can’t officially call our Kolsch a Kolsch, but it’s Kolsch Style. The Kolsch that we brew is light, crisp, full of light German maltiness, and finished with a nice crisp hop bite. I noticed that the yeast had a really delicate spice-driven creaminess and started to think of what we could pair it with. John previously brewed a Kolsch with coffee in it, and I had just gotten back from Thailand. Bam! Thai Tea Kolsch. We’ve been wildly successful with our Ketsara - Thai Tea Soda, and so we decided to brew a cold steeped Thai red tea and add it to our Kolsch, and Karma Kolsch was born.

Taking this whole story one step further, we weren’t satisfied with the restaurant style tea. It has ingredients that are unknown, unlisted, and also includes a red food dye, which we want to avoid. For the last year I’ve been experimenting with different versions of Thai tea from local tea vendors and was excited to find that my favorite blend resided in my own city of LA, Bird Pick Teas. We met up with the founder of Bird Pick Tea, entrepreneur and tea epicurian Lan Ong, and decided that we wanted to go forward with using her tea in our beer. Like brewers using local coffee, we wanted to use local tea, and so we devised a custom blend to add to Karma Kolsch. Lan’s Bird Pick Tea is a vibrant symphony of cinnamon, rooibos, roasted barley, and Indian assam. We also added whole organic Indian vanilla beans to the mix.

So how exactly do you get 10 lbs of tea into 250 gallons of beer? On a home brew scale we make a cold brew, but in our current situation, that wouldn’t work. Brainstorming with Ohana’s Head Brewer, Chris Walowski, he suggested using a modified hop back to infuse the beer directly. The result is a wonderful kaleidoscope of Southeast Asian flavors which marry perfectly with the creamy textures stemming from the German Kolsch. The final product is a 5.0% session of spice and quaffability. At its very core, it’s a deconstructed, reconstructed Thai Iced Tea in beer form.

This is the first iteration of Karma Kolsch, but it definitely won't be our last. We’re excited to continue experimenting with balance, aging, and new spicing methods with both Bird Pick and Ohana. And when our new fermentor from Practical Fusion arrives, we’ll be able to make twice as much at a time. What’s 38x2? More! Thanks, LA for your support! We honestly can’t do it without you. Thanks also go to our hosts Beer Belly and the other great beer bars and LA-based brewers that have believed in us through our never ending beer quest. #FollowtheLAAW

Cheers! John & Kip Los Angeles Ale Works

The Right Beer Can Take Your Dinner to a Whole New Level

Photo Credit: Gennefer Gross
The following is a guest post from Beer of Tomorrow's John Verive.

Pairing beer to food is becoming more popular and common, but too often the matches you see are inspired by wine-pairings. Too fussy. Too esoteric. Too high-concept and not approachable enough.

This doesn't have to be the case though; beer pairs with simple foods even better than it pairs with complex and challenging dishes. The multitude of flavors present in different beers mean that there's a style for just about every food you can imagine, and the Beer Belly menu is a full of elevated comfort foods that easily pair with craft beer for a taste-expanding experience!

Death By Duck

The Beer Belly team has worked hard to build a menu full of unique takes on common pub grub with a focus on dishes that can pair with the fresh, local craft beers on tap. One of the most iconic items on the Beer Belly menu is also one of the more versatile when pairing with beer: the infamous Death By Duck.

Death By Duck is a decadent take on one of the classic beer foods - pommes frites, but -- unsatisfied with a simple basket of fries -- Chef Wes serves-up his signature fries tossed in duck fat, covered in duck skin cracklings, seasoned with a sweet-and-smoky blend of salts, and topped with an unctuous pile of duck confit. The dish is a great way to experiment with pairing food and beer since it works with so many disparate styles of beer.

Food Pairing Basics

When matching beer to food the most important element is balance. You do not want the beer to overpower the food or the food to mask the flavors in the beer. The goal should be to elevate both individual elements to be greater in combination.

Death By Duck is a complex dish with bold flavors, and as long as you pick a full-flavored brew it is tough to find a beer that doesn't work with the dish. Here are a few simple concepts that will help guide your choice of beer and make the most of matching with the Death By Duck.

Strong Food and Strong Drink

The simplest guideline for pairing food and beer is to match the intensity of the beer to the intensity of the dish. A simply seasoned grilled chicken breast should be paired with a lighter brew without bold flavors that would overpower the chicken.

In contrast, Death By Duck needs a more assertive beer to stand up to the strong earthy and roasty flavors. The rich duck confit has a deep flavor that matches with strong, darker beers like Belgian dubbels and German dopplebocks.

Emphasize The Common Flavors

Another aspect to pairing beer and food is to highlight the harmony between the dish and the drink. You can pick out a specific flavor in the dish, even a background flavor, and highlight that with a beer that has similar notes. The classic pairing of an imperial stout and dark chocolate highlights the roasted flavors of each and makes this a classic beer and food combination.

Death By Duck uses a sprinkling of sweet onion sugar to contrast the rich salty fries and confit, and a subtly sweet biere de garde or a malty, caramel-sweet double IPA will pick up and amplify this sweetness in the Death By Duck.

Showcase the Differences 

Contrast is the third important concept when pairing beer and food. Beer is a complex beverage and it will interact with food in interesting ways. The carbonation of beer helps to scrub your palate, lifting tongue-coating oils and readying it for the next bit of food. Hop bitterness can amplify spiciness in food, and the roasted quality of darker malts will balance a salty dish.

The idea of contrasting flavors is already seen in Death By Duck's raspberry mustard dipping sauce. The bright and acidic condiment helps cut through the fries' salty richness, and a dry and tart fruit beer (or a more assertive sour ale) will contrast with the dish in the same manner.

A Can't-Miss Suggestion To Get You Started

A beer that stands out as one of our favorite matches for Death By Duck is Vigil, the dark-wheat ale from Monkish Brewing in Torrance. Vigil is brewed with wheat and dark malts, and the addition of thyme makes it a complex and unique brew that is a natural pairing with food.

The beer shares some qualities with the doppelbocks and Belgian dubbels that are often paired with duck confit, and complex yeasty notes of the brew highlight the earthy flavors in Death By Duck. The subtle sweetness and lively carbonation of the beer help to offset the richness of the fries and confit, and Vigil's herbal finish compels you to take another bite of ducky fries. Before you know it you'll have an empty glass and be out of fries.

Stop by Beer Belly to try your hand at pairing craft beer to the delectable Death By Duck, and if you'd like to try the dish with our suggested pairing of Monkish Vigil, you'll find it on-tap during the Beer of Tomorrow First Anniversary party on Saturday, March 30th! The party starts at 1pm, and it will feature an all-LA beer line-up including Vigil, Golden Road Brewing's newly revamped Wolf Among Weeds, and Gams-Bart from LA Ale Works -- all excellent choices for pairing with Death By Duck.

Why not order a flight of beers and find which pairing you like best?