I hope that after five years of scribing this column it’s become fairly apparent that I love beer in all of its ways and styles. Do I have preferences? Most certainly, but just like a parent with many children I can’t not love them all, although one or two are a little less frustrating. They’re the ones who get the slightly cooler Christmas presents each year. Sorry, Jeffrey, but you shouldn’t have set daddy’s bed slippers on fire.
That being said there are moments of apprehension for me, particularly with a certain style growing in popularity. I have to exercise caution because I have a heart condition.
A cardiologist in New Orleans gave me his opinion as to what was causing my heart to feel like it was occasionally stopping every couple of beats, sometimes with episodes lasting for an hour or two; Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. The electrical charge that pumps the heart is supposed to take a specific U-shaped path to squeeze the chambers in sequence. Sometimes, for reasons still largely-unknown, my charge goes zig-zag and, as blood can only move one direction through the valves, essentially feels like it is stopping.
It feels freaky but, according to him, not life-threatening. Still, it’s a largely-unknown condition and there are no guarantees. According to the Mayo Clinic, only around 4 out of 100,000 are born with W-P-W. Hey, I’m a rarity!
Recommendations? Cut caffeine out of your diet. A previous hospital visit that wasn’t able to diagnose my W-P-W made the same suggestion back in ’98. I’ve been caffeine-free for 17 years now, minus the trace amounts found in chocolate or green tea. This brings us to the booming trend in brewing that has me concerned; coffee beers.
Caffeinated alcoholic beverages have been banned since 2010 after the FDA determined the deliberate inclusion of caffeine (especially with unlabeled percentages) to boozy drinks was unsafe and were being deliberately marketed towards younger energy drink consumers. But what about beer with brewed coffee and/or whole beans added? For years I shied away from amazing-sounding dark beer with such ingredients.
The amount of caffeine that can be imparted to beer ends up being negligible and, under the FDA guidelines, they’re not adding caffeine as a separate ingredient; it’s already in the beans. Well, if it’s only a trivial amount, pour me up a cup of mud! You don’t know how much I’ve missed good coffee!
We’ve got a great one on tap right now from Two Brothers Brewing. Seemingly only released every three years, their Red Eye Porter incorporates their own Stomping Ground Espresso whose beans are roasted in-house. This stuff even looks like espresso; jet-black with that tan crema cap. Torched sugar, vanilla and dark-roast coffee beans dominate the nose while flavors unfold as the beer warms up. Dusty, earthy hops greet the palate followed by espresso dolce, dark chocolate, marshmallow and vanilla with quiet tickles of a Baltic porter’s hallmarks, particularly dark stone fruit and toffee.
It’s no wonder that Red Eye has remained the brewery’s most-requested item. This beer is certainly doing my heart some good!