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Saturday, September 11, 2010

BREWERY SPOTLIGHT: Cavalry Brewing Co. (Oxford, CT)

Sipping on a flavorful, but not yet carbonated, porter sample straight from the fermenter, I asked Cavalry Brewing Company's owner Mike McCreary how he got into making "English-style session ales."  It turns out, I hadn't properly done my homework when I asked that.
So what was at the root of this debacle?  Well, I had assumed that, as an IPA drinking hophead whose average beers clock in around 6% or 7% alcohol, any beer that was lower than this could be referred to as "sessionable."  This term has been coined by the fine citizens of the United Kingdom, referring to those styles of beers which could be consumed pint after pint with minimal negative effects.

"Mash" saying hello to our friend Mark
"Americans think anything 5% alcohol or lower is session ale," explains Mike.  "That would mean that everything made by InBev was a session ale" (note: InBev owns Budweiser).  In actuality, session ales are distinct, flavorful-but-balanced English (or UK) style beers which are generally closer to 3% or 4% alcohol by volume.  Cavalry's four ales all clock in between 4% and 5% alcohol.  Not technically all session ales by definition, but still very drinkable.  "I don't like to taste alcohol in my beer," says Mike.  "If I want to taste alcohol, I'll drink a scotch."  Such sentiments are not too surprising. Mike actually mastered the art of brewing in England, a country where strong ales are generally limited to a few English barleywines, a couple old ales, and the occasional imperial stout.

Well, we like all kinds of beer at Sizzle Grove, and Cavalry's contributions are included.  While we enjoyed trying the coffee-flavored Big Wally Porter, the pale, earthy Hatch Plug Ale, and the crisp golden Dog Soldier Ale, what we mostly went nuts for was their Irish-style Nomad Stout.  The stout, which boasts a somewhat coffee-like, lightly smokey-spicy flavor, is made with very traditional ingredients, in order to keep it easily drinkable and nothing over-the-top complex.  I still had to compliment him on making a beer that, while indeed very drinkable, boasted many distinct nuances with a simple recipe.

Obviously we had to order growlers.  This beer could pair perfectly with our next barbecue... whenever and whatever it is.  Its flavor would match beautifully with any dish brushed with a peppery tomato-based barbecue sauce.  Hey, don't we have a recipe for that?  Actually, this beer would probably go great in a beer-based barbecue sauce.  We'll have to come up with one of those for you guys soon...

We got the chance to discuss the quickly discovered success of Cavalry, which has only been a reality since January 2010.  They already have a bottling line, they have casks at several Connecticut restaurants, and they're featured in local liquor stores.

If you're in the Connecticut area, you can try Cavalry's beers at My Place Restaurant (Newtown, CT), 121 Restaurant (Oxford, CT), GW Tavern (Depot, CT), and many other locations.

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