As embarrassing as it might be, I have to admit that I love the TV show “Glee.” There’s something about the group of musicians, both mannerly and miscreant, that I find endearing. Perhaps it’s how well the show mimics my own observations about show choir made from the relative safety of the pit band or the laughable reality of how quickly and easily high school kids swap boyfriends and girlfriends.
Regardless, the best feature of the show is the musical numbers; specifically, when the kids are challenged to do song mash-ups. The concept is fairly simple: Take two songs that would never share adjacent slots on a radio lineup and overlay one atop the other to create something entirely new. My favorites from “Glee” have been a failed attempt at combining Sisqo’s timeless classic “The Thong Song” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady” and another that showcased “Singing in the Rain” alongside Rihanna’s “Umbrella.”
My love for cheesy, made-for-preteen soap operas aside, the idea of a successful mash-up can also be applied to craft beer. Brewers are always searching for inspiration for new styles, which can lead to some unlikely combinations in the brew kettle. Jimmy Walker, brewer at the Breckenridge Brewery brewpub, said that when bringing together two opposing styles of beer, it’s all about finding equilibrium.
“People taste a beer and like it, but they don’t know why,” he said. “It’s usually because the beer is balanced.”
The rule of balance can be applied to every beer, whether it’s finding perfect symmetry between hops and malt, fruit and floral aromas or sours that don’t overpower everything else in their flavor profile. Here are a few classic mash-ups from local breweries.
Ophelia Hoppy Wheat Ale
Heavy hits of hops can fatigue your taste buds, Walker said, so that after a few IPAs, you can’t taste anything. Breckenridge Brewery’s new spring seasonal Ophelia combines the hop scheme of a less bitter pale ale with the grain bill of a wheat beer.
“It’s a better balance,” Walker said. “Wheat is delicate. You don’t want to crush it with bittering hops.”
Walker said Ophelia is great for people who think they don’t like hoppy beers, but what they really don’t like is the bitterness.
“One of my favorite styles of beer is pale ale,” Walker said. “But so many hopheads have gone hop crazy with IPAs and double IPAs that pale ales have sort of disappeared. With pale ales and with this beer, you get the hoppy without the bitter.”
Ophelia is made with Mozaic hops, which give the beer’s aroma a mango fruitiness, without overpowering the malted white wheat. The unfiltered brew weighs in at 5 percent alcohol by volume and only 23 International Bittering Units, making it an easy sipper.
Dark Ryeder Black Rye-PA
Walker said he has another mash-up beer on the horizon. This weekend, he will start brewing the third rendition of the brewery’s popular Dark Ryedar Black Rye-PA. The brew is a combination of a black IPA and a rye, made with Centennial hops, which add a grapefruit component, and CTZ, a trio of Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus strains that complement the spiciness of the rich, rye malt.
“It’ll be a big beer, around 8 percent,” he said. “And we’ll probably barrel-age some of it in Breckenridge Distillery bourbon barrels to release in the fall.”
Irish Car Bomb Stout
Of course, a mash-up doesn’t necessarily have to be the marriage of two different styles of beer. For the Dillon Dam Brewery’s latest special stash brew, the Irish Car Bomb Stout, the balance comes from combining beer with a few of its alcoholic cousins. The beer starts with a base of the brewery’s McLuhr’s Irish Stout, which is then aged with Irish whiskey, Kahlua and whipped cream vodka.
The finished product is a creamy stout with the flavor characteristics of an Irish car bomb — a style of boilermaker that drops a shot of half Irish whiskey, half Irish cream into a half-pint of stout, typically Guinness, which is chugged before the cream has a chance to curdle in the beer. The combination of the Kahlua and whipped cream vodka mimics the Irish cream flavor. Check out www.dambrewery.com for more information.