Why do “”English” and “toffee” go together like “Irish” and “stew”? “Belgian” and “waffles”? “French” and “fries”? (Er, wait, let’s skip that last one.) What’s so freakin’ special about the English and their toffee? In honor of National English Toffee Day, Peaks and Pints searched for an answer. Toffee in and of itself isn’t particularly complicated. It’s basically white sugar (or sometimes molasses) with butter and/or salt heated to the point of caramelization. Once the mixture reaches around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s rapidly removed from the heat and poured onto a surface, at which point it cools and hardens (its malleability depends on length of cooling and ingredient proportions). The most plausible explanation we came across for how toffee became associated with the Brits relates to the availability of cheap sugar in the 19th century. Thanks to the Crown’s prolific (and seemingly shameless) use of slave labor in its Caribbean colonies, sugarcane was cultivated and harvested at an impressive and inexpensive rate. Back home in jolly old imperialist England, treacle and sugar thus become very affordable for the masses, whom then proceeded to satisfy their sweet tooths by developing candy, the most popular of which was toffee. The development of English toffee isn’t a particularly sweet story. Perhaps, then, on Jan. 8 Peaks and Pints will try to celebrate the potential future, rather than the unsettling past, of English toffee by offering a flight of toffee-flavored beer, which we call Craft Beer Crosscut 1.8.19: A Flight of Toffee.
Craft Beer Crosscut 1.8.19: A Flight of Toffee
13.9% ABV, 9 IBU
Born a double-mashed imperial brown ale, then matured for 18 months in freshly emptied 10-year Canadian rye whisky barrels, Boulevard Brewing’s sturdy ale strikes the nose with toffee, toast, pecan and nearly shuttering alcohol spice. Lush sweetness splashes against the tongue with the full brunt of caramel, toffee, simple syrup and honey for a full on malt display.
5.8% ABV, 18 IBU
Anderson Valley Brewing’s Boont Amber’s thin body goes down easy; the carbonation only slightly bites the sides of the cheeks. The flavor is balanced and clean, with caramel, toffee, macadamia nuts and pecan to marry nicely with our meat sandwiches. The Mount Hood, Northern Brewer, Bravo and Columbus hops lend both a citrus flavor and a moderate level of bitterness enhancing elements such as green beans and the tartness of the cranberries. Perfect.
6.7% ABV, 24 IBU
During Lent, as legend goes, German monks sustained themselves by sipping strong, dark lagers dubbed doppelbocks. This timeworn tale of liquid bread tends to overshadow an indisputable truth: dopplebocks are fantastic feats of brewing engineering, no more so than Ayinger Celebrator. With accolades from the late Michael Jackson and a collection of gold medals from the World Beer Cup, this rich, toffee-rocked lager is dark, crisp, with a touch of chocolate and grape notes. While presenting a full body, it’s not cloyingly sweet and features a wonderfully creamy body and enough alcohol to warm your palate.
8% ABV, 35 IBU
Some of the oak casks at Samuel Smith’s date back more than a century with the individual oak staves being replaced by the Old Brewery coopers over the years. Gradually the casks soak in more and more of the character of Yorkshire Stingo strong ale fermented in stone Yorkshire squares. Yorkshire Stingo is aged for at least a year, matured in these well-used oak casks in the brewery’s underground cellars deriving fruit, raisin, treacle toffee, Christmas pudding and slight oaky flavors, before being further naturally conditioned in bottle.
15.1% ABV, 60 IBU
Working with their friends at Intelligentsia, Goose Island Beer Co. flew down to Guatemala to source coffee for their first-ever Coffee Barleywine. The beer is an English-style barleywine, meaning malt forward, and aged in 4-plus year old Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels before adding La Soledad coffee beans right before packaging to retain a heavy, beautifully fresh roasted coffee aroma and flavor. The taste comes in with fresh roasted coffee blending with a slight sweetness. The coffee dominates the barleywine qualities of this brew, but nonetheless they are working together instead of fighting each other. We still can taste the warming bourbon, caramel and toffee.