By Roger A. Baylor
Those of us still prone to reading books in a tactile sense, without electronic assistance, probably remember “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” a novel by Tom Wolfe. It first was serialized in Rolling Stone magazine, and then published in its entirety in 1987. The novel is set in raucous New York City during the 1980s, and when later released as a motion picture, bore a highly descriptive marketing tagline:
“An outrageous story about greed, lust and vanity in America.”
Bonfire of the Valkyries, a seasonal release from the New Albanian Brewing Company, is brewed far from the Big Apple’s cosmopolitan tumult, in the quaint Ohio River town called New Albany, which celebrated its bicentennial in 2013 by purposefully ignoring the bulk of its caterwauling civic history – to such an extent that the real 200-year birthday milestone doesn’t actually come around until 2017.
Accordingly, Bonfire of the Valkyries is a satisfying beer about mythology, pyromania and forgetfulness.
More importantly, Bonfire of the Valkyries is NABC’s annual and respectful winter’s nod to our brewing forbearers in New Albany. From the mid-1800s, these mostly were transplanted Germans with names like Reising, Buchheit and Nadorff, who brought with them from the old country a taste for then-revolutionary lager beers. Did some of them recall more archaic fermented delicacies, perhaps black, smoky and strong concoctions pulled from icy cellars deep in the Franconian countryside? We can only guess, but it seems entirely possible, and we’re eager and able to close the circle by making their beer dreams into reality.
According to NABC’s informal house style guidelines, Bonfire of the Valkyries is considered an Imperial Smoked Black Lager. At 8% abv, it is almost double the alcoholic potency of standard Black Lager, as codified by the “official” Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) playbook. Moreover, there is a healthy percentage of Weyermann Rauch (smoked) malt from Bamberg, Germany.
Bonfire of the Valkyries is full-bodied and clean, with medium but assertive smokiness. In the sovereign territory of New Albania, it’s the ideal accompaniment to smoked meats (especially when it’s been a good year for deer hunting), oysters, cabbage soup, kielbasa, sauerkraut and freshwater trout, although to be honest, we’re purely guessing about the trout. While there is no known instance of someone pairing Bonfire with river catfish or carp, we’re open to the possibility.
You roast them, and we’ll toast them.
Conversely, as we’ve been known to do in New Albania, you might just enjoy a few glasses of Bonfire of the Valkyries while burning away the long hours until Ragnarök, the forthcoming, epic struggle that will make Wolfe’s milieu look like a serene walk in New Albania’s famous Rent Boy Park.
22-oz bombers of Bonfire of the Valkyries will be available in Indiana and metropolitan Louisville on the Kentucky side of the Ohio. A limited amount of draft will be allocated, and of course, it can be enjoyed in all forms at NABC’s two New Albanian locations.
Bonfire of the Valkyries
Imperial Smoked Black Lager
Color: Very brown to pre-black.
Flavor: Full bodied, with strong, clean dark lager malt character and ample smokiness.
Compare to: Bonfire is an utterly unique Imperial Smoked Black Lager, but it compares with Smoked Porters from Alaskan, Stone, etc.
Description: We start with German-style Black Lager, brew it to a higher than normal strength, and use a proportion of beechwood-smoked barley malt. Bonfire demands: “Give me bacon.”
Recipe Suggestion: Begin by ordering carry-out from your favorite barbecue purveyor (ours is Feast BBQ on West Main Street in New Albany), remembering to keep the sauce on the side; what you need is a plate of delicious smoked meat. Decant Bonfire of the Valkyries from a growler or bomber bottle into whatever clean glass is available. Get down to business; we’ll come back later to check on your progress.