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                        That's A Stretch

      The word “stretch” as used in the title, means exaggeration, such as someone
saying “Mayor DiBlasio is a great mayor” and someone else sarcastically replying “That’s
a stretch”. It can also mean stretching the muscles as we are cautioned to do before
strenuous exercise. It can be a nickname for a tall person like Archie Bunker’s oft quoted
friend from the loading dock, Stretch Cunningham, or slang for a prison term in an old
George Raft movie: “He did a stretch at Sing Sing”.

               I have a favorite use of the word stretch and, as fitting for this article, it relates
to beer. For many years people have been blending beers; making “black and tans” for
example, and professional brewers blend different batches of brew even before they are
packaged in order to achieve uniformity. Before the company offered them the public, I
was making Yuengling Black and Tans by simply mixing a bottle of their Celebrated
Pottsville porter with a bottle of Yuengling Premium. An even better drink was the porter
mixed with a bottle of Chesterfield Ale. I happened on this idea in the early seventies
when I was merely a beer drinker and not a serious “beer geek”. A coworker had given
me almost a whole case of Guinness Extra Stout that was leftover after a St. Patrick’s
Day party at which, apparently, no one liked it. At that point in my beer life, neither did I,
preferring what was mostly available in this years: Pabst, Rheingold, Piel’s, Knicker
bocker, Schaefer, etc. The Guinness, to my uneducated palate, didn’t taste like “beer”.
However, I certainly didn’t want the Guinness to go to waste, so I got the idea to cut it a
little by adding some Blue Ribbon, making the overbearing taste of the Guinness more
palatable to me. It worked and became my earliest introduction to dark beer and possibly
the first step on the road to becoming a beer connoisseur. Many subsequent blendings
were made, but those were only because I may have had only a bottle of Pabst and one
of Schaefer in the fridge and figured “Ah, what the hell” and just dumped them together
into a small pitcher. Perfectly drinkable , but not too interesting.
               “Stretching” my beer came about at the Christening party for my daughter.
Because her baptism was in October, we decided to throw an Oktoberfest for the post
baptism party. Blue and white checkered Bavarian pennants were draped around the
deck and the yard, ten LP albums of German oompah music, picked up at an estate sale
for a deceased German, were at the ready, and five kinds of wursts were procured from
the local pork store, with sauerkraut, German potato salad and potato pancakes
completing the menu. The only thing left was the beer. At the time, 29 years ago, half
kegs of Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest were selling for something like $170. My pockets
were not deep enough to justify that price, so I came up with a suitable and far less costly
solution with which to wash down the “kraut und vurst” . I bought a half keg of Pabst Blue
Ribbon and two cases of Yuengling porter, total cost, about $60. I was handling the tap
and the pouring of pitchers (never want to stray too far from the tap), so I filled the
pitchers about three quarters full with PBR and then poured a bottle and a half of the
porter into them, making a suitable replacement for a marzen style and “stretching” the
beer for economic purposes. Nobody had any unfavorable comments on what was
poured from the pitchers into their solo cups, and the fact that the keg floated just as the
festivities were coming to an end was proof enough for me, that I had conceived a tasty
and economic brew for the occasion.

               Lately, I’ve found another way to stretch beer. Double IPAs are delicious
indeed but they have two definite downsides: they are expensive and their ABVs do not
sit well with an entire evening of drinking beer. Recently I bought some double IPA
brewed by a Western New York brewery for about $12/sixpack and at the same time
picked a full case of Yuengling Premium for $15, or less than one third of the cost of the
IPA. Yuengling Premium, although a perfect, everyday “lawnmower” beer (in fact, my go
to beer of the style), does not have the full flavor or alcohol content of a double IPA. I
experimented by mixing the Yuengling and the DIPA one to one, and discovered a very
drinkable, tasty, full bodied brew. The Yuengling offered the beautiful creamy head as
only Yuengling can, and the DIPA loaned its hoppy flavor and higher ABV to the mixture.
This type of “stretching” would save about $33 when buying a case of each.

               But not only economics is reason enough for stretching and blending. It’s fun
to experiment with different brews and styles to see what kinds of tastes you can come up
with on your own. And it’s not just limited to home consumption. Just the other day, my
wife and I stopped at “Beers and Brats” near Trumansberg in the Finger Lakes of New
York, and discovered that, in addition to their excellent selection of local brews, their beer
menu also included five or six blends of some of them.

               It’s time for a nightcap, so I think I’ll get a bottle of my home brewed Belgian
triple from last Christmas, and “stretch” it with a Yuengling. The triple is warm, the
Yuengling is ice cold from the ice filled Coleman cooler, pressed into service during our
current (no pun intended) power outage, so the result should be a cool beer with a
creamy head and all of the flavors of a Belgian tripel, without the 10% ABV. Should I only
have one? That’s a stretch!


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