Eclipse Porter––A Beer as Rare and Stunning as the Astronomical Event for which It’s Named
As everyone anxiously awaits the upcoming total solar eclipse, we’ve put our time to good use crafting our first Baltic Porter to celebrate. Viewing a solar eclipse requires special protective eyewear. Drinking a pint of our new porter does not. Optimal viewing of the upcoming eclipse may require a drive on busy roads to a nearby (or not so near) location. Our porter will be available down at your local (and wherever the finest local craft beers are served). The maximum duration of totality for the upcoming eclipse is less than three minutes. The duration of your pint of Baltic Porter is … well, that’s up to you.
Baltic Porter is a variation on standard English porter originating in the 18th century. A great deal of porter was being shipped from England to the Baltic States. Much of this porter was destined for Russia. Rumor has it that Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, consumed the lion’s share of it herself (she must have been as strong as a horse). It is indisputable that a sharp uptake in Russia’s consumption of porters and stouts coincided with the so-called golden age of the Russian Empire.
Shipping all that porter from England was inconvenient and expensive, though. Soon, Baltic brewers decided they could make a version at least as good themselves. The style was not as intensely roasty as a stout, but had a profound maltiness. The brewers used their native lager yeast and an English-inspired grain bill along with the latest German and Danish brewing techniques.
The hops were Saaz type varieties, with nice spiciness but the not the woodsy characteristics of English hops. Some versions were somewhat sweet, others dry. The roasted malt had complex notes of licorice, chocolate, and dried fruit.
We based our Eclipse Porter on our English porter, but used a lager yeast strain and weeks of cold conditioning. We replaced English Maris Otter with Viking malt, sourced from the Baltic region. Sterling hops marry the best of Saaz with more complex aromatics and give our beer a layered spice, with notes of candied citrus and grass.
This is a long-awaited beer with our signature balance and plenty of flavor. Enjoy safely without ISO-certified eyewear. Or don any glasses you want for the occasion. Drink it in the path of totality and achieved total contentment. Cheers!
Around the time the lunch menu is replaced with the expanded dinner menu, our pub is in the midst of changing from one convivial group of patrons to another. Many regulars come in pairs or larger groups. Many are creatures of habit. A couple entertaining their granddaughter will order two pints, some spiced nuts, and pretzels, then repair to the middle snug upstairs. A doctor takes his place at the bar and orders a half pint of bitter. A retired Saint Louis city police officer pays for each pint he orders, saying “Cut me off after this one.”
Then two notorious local engineers arrive and take their seats at the bar. To protect their identity, let’s call them “Hall” and “Oates.” Hall orders a pint and Oates orders a half pint.
Here’s a word problem for the mathematically inclined: if Hall only drinks beer in volumes of 568.261 milliliters and Oates only drinks beer in volumes of 284.1305 milliliters, and if Hall consumes beer 41.9% faster than Oates, on which round will they finish their beers at exactly the same instant?
Take your time. A problem such as this takes care in formulating and calculating, the same care that Hall and Oates themselves take when they discuss thorny philosophical questions. For example, what is the precise nature of the sandwich? What are the defining elements that set the “sandwich” apart from other handheld comestibles?
Hall and Oates have been hotly debating this problem for as long as anyone can remember. On the face of it, “what constitutes a sandwich?” is a simple enough question. But consider this common definition from the second edition of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language: “two or more slices of bread or the like with a layer of meat, fish, cheese, etc. between each pair.” Notice the devilishly vague phrase or the like, not to mention the maddeningly expansive etc.
That could be just about anything. “I can’t go for that,” Hall says. “Can’t go for that, can’t go for that,” Oates echoes emphatically. Hall tries his own working definition, after being dared by Oates to draw a line. “Baked, risen dough, partially enclosing fillings, such as meat and cheese.” But the question of what portion of the filling may be enclosed by the bread quickly derails this attempt.
Wraps are out. Tacos are right out. But what of the hotdog? Our value-priced G & W frank, for example? One vote for and one against. Can the bun enclose three sides of the filling of the sandwich? This is clearly not a case of “a drink and a quick decision.” The definition needs work.
Hall sketches X and Y axes on the bar. “WHO-OA, YEAH!” Oates hollers encouragingly. They are talking foci, they are talking sines and cosines, they are talking limits of integration. Pints and half pints are refilled and the conversation continues.
It’s late now, and a voice from down the bar can be heard saying “cut me off after this one.” The sandwich remains a riddle, though a tasty affordable one. Next time you’re in, share your thoughts on the sandwich with Hall and Oates. Order a pint and a sandwich. Feel free to play some eighties music on the jukebox. No need to over-think it. But do raise a glass to some of the regulars who make each night at the Civil Life special.
On Friday, the pub at the Civil Life is a dynamic place. Regulars abound, with the day- and the night-shift proving to be two distinct worlds. Every other week, your humble barman comes in early and cleans the pub so we can open up at noon. On alternate weeks, you’ll see Joe manning the bar.
Each Friday, Tony offers a delicious lunch special in addition to some of our regular offerings. Many customers come in specifically for this changing but always tasty meal.
Food is, of course, not the only draw. We support the long-standing tradition of enjoying a pint or half pint with your lunch. With session beers on the board, you’ll return to work sated but sharp and restored for the finish to the week.
There are, however, Friday regulars who, by working slavishly for decades, have earned the right to relax over a few pints in the afternoons. These men and women built America, and in return, they can linger over five-dollar imperial pints while the rest of us are still working.
Early most Fridays, two retirees who stay busy with woodworking can be found chatting over pints of Angel and the Sword. They discuss projects. The very man who turned our unique tap handles is there, and he has an ingenious wooden tray he affixes to the bar so he need not hunch uncivilly over his roast beef sandwich. He effortlessly dispatches his sandwich without losing a crumb.
At the other end of the bar sits a man who, in addition to being one of the area’s great harmonica players, is a crossword puzzle fanatic of no small talents. In less than thirty minutes (sometimes just 23), he effortlessly works through the fiendishly difficult Friday New York Times puzzle. Fuelled only by Ordinary Bitter and spiced nuts, his powerful brain makes quick work of the clues as he neatly and emphatically inks in the solutions.
Near the middle of the bar sits a chemist on lunch break. Who could tell from his casual conversation about beer that he is one of the world’s leading authorities on yeast. Some day, when he receives his Nobel Prize, we like to think that the half pints of Civil Life we fed him along with his lunch played a part in fuelling his important work.
As the day shift is poised to transform into the night shift, an unassuming man makes his way to the bar with a humble demeanor belying his encyclopedic knowledge of music. You know he’s there when the volume edges up and a truly great selection emanates from our jukebox. This man is the great Jukebox Pat. He can identify a Horace Silver song in one note, even in circumstances when ambient noise makes the music difficult to hear. Because of this acute hearing, he is called “The Wolf” by a cranky tone-deaf man whom Pat humors gracefully.
Some Friday, take the afternoon off and come and meet one of these extraordinary regulars. There’s nothing more civil than enjoying a session beer in the afternoon in good company. See you soon.
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.