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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum

Hop vines are trailing lush green cones, hanging in clusters from the trellis in my beer garden, signalling the onset of harvest and fall. With the seasonal autumn brews, such as Oktoberfests, try cutting the robust malt sweetness of those beers with the sharp bite of mustard.

Thanks to the resurgence of real ales, there are now more than a dozen brands of hot English-style ale mustards imported to the U.S., plus a few intrepid makers of beer mustards for the domestic market.

What makes mustard such a perfect partner for beer? Its nose-tingling sharpness includes a tangy, sour note that melds with the hops acidity in beer, and is balanced by the thick malt residual sugars in dark lagers and ales.

According to Barry Levenson, curator of the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum in my home state of Wisconsin, "Allyl isothiocyanate is the 'nose-hit' substance present in both mustard seeds and horseradish. Of course, many mustard makers add horseradish for flavor and more 'nose-hit.'"

A recent expedition to Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum filled my shopping bag with more than a dozen beery mustards, out of the 500 brands available for sale. Another 2,000 or so brands of mustard are on display at the museum, including a special display of European mustards, and mustard memorabilia associated with baseball and hot dogs.

Most beer mustards are English or American in origin--never French.

"The English have a long tradition of using beer as a flavoring for mustard, and that comes from the pub menu: mustards, bread, cheeses and ale," says Levenson. "But American microbreweries should really make more beer mustards, since it is an easy way to promote their beers to a wider audience."

A delectable Fuggle Mustard is made with Old Bob Bitter (ABV 12.5%), by Ridley & Sons Country Chandlers of Essex-- the fine flavor and aroma of Fuggles hops permeate the bite of the whole grain mustard seeds and it is potent enough to make your eyes sting.

Blinking rapidly, I then sampled the Lakeshore Wholegrain Mustard with Guinness Extra Stout from Tipperary, Ireland. Not quite the same bite, so it could be paired with milder foods such as a roasted vegetable salad, or a cheese sandwich. Taylor's Real Ale Mustard is nicely piquant, from a food merchant that has been making mustards since 1830, longer even than Coleman's mustard.

Most English ale mustards tend to be bitterer than American beer mustards, in part because so many commercial yellow mustards in the U.S. contain corn syrup or sugar. "Americans tend to go for the eggy, sweet mustard sauces," says Levenson, "and the sugar masks the flavors."

Not surprisingly, a "Seeds and Suds" mustard made with Mendocino Brewing's Red Seal Ale was far too sweet for this taster, with a greater quantity of brown sugar in the recipe, listed above even mustard seeds in the ingredients.
A better balance between sweet and hot was struck by the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Honey Spice mustard, which features the award-winning ale's piney hops flavors and the smooth, palate-coating sweetness of honey to gentle the mustard bite.

What goes best with mustard? Beer and pretzels, of course. A terrific bar snack is a platter of pretzel sticks with assorted beer mustards to dip and dunk.

NOTE: The Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum sells a gift box of beer mustards. Call 1-800-438-6878 for a complete mail order catalog.

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