It was the night before All Hallows, and the Thirsty Boys were gathered in their usual lair, the Hashigo Zake. Another hai-ku under their belt, talk eventually turned to the Garage Project’s latest attention grabbing experiment. Not only were the crafty brewers pitting two of their own beers against each other – their new Pecan Pie Ale against their award-winning Ziggy’s Carrot Cake Ale – they were also inviting bakers into the ring. Prizes were up for grabs for the Best Carrot Cake, Best Pecan Pie and Best ‘Wild Card’. The competition was set for the following eve.
The conversation piqued the interest of one of the members of the Thirsty Boys Ladies Auxiliary. With a recipe in mind, she swiftly departed for the nearest purveyor of fine goods, spurred on by the Jesuit’s pie-ku.
Summer’s long twilight –
God speed, lady piemaker
Thirsties in to win.
As the Thirsty Boys retreated to their homes and loving wives, the Lady Pie Maker baked into the night. While the Garage Project described their pecan ale as ‘Rich, nutty and sweet with a slight hint of toffee’, she crafted a pie that was rich, nutty and sweet, underpinned by dark chocolate and black coffee (scroll to the end for the recipe).
The following evening, as skeletons, witches and fiends took to the streets to trick or treat, the Thirsty Boys and their familiars descended on the Southern Cross, host of Pie vs. Cake. At six o’clock the competing ales were released. At seven, the judges began to make their way through 19 cakes and pies. The Thirsty Boys focused on the beer at hand.
Pecan Pie Ale vs. Ziggy’s Carrot Cake Ale
As the Lady Pie Maker was handed a glass of Pecan Pie Ale she was advised that she would not like it. ‘Of course I will’ she replied, ‘I like pecans, I like pie’. And she did. At least to start with. The first mouth full seemed so promisingly delicious, yet it dissolved into watery disappointment. It needed chocolate, she thought.
Responses rolled off the Greasylightbulb’s tongue.
‘The pecan beer had a strange effect whereby several people swore they couldn’t taste the pecans! Maybe you need a special taste bud for it or something’.
‘The pecan pie beer was a bit sweet like molasses, er… nutty? and bready, distinct hints of caramel. The candied pecan qualities ebbed and flowed. Quite well-balanced but without the complexity of flavours in the Ziggy’s. If I was predicting the style of beer used for a pecan pie beer I’d have gone for a porter, but what do I know?’
The Ziggy’s Carrot Cake Ale came with a theatrical flourish. Armed with an atomiser, the barman sprayed each frothy head with orange mist. The Lady Pie Maker thought that Ziggy’s would make a good wedding beer – with the orange mist its got the symbolism down pat, and it would be a match made in heaven with a dense fruity cake.
The Greasylightbulb thought that the Ziggy’s ‘smelled of lemon peel, tasted of a carrot cake spiced with ginger and cinnamon, with a nutty orange background’. The orange mist has also got him thinking about how to use this magic on other beers: ‘the pecan beer could have had a coffee (or bourbon…) spray, wheat beer could have a fruit spray, a stout could have an er, oyster spray?’ Suggestions perhaps for another Garage Project experiment?
Most punters were asked to vote for their favourite beer. The Lady Pie Maker however was not given a token. Perhaps they had revoked the vote for women, or knew that she secretly yearned for a chardonnay. If given the chance, she would have voted for the Ziggy’s. It had a fuller, more well-rounded flavour. The Thirsty Boys’ and their familiars unanimously preferred the Carrot Cake Ale, as did everyone whom the socially mobile Greasylightbulb interviewed. How it only won 81.5 to 75.5 remains one of the evening’s mysteries.
Meanwhile, the judges continued to deliberate over pie and cake. Determinedly the wraith-like spectre of the Jesuit haunted their table. With no tricks up his sleeve, he was unceremoniously shooed away treatless. Yet somehow Durty Driscoll, oozing Brummie charm, stole away a sizable slice of the Ladies Auxiliary’s Pecan Pie. Consumption was swift.
As the Thirsties practiced their waiting skills, a second hai-ku unfolded
Beer on All Hallows’
Waiting for my just desserts
Queue forms on the left
Cake vs. Pie
At 9pm the judges – Jeremy Taylor of the Omnivore, Jacob Brown from The Larder and Beth Brash from Eat and Greet – made their eagerly awaited pronnoucement. It turned out that a baker with alcohol in her name, one Brandie Stephens, had triumphantly bewitched them with both her apricot stuffed carrot cake and bourbon-laced pecan pie. ‘We wuz robbed!’ declared the Jesuit.
With the judging over, the Thirsties descended on the pie and cake remains. In regards to the winning pecan pie the pickings were slim. The judges, while finding it ‘almost too sweet’ also found it ‘incredibly more-ish’. So it appeared. The Lady Pie Maker divided what was left amongst the Thirsties. They got what amounted to a nut each with some sticky stuff attached. It was pretty yum, but oh too sweet. Supportively, the Greasylightbulb declared the Lady’s pie to be ‘awesome! Particularly the chocolate layer’.
One could easily imagine the Greasylightbulb belting out the Four Clefs classic ‘I like pie, I like cake, I like anything you bake’, such was his unadulterated enthusiasm for all the fare presented. Only minutes later he fell prey to his own desires, almost dying of fright as he bit into a pecan pie spiked with bacon. A nasty Halloween trick indeed to play on a vegetarian.
Losing and bacon aside, the Thirsties had a fun night out. As a venue the Southern Cross made an interesting change. As well as Pie vs. Cake, there was a giant jenga competition and a tag team of aspiring singer-songwriters crooning for their supper. The vibe was that of a big, noisy neighbourhood lounge. As the Jesuit observed ‘It was hilarious to see most of the staff and half of the clientele of Hashigo Zake above ground’. It won’t become a Thirsty Boys regular, but the Ladies Auxiliary will be back next year, their wooden spoons sharpened. As for next week, the Thirsty Boys will be back underground. There will be no cake, no pie, just a bag of crisps.
Recipe: The Thirsty Boys Ladies Auxiliary Pecan Pie
1/3 cup butter (a stupid measurement for butter but I haven’t had time to convert it)
1 cup white flour
3 tablespoons of ice-cold water
Cut the butter into the flour with a knife or your fingers and work until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add about 3 tablespoons of icy water and combine until the mixture clings together. Form a ball and roll out on a flour dusted board. Place the rolled out crust, which is quite a thin one, in a 9” pie dish (grease with butter first).
¾ cup sugar
½ cup maple syrup (real or faux)
2 tablespoons of brewed strong dark coffee
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons white flour
3 large eggs
½ cup chocolate chips (I use half a bar of the Lindt Dark Noir chocolate)
1 cup toasted pecans (be sure to lightly toast not burn – they are mighty expensive)
Preheat oven to 210 degrees.
Place all of the filling ingredients except for the pecans in a blender and wizz until smooth. If you don’t have a blender, melt the butter and chocolate on a low heat, cool and then mix in with other ingredients. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the pie crust and then pour in the filling. Make sure the pecans are evenly spread, and then pop in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes on 210, and then drop the oven down to 180 degrees and cook for another 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the pie – it can volcano in the middle. If it does don’t fret. Gently prick the volcanoing bit with a skewer to let the air out and then gently press down.
Serve with plain or brandy cream and your choice of Renaissance Stonecutter, Yeastie Boys Hud-a-wa or Fuller’s E.S.B.