If you think that brewing beer is a man’s job, think again. Since 1991, Jenny Talley has been lending her beer expertise and brewing talent to Squatters Pub Brewery. Talley took over as Squatters’ head brewer in 1994. Shortly after that she won a full scholarship to the Seibel Institute of Brewing Technology in her hometown of Chicago.
I’ve never met anyone as passionate or positive about beer. Nor, for that matter, have I come across anyone with such a discriminating palate, beer expert Michael Jackson (and we’re not talking about the pop star) notwithstanding. I suppose that’s why Talley has been called upon numerous times as a judge for brewing competitions, including the Super Bowl of brewing: The annual Great American Beer Festival. I learned a lifetime of beer lessons in a single weekend in Denver a few years back, following Talley around the Great American Beer Festival in search of the perfect India Pale Ale. If memory serves, I think the IPA we liked best was called “Mr. Hoppy.”
But don’t get the impression that Talley is merely a fine analyst. At prestigious competitions like the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup, Squatters beers have been awarded an array of medals, including those for Chasing Tail Golden Ale, Full Suspension Pale Ale, Provo Girl Pilsner, Vienna Lager, Emigration Amber Ale, India Pale Ale and Black Forest Schwarzbier.
Chasing Tail Golden Ale has been one of Talley’s most successful beers, garnering both awards at beer festivals and acclaim from citizens like myself who love great beer. Lest you think it misogynistic, you should know that Squatters Chasing Tail Golden Ale is named for Talley’s mutt Payson, who chases his tail in circles at breakfast and dinner with the joy and abandon that must come with knowing your mom is a world-class brewmistress.
I first became aware of Talley a few years ago when she introduced me to Squatters Full Suspension Pale Ale, which blew my socks off and still does. It was initially an attempt to brew a low-alcohol India Pale Ale-type beer in a hoppy, Northwest style. As luck would have it, Talley hit on the perfect recipe the same week her first titanium full-suspension mountain bike arrived. Being a hop head myself, I love the zippy tang of the dry-hopped (Cascade hops, I think) unfiltered Full Suspension Pale Ale. Full Suspension is a terrific match for Chef Eric Bell’s spicy jambalaya with Andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp.
Last week I enjoyed one of Talley’s “Brewmaster’s Specials,” which are freshly brewed beers offered for only a limited time in the brewpub. It was a knockout Crystal Weizen, wonderfully clean tasting and the best Crystal Weizen I recall drinking outside of Bavaria. It’s delightful with Squatters’ four-cheese macaroni, their charbroiled rare chili-rubbed ahi tacos or classic fish and chips.
But probably my favorite Squatters beer is one that you can’t get fresh on tap: Voted “best English style IPA in the USA,” Squatters India Pale Ale is everything an IPA should be, including brimming with alcohol. Weighing in at 6 percent alcohol by volume, it’s a real IPA and can only be sold in private clubs, restaurants and wine stores. You won’t be able to find it on tap anywhere, which is a shame. But enjoying a bottle of Squatters India Pale Ale is also a lesson in what an IPA should taste like. The relatively high alcohol of the ale is beautifully balanced by rich premium English barley and bold hop flavors and aromas. It’s not a beer for the timid. Squatters IPA is the perfect partner for Chef Bell’s lamb shank with homemade garam masala, or his fragrant Thai green curry.
So the next time you enjoy one of Squatters’ award-winning beers, don’t forget to tip your hat to the brewmaster, Jenny Talley. Hell, why not even buy her a beer?