We chatted with Megan Parisi, Head Brewer of the Samuel Adams nano brewery in Boston, to chat about the inspiration behind the beer (and what she looks for in a cocktail).
What’s the story behind the name Blood and Sand?
I’m a huge fan of the Blood and Sand cocktail, which is made with scotch, vermouth, blood orange juice, and Cherry Heering liqueur. The name pays homage to a 1920s Rudolph Valentino film about bullfighting, with the red Cherry Heering representing “blood” and orange juice, the “sand” found in a bull fighting ring. The cocktail requires a careful balance of its ingredients which we thought would be a fun challenge to brew in the nano.
What about the flavor profile of this cocktail inspired you to brew a beer?
Blood and Sand is one of the few cocktails that uses scotch as a base; many cocktails usually use a whisky base. Scotch (distilled mostly from malted barley and matured in Scotland) creates a whole different flavor profile than rye bourbon (distilled from at least 51% rye) or whisky bourbon (distilled from at least 51% corn, rye, wheat, barley or rye and aged on charred oak). Scotch tastes a lot like bourbon but it has a trademark “bite.” When I taste Scotch, I taste wood, fire, leather, and even dirt and rubber – all in a good way. I wanted to put a spin on this flavor profile and brew a beer similar to it.
The label is pretty unique – how did this come to be?
We wanted to create an image that was a nod to both the ingredients and the film. If you look closely, you’ll see that the zombie figure is actually a matador and the sun is an orange slice. Our artist, Joe Dion, definitely had a lot of fun with this one.
As a brewer, you obviously drink a lot of beer. What are your favorite spirits/cocktails?
I tend to reach for dark, oaky spirits. I love single malt scotch and rye, but I am getting to know gin a little better. I like cocktails with a lot of complexity. It’s fun to have a cocktail, look at the ingredient list, and realize you can’t taste any one ingredient because of a careful, complex blend. My go-to cocktail order is a Manhattan, mostly due to nostalgia for my dad’s Aunt Mary who was a 5’1’’ Irish spitfire. I remember when we were kids, we would go visit her in New Jersey and take her to lunch – where she would always order a Manhattan (or two). She was the sweetest lady who was always very good to us and when she passed away when I was 18 or 19, I decided that my first legal drink when I turned 21 would be a Manhattan in her honor. I’ve been enjoying them ever since.
Is there anything unique about the ingredients or brewing process for this beer?
We put our own spin on Blood & Sand and took some creative license with the ingredients to achieve a similar complex flavor profile. We didn’t use any actual cherries in the beer, we used cherry smoked malt to get a subtle smoky cherry flavor. While it’s a scotch based cocktail, we actually aged the beer on orange peel in rye whisky barrels, which provided the right amount of charred oak flavor. We didn’t want the beer to be super fruity either - we wanted it to be just like the cocktail which only has hints of fruit flavor.
When would you enjoy this beer?
It’s a beer for a nice, cool spring evening – it’s a sipper. If you wanted to bump up the orange flavor in it, you could add an orange peel or slice to the glass – just like you would do with the cocktail.
Blood and Sand will be available exclusively at the Boston Brewery in 750ml bottles for $19.99. Click here to RSVP for our bottle release party during American Craft Beer Week.