Saturday, February 17, 2007

It Has Never Been a Better Time to be a Beer Lover

Wine is but a bowl of broth, ale is meat, drink and cloth. - 16th Century English Proverb

The whole "real" beer movement is starting to become very complicated to me. In 1991, it wasn't a problem. Now, at times, it can be a headache. In 1991, you opened the fridge and there was one brand of beer in it. Once you popped the top, that was it, you were committed. Granted, unless you had a large head start on me as far as quality beer goes, the beer that you just popped open was not much to write home about. More than likely, it was something very cold and something somewhat tasteless.

When I went out in public to a restaurant or bar in the early 1990's, my draught selection was usually the same beer that I had in my fridge. There was no adventure or experimentation, just blind loyalty to the beer with the least amount of calories. Less filling, who knew about taste? Didn't all beer taste virtually the same? Cold, carbonated, thin and not much else?

Zoom ahead 10 or so years. The beer revolution had taken it's foothold. Beer didn't have to taste like water. Beer didn't even have to taste like each other. There were now styles and strengths. Beer became something to be enjoyed and anticipated like a fine, no, I won't say it. How about anticipated like the next summer blockbuster you just saw the trailer for at the movie theater. Extreme, but truthful. Fast forward another five years and you are now in the midst of a beer explosion. The guys who make the watered down, tasteless beer are now jumping into the "craft" beer industry and they are trying their hand at making beer with taste. Succeeding too, I might add.

Look around. It has never been a better time to be a beer lover. The local beer store has so much selection and stock, one could spend an hour trying to find the right beer. Trust me, I know. Every day, beer distributors are bringing in fine new imports by the dozens. Beers from breweries that are so small you couldn't even find them with a map are now on our shelves. Take a peak at the tap selection of your local pub. Two or three handles? I don't think so. Six or seven would be more like it. And what about the super taverns with over a hundred different beers to chose from? They used to be hard to find, now they are popping up everywhere. Brewpubs? You bet. Books about beer. Beer magazines, beer newspapers, websites, beer blogs. Beer is every where. Beer dinners and tastings. Cooking with beer. Beer is better with cheese than wine. You name it, beer has exploded.

Never in a million years would I want to go back to the day when I popped a can of my favorite "beer" from the fridge, but as I mentioned earlier, the beer movement has made beer much more complicated. Now I have to make decisions. What beer would go best with the meal I am having? Which beer suits the weather and or the season? Do I want to have a glass of a sipping beer or would two or three pints of a session beer be better? Do I have the appropriate glass to serve it in? Is the temperature right? Wait a minute. Wawawawawa. I sound like a wimp. I sound like one of those wine guys. What am I talking about? Beer is for heroes and champions, the nectar of the Gods. The drink of the human race. It doesn't need to be picked apart by my new found sense of knowledge, it just needs to be drank and enjoyed.

Who am I kidding? I like my beer knowledge, I like my beer selections and I like the fact that it takes me more than a couple of minutes to decide what kind of beer I am going to drink. It has never been a better time to be a beer lover. Viva La Complication!

The Beer

Hobgoblin Ale
: I found the UK based Wychwood Brewery Beers when I used to live In Ireland. I am glad that they made it across the sea. These are very hearty ales that are well crafted with many different tastes that come through. A very ruby red in color, this beer has a perfect balance of malt flavor and moderate bitterness. If you try, you can even taste a hint of toffee and chocolate flavor.

Rescue India Pale Ale: Brewed by the Barley Creek Brewery in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, this beer has the distinct taste of a homebrewed beer. Most beer when bottled by the pros loses that homebrew personal touch. It is a certain taste that lingers in a beer made at home. A good taste. Rescue IPA has it. Slightly sweet malty smell with a bitter hop after taste.

The Bad Elf Beers: Very Bad Elf: This was the best beer of the holiday season, as far as I am concerned. Maybe I drank too many and that is why I remember it fondly. That is probably the problem. This beer is so drinkable it is dangerous. Goes down like a "Mild", but has the taste and the alcohol content of a much bigger beer. Very Smooth. Dangerous at 7.5%.
Criminally Bad Elf: The Ridgeway Brewery in the UK who crafts the Bad Elf series seems to keep to a theme. Beers that that taste like lighter ales, but pack a whollup. Criminally Bad Elf is a Barleywine style ale, but tastes much like a lighter ale, yet kicks in at 10.5%. Be careful when you host a flagon of this barleywine.

Here is my Ode to the Big Brewer:

Jimmy Buffet's Landshark Lager, Stone Mill Organic Pale Ale and Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale:
The Landshark Lager and Stone Mill Pale Ale fooled me. Listed as Margarita Brewing Co. in Jacksonville, FL. and Green Valley Brewing, NH. I thought I was trying out a couple of new breweries. After some research, I found out that the new companies were Budweiser Breweries trying to be stealth. The Winter's Ale was no secret as they give themselves credit on the label. All the beers were very drinkable with plenty of taste to go around. I enjoyed everyone. The Winter's Ale, one at a time is plenty. Very vanilla tasting. I liked it, sort like you like a cream soda. Enjoyable, but one is plenty with desert. The surprise of the A&B Beers was LandShark Lager. Even not knowing this was from Bud, thinking it was Jimmy Buffet lending his name to a thin type, mass made beer, I was shocked. More Stella Artois and Budvar than Miller or Coors, this beer had hints of a Cech pilsner recipe. Enjoyable and very refreshing. It should make some Parrot Heads happy.

Du Chesse De Bourgogne: This Belgian Ale was a blend of 8 month and 18 month old beers than aged in oak casks. Sounds good? It was. Sweet smell, carbonated like champagne with a slight raspberry taste to it. Reddish Brown color, clocks in a t 6.2%. Very good and refreshing. It has the taste of a lambic, but the alcohol of a sturdier beer.