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Oct 25, 2014

Beer Break

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Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 52
Happy birthday to us

Aug. 30, 2001

Because we've been emailing this newsletter about beer appreciation for a year we've decided to celebrate with a beer tasting. We asked last week for your input on what beers to serve to an eclectic crowd of beer newbies and those ready for more adventure. The responses would fill several dispatches.

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Reader Dean McCracken offered a particularly thoughtful approach to the whole process of introducing friends to new beers, full of tips we may continue to repeat along the way. Here's one very good point: "Don't offer your own favorite brew. Most likely you settled on your own favorite after much experimentation and expansion of your own flavor horizons. Will it be too intense for the delicate macro-numbed taste buds? Suggest something which offers a departure for your friend's current idea of 'good,' but make sure to avoid the characteristics she has told you she dislikes."

Also, the famous beer writer Tom Bedell (perhaps you saw his recent article in All About Beer Magazine about beer and golf) checked in with several suggestions about beers that start conversations. For instance: "I also belong to a Shakespeare group -- nothing highfalutin, we just show up, read Shakespeare, nibble some goodies and drink a little. Naturally, I bring Rogue's Shakespeare Stout along now and again, and people actually try it. Less for me, but that's okay."

We may have to devote an entire Beer Break to similar ideas, but meanwhile we've got an anniversary and a Labor Day weekend upon us. So here are 10 beers we've chosen for the occasion. Feel free to write and disagree with the choices, or make other suggestions, but remember that this IS NOT a list of the 10 best beers in the world, or presented as the best beers of a particular style. They are 10 beers we chose this week. Ask us tomorrow and we might list 10 completely different beers. And the next day there would be 10 different ones. They are presented in alphabetical order.

Anchor Steam (from California): Because it's a style that America can call its own, it's tasty but won't overwhelm the taste buds of somebody moving up from mainstream lagers, and because we can then mention how much we like Anchor Liberty and India Pale Ales (we didn't have room for an IPA on this list).

Bell's Expedition Stout (from Michigan): This, on the other hand, is not the first beer to have after a light lager. It's black, viscous and thick on the tongue, sweet upfront and roasty at the finish -- a balanced attack on all your senses. A beer for those ready to find out how big and mean a beer can be.

Duvel (from Belgium): Almost as big as Expedition Stout (8.5 abv) but light in color, a blossoming aroma, creamy mouthfeel, a complex combination of fruit related flavors and a balancing dry finish. Its advocates argue it's the best beer in the world.

Eske's Green Chile Ale (from New Mexico): This IS NOT Ed's Cave Creek Chile beer, which received a fair amount of national attention a few years ago. That is a light lager with a jalepeno pepper in the bottle. Eske's is a brewpub in Taos, New Mexico, and this is a full-bodied ale with green chiles (chiles are so big in New Mexico that the state question is "Red or Green?") providing as much flavor as heat. A perfect beer to have while sitting out in the sun on Labor Day weekend.

Lindeman's Framboise (from Belgium): A homebrewer nominated this one, because while this raspberry beer based on the lambic of this Belgian brewery is heavy on fruit it's the first beer he's found that his wine-loving wife likes. So this one is for our friends who favor wine.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager (from Massachusetts): If your colleagues like this beer they won't have trouble finding more of it to drink (in bottles) at home or on draft when they drink out -- often even if they live in the hinterlands. It's a perfect beer to offer a drinker of mainstream lagers (brewed both in the United States and elsewhere).

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (from California): Another one of the pioneer craft beers that won over thousands of beer drinkers. Give somebody a SNPA and a Boston Lager side-by-side to teach them about the difference between ales and lagers, between American hops and Europeans hops, between bottle-conditioned beer and beer that impresses with its clarity. Although Sierra Nevada has a well-earned reputation for using hops, this beer is longer on hop flavor than hop bitterness so shouldn't scare a novice too much.

Spaten Ur-Marzen (from Germany): It's time to start thinking about Oktoberfest, and the original Oktoberfest beer -- first brewed in 1872 -- is still one of the best. Spaten also brews a paler Oktoberfestbier to serve during the massive Oktoberfest celebration in Munich. Strangely, the classic and robust Ur-Marzen is sometimes easier to find in a U.S. supermarket than its home city during the festival.

Tabernash Weisse (from Colorado): Your friends don't like the deep, malty flavor in an Oktoberfest beer? They aren't sure about hops? Then a traditional Bavarian wheat beer might be the style to turn to. This one is made in Longmont, Colo., but available in many other states. A fine combination of banana/fruit flavors, clove in the aroma. Another thirst-quenching beer for drinking outside on Labor Day.

Victory Lager (from Pennsylvania): This micro in Downingtown, Pa., has a cult following, but lovers of hops and strong beers (Victory specialties) don't talk enough about Victory's all-malt lager. Its depth of flavor is as impressive as Victory's better known HopDevil. A great "next beer" for the mainstream lager drinker, for somebody not sure about those fruity tones in an ale, or for the citrus hop adverse.

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