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.
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
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
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.