When I started this blog, I noted that one of my issues is the near-paralysis I sometimes feel when facing the myriad choices in the stores where I typically shop for beer, torn between the desire to try something new and the fear of picking something I end up not enjoying. Thus it’s a bit of a relief when there’s an occasion where someone else has limited my choices, whether it’s the menu at a restaurant, having dinner at a friend’s, or sharing what someone brings to our house if we are hosting.
During one recent dinner out (at Luxe Burger Bar downtown), I was inspired to try the most interestingly named beer on the menu, which was from Two Roads Brewery (in Stratford, CT) and went by the name Route of all Evil. This was a tasty black ale that impressed me enough that I brought it as a contribution for dinner at a friend’s house a week or so later, and I will be keeping my eyes out for some of their other beers in the months ahead.
Dinner with beer buddy Philip for a boys’ movie night with my two offspring plus another mutual friend and his same-aged son presented the opportunity to rummage through Philip’s refrigerator and to offload one of my other bargain finds, the Winter Porter from Newport Storm. I didn’t exactly dislike this beer, but both times I tried it I noticed later in the evening a vague allergic reaction that made me suspicious. (I’ve had the same thing happen with other odd random foods, the most notable of which is key lime pie which I had twice in Florida several years ago and have scrupulously avoided ever since.) In Philip’s fridge I found a selection of beers from Cisco Brewery on Nantucket. I have a memory of trying several of their beers when they did a tasting at one of my local stores (a regular Friday event that I can rarely attend due to parental chauffeur duties) and not being particularly impressed, so tonight I went with an atypical choice for me and had the Grey Lady unfiltered wheat ale. Still not my first choice, but a nice accompaniment to wings before dinner and chicken stew as the main course.
After dinner, we opened a big bottle of a seasonal offering from Lagunitas (Petaluma, CA) that they call Hairy Eyeball and bill as something to look forward to after a night of over-indulgence; there’s even a little story printed in very small type on the side of the bottle (which you may be able to resolve if you zoom in on the photo at right) about waking up to the supposedly comforting sight of the dregs of a bottle of Hairy Eyeball on the morning after the night before. The brewery doesn’t give much of a detailed description but this seemed to me like a Belgian-style strong ale with a lot of both malt and hops.
When we hosted a church-sponsored dinner party a week or so later, one of the younger guests brought a couple of beers to share as an alternative to the red wine that seems to be the most popular dinner beverage among our circle of friends and acquaintances these days. One was the Sam Adams Rebel IPA that I tried back in January. This doesn’t count as a new beer, but the leftovers have been enjoyable (tonight’s pictured dinner was a spicy Turkish spinach and lentil soup), and the opportunity to linger over the beer and ponder its flavor profile allowed me to clearly identify the grapefruit flavor on the citrusy end of this heavily-hopped West Coast style IPA. The other beer our guest brought was a big bottle from local brewery Foolproof called La Ferme Urbaine (The Urban Farm, a pretty ironic name since their hometown of Pawtucket is often considered to be the birthplace of industrialization in New England and hasn’t seen much farmland for well over a century). The big bottle turned out to be just the right size for my souvenir British pint glass from a beer festival I attended during my teacher exchange in London back in 2002-03. (A British pint is 20 fluid ounces, so it’s nearly twice the size of a standard 12 oz US serving–I have one slightly anxious memory of coming home from the pub after choir practice one night and reflecting about the fact that I had consumed two British pints and was driving on the “wrong” (left) side of the road.) As for the beer, it is a farmhouse style saison with a mix of grains that (according to their web site) includes wheat, rye, oats, and spelt(!?)–maybe not my choice, but the advantage of letting someone else choose is that it’s a low risk way that I can try something and see whether I like it or not.
So these choices, mostly courtesy of friends and acquaintances, add five new beers to the tally for the year, giving a current total of 45. Next post will be a reflection on how different breweries choose to distinguish themselves, highlighting a current example in the fridge. Cheers!