December is always a busy month in our household, which means blogging time was reduced pretty much to zero. This post will just be a quick rundown to finish off the tally for the year. Then, with that chore out of the way, I will share some thoughts about whether and how I might continue this project.
After an autumn of Thursday nights on parent chauffeur duty, I made the time to attend a couple of church choir rehearsals in December in order to be ready for the big Service of Lessons and Carols that we always hold the last Sunday before Christmas. After rehearsal, it’s pretty much a standing weekly outing to McBride’s Pub with a half dozen or so of our choir friends. Since it’s supposed to be an Irish-style pub, I had a Smithwick’s one week and a Guinness on another occasion. Guinness on draft is almost always pleasant, especially when the weather has turned cold and put me in the mood for what I think of as “beer as food,” and the Smithwick’s was malty with a nice, creamy head.
After singing with a different group at the downtown library on a Monday night in early December, most of the group adjourned across the street to the Trinity Brewpub where I had Siobhan’s Stout, which was less creamy and had more hop bitterness than Guinness, and was a nice accompaniment to a tasty Reuben sandwich.
On another adolescent movie night at my friend Philip’s, after a late arrival from yet another singing engagement, I had the Dream Machine IPL (so a lager rather than an ale) from Magic Hat as we polished off the “pull apart pizza” and watched the second half of “Home Alone”—lots of pratfalls and a holiday theme provided plenty of opportunities for teenage snarkiness.
At home, I have been working on a mix pack from Southern Tier brewing. “Southern Tier” refers to the part of New York state that borders the straight east-west line separating New York from Pennsylvania, a region I became familiar with during numerous drives from Ithaca, NY back to my roots in the Midwest. The brewery is at the far western end of the Southern Tier in Lakewood, NY, south and a little bit west of Buffalo on Lake Chautaqua. My lasting impression is of another “in your face” brewery with lots of strong flavors. This mix pack, “Fuse Box,” included a standard IPA, a porter (better than some I’ve tried), and an American pale ale called PMX which their website describes as an update of the beer they have sold previously as Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary Ale.
The holiday season also featured lots of parties, which meant opportunities to try lots of unfamiliar beers. In no particular order, these included the Sam Adams Winter Lager at my employer’s holiday party, the British import Old Speckled Hen (which I think gets its name from the pattern left on a glass by the beer’s head) and Founders Big Luscious (a chocolate-raspberry dessert beer that had a lot of the tartness of the raspberry but not a lot of sweetness and more molasses than chocolate) at the home of some colleagues on New Year’s Eve. With my singing friends, after our carol service we adjourned to our friend Deb’s house where the beers on offer included Limbo IPA from Long Trail and a Scottish ale called Old Chub from Oskar Blues—my friend Steve had been raving about this beer for months and finally found some to share with me, and I agree that it was worth the wait. For our friends Peter and Barbara’s annual Christmas Party and Yankee swap, I happened to be shopping at a local liquor store when a rep from 21st Amendment Brewery was offering tastings. The 21st amendment, of course, was the repeal of Prohibition and thus a totally fitting name for this San Francisco brewery, and after sampling several of their beers I settled on their Bitter American session ale (maybe because I knew it would be a long night or maybe because I was amused by the drawing of a monkey in a spacesuit on the can—I can’t remember now what the deciding factor was).
Finally, with the in-laws in town for the holidays, there were a couple of meals at our traditional restaurant stops. On December 24th, we go to Newport for lunch at the Brick Alley Pub, where I had the Christmas Ale from Anchor Steam, and as we drop them at their hotel near the airport at the end of their visit, we usually have dinner at Gregg’s where this time I had the Sam Adams White Christmas. Both of these were heavier on the winter spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, et cetera) than I would like, but it doesn’t hurt to give new things a try in a low risk environment.
And that’s a big part of what this whole experiment was about—giving myself the motivation to try some new things and being willing to occasionally find things that I don’t like as much in order to help me focus on what I will enjoy. The 15 beers here add to the 150 already in the books for a grand total of 165 different beers in 2014 (with far more successes than failures).
For the future, I’ve made a couple of decisions. (Call them resolutions if you like, since it is still New Year season.) One is to stop counting and to drop the self-imposed pressure of keeping track of every single beer. Instead, I will write about what I feel like and not worry if I forget something or don’t think it was memorable enough to say anything interesting.
I’ve also decided to open up the scope a little bit, inspired in part by a couple of recent occasions where friends presented the opportunity to try a variety of different whisky/whiskeys and do some side-by-side comparisons. I’ve also been known to do some wine-tasting with friends or on vacation, so although I’m not going to change the title (since I’m fond of alliteration), I will be blogging about other alcoholic beverages from time to time as the occasion arises, most probably including the scotch/bourbon/whatever comparisons from the past couple of weeks in a lengthy post sometime soon.
In the meantime, keeping track of the beers has been fun and I have yet another new mix pack in the basement (after I get through this year’s stash of a couple of my favorite winter beers: Sierra Nevada Celebration and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout), so there are more new beers in the not-too-distant future. Cheers!