Sunday, October 11, 2009

An introduction, or an admission, I can't tell.

Sad to say, I am a beer snob. The worst kind. More on that in a minute.

I have skills, you know. I have been drinking beer since long before I was legally allowed to do so, like most of my contemporaries. Ah, the days of youth, where beer needed only to be cheap, plentiful, Good was not an option, mostly because I'd inevitably throw it up anyway. Back then I just liked the social aspect of going to the beach at midnight, drinking to excess, barfing, and waking up at home, it was like heaven. These days, not so much.

Still, Beer is Life, or so the traditional beer snob might tell you. I read something once that said the Mayflower, the very ship which brought those hearty but ocean-weary and sickened pilgrims from the old world to the new, thus participants in the very first angel-investment start up, did not stop upon arrival because land was nigh and the weather was fair; but rather they stopped because they were out of beer, and had to make for a good port where the ship was still so they could make more. I understand they didn't bother to even get off the boat except to gather firewood for the stoves and bury some dead people, which was probably kind of an inconvenience really. Years later they'd land and cheerfully kill everyone they saw, but I think that was a different batch of explorers.

These guys, these were my kinda people, the pilgrims.

Anyway I have to inform you that beer is NOT life, despite evidence and endless dissertation to the contrary. It's one of my favorite perks, though, like gummy bears.

I like other alcoholic beverages as well. I like dusky, dark red wines, cabs and such. I like Russian vodka and Beefeater's gin, in a rocks glass, lots of cubed ice, with two or three really big Spanish olives. I will admit in public that I like Pinot Grigio: Santa Margarita is good, sure, but plain old Cavit is my favorite. The best thing, other than beer? Pouilly Fuisse, very cold. Slightly pricey dry French white.

I came to talk about beer, and this introduction is the beginning of our journey together: see, I am going to tell you, the reader, all about beers I have tried, and I will intrepidly offer my honest assessment of them on these very pages. I will be fair – fair as I can be anyway – because I certainly have my favorites, and feel compelled to honestly assess the less-than-favorites with a review based upon the overall crafting and quality of the brew, not solely whether I like it. Unless I really, really don't like it, like Belgian Ales. I have no idea why these are so popular' I have tried a few that taste a little like Zima (remember that crap?) and I guess I just don't get it.

I really don't get a lot about beer, actually. Because it tuns out I truly do not know a hell of a lot about it. Seriously. That's what I meant when I said I was the worst kind of beer snob: I am an ignorant beer snob.

I made it years ago with a friend – we did a stout that was excellent, and a hefeweizen that got bumped at a bad time, and the fermenter blew up like a balloon from the expanding yeast. Who knew beer was an IED? Anyway we had a pilsner and an IPA and every time it was awesome beyond belief, but I never paid attention to the process, what was on the stove, what hops went in when and in what quantity. Who cares? Silly me.

There are technical things about it that I missed out on, and in the big-beer making world (home brewing is a pretty simple process compared to making those thousand-bottle batches in the microbreweries). There's a thing called a mash tun – catchy, but I haven't a bloody clue what it does. Sounds like a dance move, ask me.

There's “specific gravity” and “wort” and all manner of very scientific-sounding things to discover.

There are dozens of types of beer, with cool-ass names like lambic, porter, wit, and marzen.

There are beers you should drink out of a bottle, and some you should drink out of a glass...a specific, certain kind of glass, at that.

And I get to do that. I will make this sacrifice, my friends. I will be brave.

And we get to learn together. Your comments will likely come in handy – hopefully some of you know a lot more about beer than me, and then I get to go drink your recommendations, and that's pretty much a good thing, because, well, I did mention I like beer, right? Right.

Salud, my friends.


  1. Good afternoon all,

    As a true beer aficionado, I believe we are now living in the best of times for beer in these USA. Right now I can drive less than 3 miles to three brewpubs that make truly outstanding beer on site. Among these is a wonderful Oatmeal Stout, a really good hoppy pale ale, an organic brown that is so smooth, and a Scottish Ale with just a hint sweet.

    Also about 5 miles away is a beer vendor who carries over 1,000 – over 1,000 micros and imports in stock. Like many beer guys, I found beer while in the Army living in Germany. I headed an inspection team and was forced to travel all over West Germany (I am dating myself) and stay in all the little Gastehauses with their own small breweries. It was terrible but someone had to do it.

    So with this as an introduction, I am ready and willing to exchange beer lore, taste preferences and recommendations with anyone who wishes.

    Happy tasting,


  2. I'm enjoying the cool weather as an excuse to mine the offerings of my current favorite brewer; Unibroue. Did I hear you say that you can't get it where you are, 'cat?

    My ultimate fave at this time of year is called "Maudite". It's yummy-dark, smooth, has some sweetness to it. Yum. Sadly, it also has 8% alcohol. Thankfully I can get a pot of mussels with it at my favorite pub.

    Chicago has two new brewers in our neighborhood. Metropolitan started this summer. I'll look up the other one for you.

  3. jburd1 - welcome! I agree: we live in the best times ever for beer in the states. In just the past 10 years things have changed so dramatically it's been impossible to keep up - thank god for places like The Flying Saucer ( ) and a few others which take the time to stock all the proper glassware to go with the proper drughts. I look forward to this expedition, and your recommendations! Cheers.

  4. Hi Messy - I looked out for one of your recommendations a few months ago - nowhere NEAR me here in Charlotte. Sigh. Still, you never really know what gets shipped where, huh?

  5. If I say I don't drink beer, nor do I like it, will that get me slaughtered? I just like reading your blogs because they're funny and entertaining. Will it help if I tell you that my husband likes beer? I'm sure he'd be willing to sample any you happen to suggest. :)

  6. Schuyler, I highly recommend a pub in Charlotte called Sir Edmund Halley's in the Park Road shopping center (Park @ Woodlawn). They're the only place I've seen in this region with Old Speckled Hen (an English bitter) and/or Boddington's (also an English bitter) on tap.

  7. vyreque - Thanks! Never heard of that one - I go the The Flying Saucer in the University area, and they have the Old Speckled Hen (one of my favorites) and Boddingtons (not sure about this one, although I like the creaminess), and about 100 other taps. Plus, they're close! I will certainly check out Halley's (why are all the beer places named about space-related stuff?)

    Hey SS - you, my favorite roller girl, are ALWAYS welcome! I have no earthly idea why you don't drink beer, but you can be forgiven. I suppose.

  8. Old Speckled Hen and Boddington's Pub, two excellent english drafts. Of course, in all that you must include the Samual Smith Brewery in Tadcaster England. Their Nut Brown Ale is probably the best I have ever tasted. And their Oatmeal Stout is excellent as well. I have gotten to the point where I now have dessert beers. I prefer a pale ale to cut the sweetness of a tiramisu or tart. It really clears the palate for the next bite.
    On my last visit to the Big Island (name dropping here, since that is where I plan to retire) I spent a hour talking with the vintner at the local winery up discussing wines and beers and finally got him to acknowledge a dessert beer was not a bad idea.
    Here is PA where have some excellent microbrewers. Locally Troegs and Appalachian Brewing Company are great. They don't travel far but if you can get some, worth the try.

  9. Oh yes, they are flying now...

    Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter is one of my favorite ever. Just to drink, out of the bottle, chilly cols. It's a sipper. The Nut Brown rated high on my list too.

    I'm certain I had Appalachian when I was working up in Philly. Don't know what type it was, but I remember the name. I googled them and they seem pretty big - I'll keep my eyes open. We have a Harris Teeter near here that stocks 75-80 different things, a lot of Carolinas (I'm in Charlotte), but they got me some Shiner Bock this summer just for grins.

  10. Hopefully, you'll still catch my late comment. This is why I was a "lurker" on the Fray: I always read DP long after everyone else, so my posts were days or a week later. OY. I actually hated beer until I started drinking my coffee black. That led a good friend to get me to try Guinness. The rest is history.

    Funny thing is, I'm somewhat the opposite in tastes to you, Schuyler: I LOVE Belgians. They are among my favorites. From what I understand, though, there are 2 categories all beer styles fall into: ales & pilsners. I ABHOR & DETEST the latter, which group includes all the traditional American beers (Bud & all other types of pee-in-a-bottle). A guy once told me, & so far this has borne out in my experience, that all beers sold in green bottles are terrible.

    Like Messy, I live in Chicago & list Hopleaf as among my favorite places to go. These days, though, it's too damned well-known & crowded.

    I love wine as well, & am quite the scotch drinker. LOVE scotch. Can't wait to hear more about your drinking exploits & experiments.