They say you never forget your first time. What? Of course I’m talking about beer. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Think back to the first beer you ever had. Maybe your pa bought you one in a bar the day you turned 21, a proud and knowing look in his eyes as he handed you a cold mug with rivulets of condensation slowly gathering on its sides.
Perhaps it was that time you went overseas on a high school exchange, technically able to take advantage of Europe’s much more relaxed stance on what a legal drinking age is or isn’t. Here’s a hint: it’s nowhere near as puritanical as it is here. As the joke goes, “if you can see over the bar, you can buy the beer.” Seriously, in some cases you can even legally drink before you’re allowed to earn your drivers’ license.
For many, it was sneaking one out of dad’s stash of what is now lovingly referred to as “old man beer.” You and your buddies would grab a can of Burgie or a bottle of Hamm’s – from the back of the fridge, mind you… you didn’t want it to be immediately obvious – and bolt off to the woods or hole up in the tree house and have that magical first sip of suds.
And it was magnificent. That first-ever, tremulously-taken nectar hits your palate with a crisp, fizzy pop of enlightenment. This is your bar mitzvah, today you are a man.
Note to parents: I am not advocating child endangerment. Chances are they aren’t reading this column anyhow. They’re probably knee-deep in their modern electronic distractions. Crisis averted.
Now, as I was saying… Your first beer ever was probably of the lager variety; something made from relatively inexpensive ingredients and designed to be consumed in giant, refreshing gulps of sweet malt and hops that barely know what the word “bitter” means. If it was American beer, it was probably made with adjunct ingredients.
When I hosted a launch party for 21st Amendment Brewing recently, I poured some of their El Sully “Mexican” Lager into a glass and stuck my nose in for a sense of its scents. And I blurted out a quick laugh. This is that first-ever beer.
And why would an acclaimed, modernist-leaning brewery craft such a thing? Variety is the spice of life, man can’t live by IPA alone, etcetera, etcetera. I also think it’s for the same nostalgia it evoked within me.
El Sully is the palest shade of straw yellow with a bright, white head that disappears fast. Honeyed malt greets the nose with underlying, subtle scents of orange and wet grain. Flaked maize provides the sweet corn flavor one would remember and expect from some old-school lager along with subtle grassiness from the Hallertau Magnum and a woodsy, peppery accent from the Northern Brewer hops. Light-bodied, low-AbV, crisp, clean finish. Dang!
Feeling wistful? Grab an El Sully. And you don’t even have to sneak out to the woods to enjoy it.