It began with a sense memory of sitting in my Grandparents’ breakfast nook and it ends with doing battle with the devil. This is not the plot synopsis to the novel I’m attempting to write. This is goodbye.
For now, perhaps, we’ll see. Maybe it’s only a hiatus. Time for a break, at least. After 6.35 straight years of penning the Beer Garden column every week, I’m hanging up my thesaurus and putting the pint glass back upon the shelf.
330. That’s a nice round number on which to end. 330 weeks without missing a deadline, only occasionally severely wounding it. It’s been known to walk with a limp.
It’s tough to not get at least a little bit sentimental. As someone who finally found a viable forum for his writing interests combined with his penchant for beer, this column has been a fairly unique and very happy opportunity.
There are a few folks who I finally need to thank in print. First off is Jarod Kelly, our “Chief Happiness Officer” here at work who approached PNJ for this column because he knew he had an employee who had something to say. Second is my kindly editor, Julio Diaz, who has put up with my non-Strunk & White opinion writing and grammatical license for all these years. Last is my boss, Joe Abston, who gave me a playground with 112 beer taps and the position to focus solely upon suds for his company.
Well, okay then. This is a beer column, after all. If I’m closing shop, I’m going to use the time to push a brewery that deserves more attention than it gets down here. Straight To Ale from Huntsville, Alabama has been one of my favorite Southern breweries for a long time and I hope I can convince you to make them one of yours as well.
If you’re having trouble finding their beer it’s totally worth a weekend trip to the top of Alabama. Not only do they have great liquid, their cool brewery boasts one of the biggest liquor barrel cooperages I’ve seen in person and a pinball room that would make Tommy weep with joy. Oh, and Huntsville has great German restaurants and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, too.
In the meantime, you can stop by our place and go running with the devil. Never shy of a “punny” name, Straight To Ale gives us Hell Or Rye Water. This hazy glass of honey-colored nectar’s head starts out about a finger-wide before settling into an even, egg-white ceiling. Right off there’s a big blast of orange marmalade on the nose followed by caramel and gingerbread cookie. Where some breweries boast rye in their malt bill only to fall short, this one nails it. Zesty, peppery rye mingles with an off-sweet, cracker malt base while leafy, floral hops give out a tropical fruit salad. A little caramel and lemon iced tea linger in the long finish of this light-bodied pale ale.
The devil’s in the details and this one has many of those. So, thank you, loyal readers! Perhaps we’ll see each other again soon. In the meantime, I’ve got a beer that needs drinking come Hell Or Rye Water.