Three hundred weeks ago, I was asked to scribe a column about beer. Not a bad gig if you can get it. Not many folks have the opportunity to share their passion for something that doesn’t seem that essential in the grand scheme of journalistic reporting.
I’m fortunate that the editors have allowed me over five years of artistic license and, at times, self-indulgence. Luckily this column is an opinion piece as I’ve long-forgotten much of “Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.” The definitive handbook on objective journalism is but a distant memory in my beer-tinted recollections.
I take a certain amount of pride in my work despite the occasional silly premise upon which any given article may be based. Beer isn’t simply a vehicle for mindless partying anymore; it’s gone and gotten grown up, fancy. Despite that, the vast majority of consumption still involves watery, mass-produced national brands. For those two reasons I love having a soapbox upon which to spout my sudsy homilies.
So, I thought I’d use my 300th column to review three beers you should be drinking right now. One is silly, one serious and one sophisticated; a representation of my approach to writing about beer in general.
Silly beer first, natch. Against The Grain out of Louisville, Kentucky tops off great product with funny names. Case in point is their Belgian pale ale Sho’ Nuff. Any child of the 80s worth their cheesy movies will recall the Berry Gordy martial arts fromage “The Last Dragon.” Why the founder of Motown Records decided to delve into producing a film with hokey dialogue, less-than-Summer stock-acting-talent and people kicking each other repeatedly is beyond me. In “TLD,” as it’s known by learned film historians and that guy who used to rent you VHS tapes, the main baddie is a sinewy, poodle-esque fighter named Sho’ Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem. Luckily this beer tastes nothing like I’d imagine Mr. Nuff might. A smooth, creamy body with crisp carbonation contains fruity, spicy notes of banana, apple, apricot, white pepper, biscuit and clove.
It seems most craft drinkers these days care not for lager/pilsner. Are they too pedestrian of styles? Not hop-monster enough for those weaned on IPA? I don’t get it. A great pilsner is crushable on any given day. Out of all the styles we sell in our restaurant group, these move the slowest to my chagrin. I implore everyone to reconsider, starting with Shiner’s Birthday Beer. A hopped-up pils, this should satisfy those used to the big, bitter presence they love but with a solid, honeyed malt base for balance. Grass, lemon, herbs, pepper, pine, dry finish… it’s all here.
Capping the occasion is a one-off collaboration from Cigar City and De Molen. This European stout is The Netherlands by way of Tampa. A potent sipper, it’s jet-black with an off-setting espresso crema cap of pale mocha. With more subtle layers than the average imperial stout in overdrive, this is a study in cocoa, chicory, cherry, fudge icing, cream and smoke. It’s as if someone figured out how to turn a Black Forest cake into a drink.
Thanks for reading! Time for me to get busy on the next three hundred. In the meantime, go get yourself a beer.