“A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.” Czech Proverb
Last weekend my brother came to town with the gift of beer, a cooler filled with local beers from Boston where he lives. He also had another beer we tried in Kentucky on our fall Bourbon trip, one that I can't find locally and that we both think is delicious. Occasionally, I will get to my office and find someone has left a beer for me on my desk and the day will be made. My awesome and thoughtful friends regularly bring me beer to try when they come over (Friends, this practice is welcomed and should be continued) and I also frequently give beer to friends that I think they will like. My wife and I painstakingly hunted down a bottle of Wesvleteren in Copenhagen for one of our close friends when we were on vacation there. Not only was it a great adventure for us trying to find it, but our friend was ecstatic too and was able to have a beer that is almost impossible to find outside of Belgium. My brother and I and a bunch of other guys were on a beer-tasting sojourn to Belgium a few years ago and the successful effort to find this nirvana of Abbey beers made the trip (more on this for sure in a future post). Being able to bring one home for a friend is what the gift of beer is all about. Last year we also snagged two cases of Lagunitas from Market Place Liquors for our cousins who were travelling from California to Delaware for our annual beach vacation. Watching them sip their favorite Left Coast big hoppy brews after way too much sun was almost enough to bring tears of joy to our eyes. Another of my wife's cousins also comes to New Jersey from time to time on business and stays at the Hotel Moskowitz. The price is right and he is always thoughtful enough to bring us a few local Maryland beers to try from his favorite microbreweries. And just yesterday, my wife and I bought a 32-ounce growler from Joe Canal's (more on this awesome beer development in the next beer post) filled with fresh from the tap Brooklyn Brewery Mary's Maple Porter for our oldest son. He was working outside when we gave it to him and he couldn't even wait to grab a glass before pulling off the resealable top and trying it straight from the bottle. And then just last week when our middle son was in, he asked if he could visit the basement beer fridge and take a few sampler six packs back to school. Of course the answer was a resounding yes; what beer-loving parent wouldn't be proud that he wanted to try a selection? A few years ago, my very thoughtful wife also got me a Beer of the Month subscription and for a year a box of 24 different beers would arrive on our porch. I always ripped the box open and couldn't wait to see what the beer selection was. These are all beautiful examples of the gift of beer. They may not be as moving or important as giving blood or being an organ donor, but they sure run close. What could be better than making a friend or family member happy with a delicious hoppy or malty beverage?
My colleague Carol is one of those rare women with a taste for big hoppy beers and a real beer aficionado too (Jill G., no worries you are too!). The other day Carol walked into my office with an idea that is so stunning in its simplicity and so long overdue that I can only hope someone takes the lead and makes it happen: A Beer Gift Registry. Think how perfect it would be for weddings, birthdays, Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Arbor Day, and really any other Hallmark-induced holiday. Rather then getting 6 crystal candlesticks, or some hope to never be worn tie, or underwear and socks (Note to Family: Admittedly, I can always use these), how about simply logging on to a persons Beer Gift Registry and seeing what they want? Never again would there be that last minute panic about what to give for a special occasion. I think anyone reading this knows that beer is the perfect gift!
Now on to the beers:
The Kentucky beer my brother brought is the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale from Alltech, Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company. We first had this unique and delicious beer at the beautiful historic Seelbach Hotel in downtown Louisville as a needed intermezzo from all the wonderful bourbons we were trying. The Seelbach has a basement bar that apparently served as a speakeasy during Prohibition and has incredible tiled mosaics from ceiling to floor. This beer is aged for 6 weeks in used empty Bourbon casks. The casks impart an incredible mild flavor of caramel and vanilla with hints of bourbon. The beer is also a beautiful orange color. This beer is a sipping beer, best served in a snifter. The alcohol content is high (8.2%), but the beer is so delicious, having two is perfect. I haven't been able to find it yet locally, but it has reached Boston, so hopefully New Jersey isn't far behind.
My wife and I filled the growler yesterday at Joe Canal's in Woodbridge with Brooklyn Brewery Mary's Maple Porter. According to the brewery website this beer is only available from February to April and only on tap. So, if you want to try it, now is the time. It is brewed with maple syrup from trees in New York, hence the name. The beer is incredibly dark, absolutely opaque with not a drop of light shining through even up against a bright light. It's an okay beer, tasty but definitely not my favorite porter. Alcohol content is 7.2% and the beer is heavy, so this is not a session beer that you will want to drink all night. Although the brewery website says the flavor of the maple syrup comes through clearly, I didn't really taste it, except maybe in the most subtle way. My wife tasted it too, and she felt the same way. There are definitely hints of caramel, coffee and chocolate that would be expected in a porter, but I guess I'm just missing the maple flavor. I really like maple syrup and wish this beer had more strongly displayed its flavor. Not bad, but not my favorite.
My brother also brought three different 22-ounce bombers in his beer gift cooler from the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project in Sommerville, Mass. Their motto is "Good Time Artisanal Beers." The labels on the bottles are great and even if you can't find these beers around New Jersey, they are worth checking out online. So far I've only tried Fluffy White Rabbits Hoppy Triple and it was delicious. If the other two come even close, my brother has found a winner. It has a nice pale straw yellow color and fresh delicious slightly sweet hoppy flavor with some hints of hoppy citrus. Its the kind of beer where the bomber goes down a bit too easy, given the 8.5% alcohol. I'm certain this beer would be a hit among my friends that like Belgian-style ales, but then it sucks for them, because the bottle was mine and in the name of Beer Blog research (and the very fitting quote at the top) I polished off the bomber myself.