Friday Froth: Outside and Inside

James Gribbon

It can all seem so simple, these twenty two moving parts. Eleven on eleven, they violently mesh, or they fly apart. Some people look at this whole and perceive only a lumpen, tangled jumble. From orbit, the Amazon rainforest is reduced to a green carpet. A glance at the watch's face shows only two hands. A second's worth of recognition, then on to something else, the actual time already forgotten. On the watch's face is the hour. Behind that: gears, escapments, jewels. Under the green, jungle canopy: rivers, streams, lives, civilizations. Guttural cries, naked violence, and the necessary imbalance of the scoreboard are the most apparent facets of American football. Tribal, atavistic pleasures, occasionally waved off as simple things by and for simple minds. Motivating and informing it all, though, this. Twenty two individual goals made systemic by design; the moving parts of a machine imbued with a will and given a target. Put the parts together and see if the result is harmonic precision, or an expensive spray of ragged metal and oh dear, I seem to have a hairspring lodged in my cornea. That beer in your hand is more than just "a beer."

Stir together water, grain, yeast and these little, leafy pine cone looking things and you get beer. Even that amount of knowledge is superfluous if one's goal is simply unwinding after work. This is a good thing. Sometimes we apply beverages like successive coats of paint. The reach of exterior stimuli gets shorter and shorter. We're free to roll around inside a comfortable layer of boozy insulation while our id does the driving. We're cheering, cursing, laughing mammals for while. We'll wait for morning to be scandalized, thank you. This tastes good, that person looks good, and hell yes, I want to try!

A rare quiet moment, though, a stray thought. "Wait: how did this happen?" It's not all green carpet. Look more closely - see the trees. 

There is a thick, smooth head over this golden amber beer, shot through with thousands of tiny, even bubbles. Come within a foot of the glass and its perfume becomes apparent. Why in the hell is my stupid brain trying to get me to drink perfume? Because that's Belgian yeast I smell, applied to an IPA style, in the form of Green Flash Le Freak. Flavor bursts from this beer. I half expect light to shoot from my mouth like that Mastodon album. The dense malts are energized by the aromatic yeast, working together like a Belgian Trippel. Again, though: elegance can be confused for simplicity. This California brew, recently available in Connecticut, has west coast IPA roots which dig into your mouth with 101 IBUs; 9% of it's volume come from alcohol. A punch from a velvet glove arrives no less swiftly. 

Le Freak's parts pull in three different directions, but the center holds through careful application of design. Get some.

The narrow base widens slightly at the top. I can smell the hops right away through the froth, moving through the aromatic Belgian yeasts like a Gulfstream lancing a bank of cumulus cloud. Ommegang makes magnificent brews, and Justice's scales aren't as balanced as their Belgian Pale Ale. The yeast character of Ommegang BPA is handled with a sort of "been there, done that" level of restraint, with beautiful hop selection as its counterpoint. The malt is creamy, and the yeasts are allowed to exhibit a slight banana-like ester. Complex without getting cute about it. this ale is meant to be celebrated communally with friends. Belgian and American hop growers toast one another from atop stilts used in the ancient harvest, presaging the hop festivals yet to come, and nodding at the cross-cultural character of this beer. Play, experiment with this beer. Pair it with different foods and see what happens. The brewers themselves suggest crispy buffalo frog legs with feta dressing, or maybe fried buratta with basil-arugula pesto. Paired or on its own, this one won't let you down. 

A Belgian witte, redolent of rhubarb and blonde as a Baywatch babe, this 8.1% ABV brew is just as capable of distraction. Goose Island Sofie possesses a desirable tart/sweet balance not only unique with those rhubarb notes, but in eye opening abundance. Sofie is a Belgian style farmhouse saison and, as such, is made with wild yeast strains, but it's aged in white win barrels over a bed of orange peel. The tannins, grapes and oil from the orange peels, intermingled with the yeasts and pilsner/wheat malts are thoughfully arranged in this beer, and it's delicious. Goose Island beers are becoming widely available in our area, and I recommend seeking this one out. 

To everything there is a season. Draw back the lips to bare your teeth and reveal a wild grin. Embrace the feel of life, and let that feel become bellowing sound. Let the inside out. Draw back the curtains of this vibrant life, though, and you'll see the clockwork within. Let it all sink in. We're all just little bits of the universe, looking back at itself. Cheers.

And if you'd like to scratch well below the surface of football as we begin another glorious season, I highly recommend Chris Brown's website,, from whence I got the above diagram of the screen play, and his new book.