Friday Froth: Bringin' A Mix

James Gribbon

The Monday after Thanksgiving is one of the cruelest of the year. A country isn't really worthy of the name until it has a National Day Of Feasting, (and a beer and an airline, according to Frank Zappa) but I feel like a good feast, especially a winter-ish one, could really do with a National Week Of Hibernation subsequently. But we all have our roles to play in the national ant colony, and so we waddled back to our jobs, office chairs protesting perhaps more loudly than we ourselves did at the morning's alarm. My role at Thanksgiving, however, was considerably more enjoyable: Bringer Of The Beer. Here's how that went.

Craft brews have officially tipped in the Malcolm Gladwell sense. Most bars and restaurants now feature at least one tap dedicated to interesting beers, and brew-focused establishments seem to be springing up everywhere, to the delight of the hop head. Some people, though, feel about hoppy and malty brews roughly the same way Frankenstein's monster felt about fire. They swat at your offering of Duvel and turn, stiff-legged, to crash through the nearest drywall in search of the comforting familiarity of something easily purchasable at places selling beef jerky and gasoline. The instinctual reaction may be to say "No, no - beer gooood," but remember something Tony Bourdain once said "The worst thing a chef can do is serve people food they don't want to eat."

Dogs will gnaw my bones before I show up with a beer brewed from rice, though, so I brought Cisco Whale's Tale. This is a pale ale made in Nantucket, not from a great variety of ingredients, but from a great amount of those few ingredients. It is rich and flavorful, but not so much of either to scare away drinkers of the "football ad" beers. It's of high enough quality that opening a pop top will not infrequently lead to a head forming, and staying, on top of the can. I brought the most of this one, and they dug it. See? Fire gooooood.

As far as I can tell, the only downside of craft beer explosion is that we are now spoiled for choice. I had my easy drinking choice... what now? Do I get something dark now? A porter or a stout? Do I go exotic and get one of Dogfish Head's weirdass creations or a Belgian strong ale? Am I going to need an ox cart to bring all this beer to my parents' house? I decided to simplify and get a variety pack from Red Hook. The appeal of the variety pack is precisely the same as buying a SPDR: instant diversification. The pack contained the tasty Pilner, the mild but flavorful Copper Hook, the proto-IPA ESB (Extra Special Bitter), and Long Hammer IPA. I could introduce people to new beers while supplementing my supply of easy-drinking offerings and it wouldn't require hiring a sherpa to bring it all inside.

I feel weird and slightly unAmerican writing this, but I've grown to understand the appeal of beer that has warmed a little as it's been sitting on a bartop or in your hand. Screw that for now, though: Long Hammer is FANTASTIC icy cold. The hops possess a standard scent, but have a slight lemony flavor which, coupled with the crisp malts, make for a super refreshing beer that drew a lip-smacking "Ahhh" out of us with each draught as my cousins and I stood out on in the thin sunlight and chill air of the back deck.

Joy can be found in introducing someone to a new food or drink, anyone who has ever seen one of those "baby's first lemon" vidoes on YouTube know that, but handing someone an dollar bottle of beer and then finding it hidden in a corner three hours later, 7/8s full and flat, is worse than getting a mosquito bite on your forehead. Sometimes its better to keep a special reserve for the In Crowd. My head stash this year consisted of a four pack of Brewdog Hardcore IPA.

This special IPA from north of Hadrian's Wall is a deep, ruddy amber color, and hazy with yeast. Its Maris Otter, Caramalt and Crystal malts are funktified with Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe hops twice: one wet for taste and once dry for aroma. Hardcore is possibly oversold with regard to knockout hop profile in flavor, but it does back up the boast of rich, rewarding taste with just the smallest hint of dryness on the back end. There are lots of ingredients in this one, and the slightly caramel malt taste makes me want to shake the brewer's hand. Other people think so too, because Hardcore IPA won gold at the World Beer Cup (Best Imperial IPA) in 2010. It's an imperial beer in every sense, and one of the hoppiest beers produced in the UK. A pleasant curiosity of this beer: I noticed the sites where the bubbles generated left little islands of froth in their place after the glass was drained.

Keep an eye out for the beers above: they make society's harsh strictures against human hibernation MUCH more bearable.