Friday Froth: W(here)TF You Been?

James Gribbon

As I crash back through the figurative doorway of this site, dusty from the road, clutching a crumpled and beer-stained notebook and shaking the spiders from my clothing, I can only hope that this column's absence has made your hearts all the fonder. Although when I tried that line on a female acquaintance of mine some years ago she quipped that the sentence was not complete, and should have ended with "of someone else." Live and learn. Our triumphs and tragedies make us who we are, and sometimes intermingle. Such is the case with Lagunitas Brewing Company, and their Wilco Tango Foxtrot "Jobless Recovery Ale."

A while back I spoke with a Lagunitas representative, and he gave me the story of this beer. You see, this is not at all what they meant to brew. There was some manner of mix up between the drawing board, or sketch pad, or Trapper Keeper or whatever they use over there for prospective recipes, to the actual tuns, tanks and barrels. When the brewers in Petaluma tried their new beer, their verbal reactions were more elegantly summed up by the acronym "WTF," and the beer had its name. Deep amber, nigh unto brown, WTF has a spicy, piney hop aroma. Those hops are present in the taste, but the overall impression is of a much more airy and neutral flavor - surprisingly subdued. Or maybe I'm just hops-jaded. That's probably it. The hop profile in this beer would probably dislocate a Coors Light-drinker's jaw, but it's really on the level of a mild English style IPA. At any rate, it was good enough to underline the recipe in said He-Man Trapper Keeper with a Lamborghini sticker on the front, and has been bottled for more than one year. We should all make such mistakes.

I've been seeing more and more spring and summer ales out now that it's gotten legitimately hot outside, and we can all go from hoping for spring to wishing our days felt less like we were spending them in Goa. Beer, as ever, to the rescue. The Shipyard Brewery produces their imaginatively named Summer Ale for just these kinds of days, and it is a similarly mentally non-taxing yellow in color. Thinking uses energy which burns power which creates heat and pickles the brain, and that's the job of the alcohol, dammit. It's best to remove your mind from the equation sometimes, something like the characters in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse had their minds wiped after missions so they could become anyone upon waking for their next one. This Summer Ale is that exactly: it could be just about any beer. It is yellow, it is neutral and it is fizzy and alcoholic. Just the thing to drink with lawbstah. I find crustaceans to be excellent drinking partners, up there with bivalves and rugby players. 

Another vernal beer from lobster country comes to us from Smuttynose in the form of their Summer Weizen. Amber gold, with a thick head (a trait it shared in common with ruggers), this is a surprisingly dry hefeweizen. There is none of the sweetness normally associated with wheats, and it actually possesses a slight bitterness from the mild European hops which are used. It might go well with brie and toast, as the richness would balance out the dryness of the beer. It's another interesting beer from Smuttynose, and - besides giving me the opportunity to type that name and giggle to myself - it is worth a try. 

We're going to continue to keep it northeast local now and talk about a spring beer I particularly like: Long Trail Pollenator. I've generally found beers from this Vermont brewer to be "fine" in the way you'd use that word to describe a movie that was good enough to not make you pissed you had just paid over ten dollars to watch it. This one is not that. Pouring a pleasing amber gold with a full head and a slightly bready aroma, the liquid contained in a bottle of Pollenator is as eye-catching as the bear riding a bee on its label. This beer is ever so slightly sweet, but with a dry character for good warm weather balance, and a dash of Willemette hops to give it a slight edge. A few years back I had the good fortune to be given a copy of MGMT's first album about a week before its official release. The song structures and styles, the harmonies, they all got right down to the core of me. I knew immediately that "Electric Feel" was going to be my jam that summer. I had that same thought in my head about halfway through my first ever bottle of Pollenator. My girlfriend detests beer, and she went back for thirds when I asked her to taste it. Some things are just right, and at the right time. Pollenator is that.

So: go forth, enjoy your summer, and should you leave the United States, never attempt to smuggle a toucan back in upon your return. Seriously, you guys.