Friday Froth: Ripple

James Gribbon

Imagine yourself as the stone. Years of erosion - wind, sand, and tumbling through the water over other rocks - have erased your crags. Once an infinitesimal part within the slowly creeping monolith whole of the sea floor, you've become a matte-smooth egg, now just a few grams in mass, warm and dry in the sun. You are lifted, hefted easily by a child whose other hand is held by an adult. You arc through the air with the throw - in sunlight and shadow as you tumble - to land with a small splash on a wavelet. Ripples spread outward and above you as you flutter down to join the sea floor once again. 

You are the ripple, moving outwards. Behind you nest concentric rings, flowing towards but never catching you as your diameter grows. They wane, but you travel without drag, somehow separate from everyday space, and unslowing. Still just a small ring, but you're growing, and sweep up a canal in Stamford, Connecticut. Your diameter grows, and sweeps over a writer, contemplating a Half Full Rye IPA

It's the color a Grade A maple syrup, he thinks. And the head: what color is that? Like dry beach sand. Well, there's certainly no missing the hops in the nose of this pint (as he begins to tip it back and drink) and it's smooth for a rye, but a thick bitterness comes on strong. The rye malt builds zest as he gets deeper into the pint, feeling big bubbles of carbonation fizz and pop on his tongue as he watches the beer recede down the glass, to be replaced by sticky rings of lace. Smooth for the style, yes, but definitely substantial. He wonders what it would be like when paired with something thick and spicy, like Thai curry, or heavy, like a winter shepherd's pie. He resolves to find out, and a small wave of warmth passes over him, probably from the 7%abv, he thinks. 

The ripple-ring, its diameter now stretching across hundreds of miles, passes over Hartford as it grows. Someone has dropped a notebook on the street, and you brush it open as you pass, reading as you go. "City Steam Blonde On Blonde" is underlined. Continues: "Very hoppy pale ale, or very pale hoppy ale? It is very pale, with an SRM maybe .1 away from Bud, I'd say. Thin head, but those hops rise from it like steam off a bowl of phở. These aromatic American Zythos and Cascade hops must have playing a big part in tempting judges at the 2012 Great American Beer Fest to give this one the blue ribbon for best pale ale. The Zythos are especially bountiful in the nose, having a sweet, almost tangerine-y aroma. Or maybe they especially like the German bittering hops (Opal? Hellertau?). It's a City Steam, so the characteristic smoothness is there in this blonde, which brewmaster Ron Page made in its earliest form at the old New England Brewing Co., then in Norwalk, based on old-timers' tales of the old style of stock ales. The malts are like silk sheets, and there's a bit of kink added by the pungent bitterness and alluring, hoppy perfume. The label on the bottle says 'Building Beautiful Beers.'

"Yup," says the final word on the page, before the notebook blows closed, and the ripple continues circling the Earth.

Your radius alone is now enormous, with a reach extending from America's east coast to Esen, Belgium, and over Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers. Beer from this tiny brewery has traveled in the other direction, and found its way almost to your point of origin in Norwalk, thanks to B. United. The writer now sits at The Ginger Man, getting his first look at their Arabier. He types notes into this phone, since he can't seem to find his damn notebook anywhere... 

Arabier is a Belgian pale ale, honey colored, with a nearly imperceptible scent, and thick, rocky head which is busily melting down. It leaves thousands of tiny white circles - remnants of spherical bubbles - inside the glass. A crisp bitterness is the first taste to come through, even though this is a low IBU brew, smoothed over with rich caramel-y malts, and finishing with the spicy florals of Belgian yeast. It's very easy-drinking for a somewhat complex pale ale, and incredibly approachable, even for someone who may be trying the style for the first time. It's up to the discretion of those in the know if the resultant esteem is worth sampling such a novice with a beer going for $10+/glass. The scarcity of this commodity alone, though, is worth it: even if it wasn't a singularly exceptional Belgian ale. 

The ripple races across the globe, folding over itself again and again. There's so much to see down there; so many good things.