Friday Froth: Draft Day Gems

James Gribbon

You never know where you might find your next exiting pint, the next star in your personal rotation. You will see some familiar, trusted brands while scanning the shelves during a trip to the adult candy store, but the familiar can become the routine, and routine can become stagnant - a word we try to avoid in the pursuance of Life Well-Lived. Our taste buds are continually regenerating, so let's go ahead and give those new recruits a chance to shine. The NFL draft started last night and continues today and tomorrow, so I thought we'd choose a few draft picks of our own this week. Enough with the set up: the first pick in the inaugural CTBites Beer Draft 2012 is: Magic Hat Encore.

Everyone has known for ages that the Colts were going to pick Andrew Luck to be their next franchise quarterback. The next new thing is already slightly old news, so I thought the closest analog would be this IPA On Tour, which can only be found in remaining twelve packs of Magic Hat's winter sampler. I've seen plenty of these around, though, as I've been looking (without success) for the spring samplers, and Magic Hat beers are fairly ubiquitous in our area. They even provide a recipe for using this valuable elixir to create Vermont cheese puffs. You may want to store that one away for your first Monday Night Football party when this interminable off-season finally ends. 
The fresh and bitter hop aroma of Magic Hat Encore translates faithfully to the flavor. Good IPA's should constitute a pick-me-up; not in the way that coffee does, akin to amperage slowly being turned up, but like waking up from a nap and remembering you're on vacation in a wonderful new place. It's interesting that a natural somnolent like hops can be so refreshing. There are even similarities in the meanings of "refresh"and "encore," but I hardly think our friends up in Vermont were thinking that when they made this mashup of an American wheat ale and an IPA. Dry-hopping with Simcoe and Amarillo hops on top of the wheat, barley and Apollo hop base gives this beer a rich flavor with a citrusy disposition. Consensus number one picks are rare in any year, so don't whiff on your chance at greatness: snap this one up with a quickness before someone else gets there first.

The number two pick in the Draft Draft goes out to Brooklyn Summer Ale. This is more of the Trent Richardson of our draft, as it is from a source (Brooklyn Brewing/'Bama) of high-value, reliable commodities. Brooklyn Lager (Mark Ingram) and Pilsner (Julio Jones) are both great performers, so this Summer Ale seems like a safe bet. 

The golden color with a generous head certainly passes the ever important eyeball test, and we move onto the skills competition, where a sweet, bakery-like aroma of English barley overlain with the scent of dry German Perle hops and more citrusy, American hop varieties continue to impress. Players who just go out there and do their jobs day in and day out in the NFL are called "lunchpail guys," and this flavorful but accessible beer is your guy for picking up short yardage as an after-work cold one, or picking up assignments and grinding out a long drive for a day-long cookout or day at the beach. Quality ingredients give this brew a luscious flavor, and brewmaster Garrett Oliver at Brooklyn has sought to recreate the turn of the century English-style light dinner ales in making it. The result is a beer with interesting malts and with just enough hops to keep it crisp and fresh tasting, all without being a weighty or filling beer. This is a solid but nimble addition to the team.

These Lunchpail Guys, add something more to a team though, because coaches and general managers don't need to spend too much time thinking about them. Their dependability frees up time and headspace for projects who may take a little more work, such as players who may not be starters until the future or, possibly, the occasional crazypants phenom who shows flashes of sublime brilliance, but could just as easily turn into an unpleasant and costly bust. There on the shelf, there for the taking, is a 750mL bottle of Dogfish Head Namaste. It's from Dogfish, so you know it's at least from a name-brand school - none of this Middle Tennessee State iffyness - but still, you've been burned by some eccentric picks before, and you're not sure if a $12 beer the size of a wine bottle is the right call. Especially with, what this: coriander, orange and lemongrass? You survey your holdings and remember: draft classes are about investing in the future. You have some safe picks already, diversity is a good thing, and scared money don't make none, son. You abandon caution and make your pick.

So what do you have with this risky new addition? A cloudy amber fills the goblet, with wide gauge bubbles in a lacy foam on top. That scent... it's flowery with a bit of pepper. The first thorny tendrils of despair reach out for your worried mind - this isn't Lunchpail Meat And Potatoes at all! Why have you forsaken me, oh Lor-BUT WAIT! Potatoes... that's not it at all... this isn't spuds 'n' sour cream... this is frites. Ladies and gentlemen: we have a Belgian! This witbier turns out to be a tightrope walkin', one hand grabbin' freak of grace an refinement. Come to find out Namaste has a good side to go with all that upside, and is generously helping out friends in need, with a portion of all those dollars you spend on it going to help 3 Fonteinen brewery in Belgium, which took a devastating loss in 2009 when 100,000 bottles of their beer was ruined do to a broken thermostat. 

You've done it: you've made some smart, conservative picks, and you've taken a chance that payed dividends. You're stocked and ready to play - now get out there and show me something!