Friday Froth: Get Some Sun

James Gribbon

Sorry for the delay, all, it took me two weeks to track down any of the new Sixpoint beers south of Fairfield, but they do seem to be propagating through liquor stores and brewpubs. Apollo was the first beer I picked up, since it is Sixpoint's summer seasonal this year, and I am an incurable geek about both space and Greek mythology. I was held helpless in this beer's sway even sitting on the shelf and, having run a few pints through my bloodstream, my slavish dedication hasn't lessened. 

Apollo gives off a brilliant aroma of yeasts and Bavarian wheat. Its color scores a 3.7 on the Standard Reference Method scale (or SRM; in this case straw colored, tending towards pale gold), a unit of measure especially useful when printed on the outside of opaque cans. Its unusual clarity (for a hefeweizen) is a result of the the beer being put through a centrifuge before canning, allowing it to keep the flavor and body, but with fewer solids.

The name Apollo is perfect, because it's like drinking sunlight. The smooth caress of the malted wheat is enhanced by the citrusy zest of the hops and punctured with more acute notes from the cultures inside this living beer, especially the sharp, funky brettanomyces yeast. Talking about individual yeast strains is a little esoteric, but "Brett" is an incredibly distinct style in quantities a little larger than found in Apollo, and anyone who can find Green Flash Rayon Vert (I know they've carried it at Harry's in Fairfield) can experience exactly what I'm talking about. Rayon Vert is a real love it or hate it beer due to gob smacking amount of Brett it contains. 

Apollo is a superb accompaniment to outdoor cooking or just lounging in the slanting rays the evening sun, a delicious recovery drink after a day of toil or a long run, and studies have shown consuming two pints of it allows one to speak fluent Enochian for up to 24 hours afterward. Apollo is a light ale in body, color and ABV alike, tipping the scales at only 5.2%, which means it's perfectly sessionable should one choose to buy more than one four pack, and one should. One definitely should. I gave away half of the cans I bought, seized with the same manic fervor which once caused a friend of mine to press a store bought CD into my hands because "beauty like this needs to be shared." Wide eyed conviction on this level is usually reserved for shaved religious adherents and people who go to political conventions wearing enough flare to make managers at T.G.I. O'Houlichotchky's be like "Woah!" but I'm telling you: Sixpoint Apollo is one of the better summer seasonals I've had. As in "ever." 

Apollo is available at Castle Wine and Spirits in Westport, where you can also (miraculously) still find some bottles of Southern Tier Gemini. I didn't buy all the Gemini this time specifically so I could tell you all to go out and buy them. These are probably the only bottles of Gemini left until this coming November, and that's only if Southern Tier decides to make it again. That's right: I had a Gemini and an Apollo on the same night, which again made my space geek self all giddy.

Green Flash is still new news in these parts - I told you about their West Coast IPA in my last column - and this week we're moving on to another of the San Diego brewer's IPAs: Hop Head Red. The fashionable trend among brewers a little over a year ago was to make everything black: black lagers, black IPAs, etc., but this is the first red IPA I've encountered. Pour this red beer and it builds up a tawny head, giving off a lemony, earthy scent as it melts down to a meringue. The first swig reveals a strong bitterness overlaid with that lemon zest. The malt in this beer evidences a deft touch by the brewer. It is a smooth, robust foundation, well prepared to stand up to the tooth and claw of the hops, but with a bit of a tang from the roasting process which gave this beer its ruddy complexion. 

My advice is to serve Hop Head Red at slightly above fridge temperature as the malts really bloom and gain complexity after it warms a little. The "warm" part may be a little difficult to do despite the summer heat, as this beer will likely disappear from your glass nearly as fast as you can pour it in there. I'm no restaurateur, but I think every craft beer bar in the region would make money with this on tap. Green Flash's bottles, while considerably less interesting than that which they contain, are worthy of study after opening. Notice the Sun logo which adorns not just the cap and label, but in the glass itself on the underside and below the neck. You may notice an unusual heft when holding the bottle in your hand. Many of Green Flash's beers are bottle conditioned, containing live yeast which continues to ferment (and thus pressurize) the beer. One good knock at low barometric pressure, say crossing the Rockies, and thinner glass bottles would explode like a petulant starlet deprived of white candles and cucumber water.

Summer in the northern hemisphere becomes an official season the day after the summer solstice, when our half of the Earth tips closest to the Sun and we have our longest day - typically somewhere around June 21st. After this point the days begin to grow shorter, giving early pagans both joy in the land's current fertility and a creeping sense of dread about the long dark nights to come. They held rites and festivals on this day and built bonfires to scare away evil spirits. They also chose the midnight before as the best time to seek out and harvest a particular specie of plant which, when boiled and drank in tea, seemed to drive away glum feelings. They called it Chase-Devil, but today we call this plant St. John's Wort. Christian monks have always taken a rather dim view of indigenous pagan festivals, and informed the local populace in Britain the midsummer festival of Litha was now to be called St. John's Day. "Wort" as we know, is the unfermented pre-beer liquid, a kind of malted tea. Thus, "St. John's Wort" is midsummer tea.  I just liked that story, but it leads us to a brew very different from anything else in this column so far. 

A Quadrupel is a style of strong ales originated by Belgian Trappist monks with four times the amount of ingredients used to make "small" (i.e. low alcohol) beers. They are dark, they are powerful, and they probably help make a vow of chastity considerably more bearable. New England Brewing Friar's Quad arrived with aromas of coffee and chocolate rising off the snifter like an invisible mist. The syrupy Belgian Kandi sugar used in its manufacture coats the tongue with the first sip and is followed by an undercurrent of coffee-acidity from the heavily toasted malts and a minimal hop bitterness. Hold it to the light, and you'll see what an SRM of about 23 looks like. This is a well balanced beer, very heavy in body, and with a noticeable heat from its 10%+ ABV. It seems like the guys up in Woodbridge may have benchmarked Rochefort 6 for this one, and that is meant as a genuine compliment. Dark beer lovers should keep an eye out for this one as it would make a splendid after dinner drink or nightcap. 

We're a good week past the Solstice at this point, but don't let that stop you from building a fire some night, drinking a potent brew, and reveling in this beautiful season. Sláinte!