Friday Froth: Winter Update

James Gribbon

"You shouldn't be scared of spiders," I remember my mother telling me. "You're much bigger than they are." At the time this line of reasoning seemed like neither a straight line, nor particularly reasonable, but I had no adequate retort at eight years old. Spiders were little, misshapen beasts from hell's own imagination then, and they remain so now. Doubly so, since now I know about things like the Brown Recluse, but that's not important. A spider I can hit with a magazine before turning on my heel and shrieking away. I am millions of times larger than a cold virus, and that hasn't stopped it from kicking my ass. So take that, 1987 Mom. All this is to say I haven't been drinking a lot of beer lately, but here are a few tidbits from the scattershot days in which I've been both awake and able to breathe over the past month.

Sixpoint in Brooklyn literally turns out (at least one) new beer every month. See their single-hopped Spice of Life series for just one example. In that vein, I finally had the Pacifica version which came out in November, and can still be found on tap here and there. It's a hazy, golden amber brew with a medium head, and I was surprised at how little aroma it had (I had to confirm with someone whose sense of smell hadn't been ravaged in recent days). There's just the barest hint of citrus to the nose, and it's sweet, like an orange. I was surprised again when I drank it down. It's quite substantial, despite its relatively low, 6% ABV, and it possesses a dry bitterness with a bit of a mossy funk. It's interesting, and I'd give it a solid B. 

Anyway, the main bit of news is that Sixpoint has just released a brand new brew they call 3Beans. The official announcement just came yesterday, in fact. The name comes from the Cacao beans from Mast Brothers Chocolate, the coffee beans from Stumptown Coffee, and, finally, Romano beans. These last are added the way brewers in far northern climes, with their short growing seasons (and thus short supplies of grain), have been doing for centuries to bulk up the mash - so it's actually a bit of an ancient technique. 

3Beans is a decidedly winter beer: it's a deep, dark ruby, with an off-color head and a hefty 10% ABV. There is a big, steamy essence of mocha wafting up from the pint as you hold it beneath your nose. The taste is less chocolate and more cocoa, with that silky coffee behind it, providing notes of bitterness to spike the deep roundness of the high protein beer's body. Deep and complex, this beer's like being on the good side of a moody friend: it pays to take it slow and let it reveal itself in its own time. Wait for it to warm up to you, and you'll start to get licorice notes in the aroma, and sense slight tannins from its being aged on American oak chips - all before you swallow and a more chocolatey aftertaste lingers. This is special stuff. It will be available in cans and on tap all around. Sixpoint has pretty good distribution in CT these days. 

In other news, the next batch of New England Brewing's fantastic new IPA, Fuzzy Baby Ducks, will apparently be delayed, but keep an eye out for it at your favorite brew pub (especially if you live closer to NEB HQ in Woodbridge), because it's out-goddamn-standing. 

McNeill's Brewing in my old hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont has released an old ale they call Old Ringworm. I had some thoughts on the matter over on Twitter, if you care to have a look at my brain's drip-pan.

The last is the latest in Stone Brewing's marvelous Vertical Epic series, in which they release a limited batch of original ultra-premium beer every year on that year's repetitive date: August 8, 2008 (8/8/08), September 9, '09, 10/10/10, etc. The beers are crafted in such a manner to be suitable for extended cellaring so consumers may choose when to enjoy these special brews and experience the changes which come with bottle conditioning. There is no 13th month, so this release will be the final one of the series. Liquor stores decently stocked with craft beers will have it, and most people will walk by without knowing what they're seeing. You know better than that, though, don't you? Go out and buy a few bottles, now.

Find out what Stone says here, including some fantastic pairing notes, but I had 12-12-12 fresh from the tap within a month of its release, and here's what I thought...
The beer is completely black, not deep brown or red, with a thick, sticky, khaki head. There is a strong aroma of coffee, raisins, and licorice. Coffee and nutmeg flavors jump right out upon the first sip, and holy hell, is this some beautiful beer. The nutmeg and the smoothness of the mouth feel conspire to make it almost eggnog-ish before a very dry finish draws your attention - an astringency I'd guess is an artifact of the malt roasting process. It has that earthy, bristly dryness; the sweet, spicy complexity of flavor and aroma; the gentle smoothness of palate, and the fire which comes with a vibrant 9% ABV. It pains me to think of a finale to the Vertical Epic series, but there is such skill, such magic in this beer... never has bittersweet been more apropos.