Friday Froth: Two For Two

James Gribbon

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night

The wind outdoors stings in little nips - a puppy with needle-like teeth. The light is ruddy and beautiful in the early afternoon, but it arrives flat, and it provides meager heat. Nature, having provided, is exhausted. We'll have to see ourselves through this night.

Did grim darkness inspire the brewers up the highway at Two Roads Brewing Co. to create an inky ale and name it Route Of All Evil? Who is this hellish clown, and why am I suddenly afraid of tricycles? Time for a stiff drink.

"Ales From The Crypt" says the label, and this beer pours almost dead black. The barest hints of red appear at the edges where the bubbling solution allows weak trickles of light to pass through. Fear of the dark begins to fade, though, as you notice a thick, tawny head bubbling up from within this Evil, and there's not much - cold, dark, or otherwise - that can't be overcome through the application of seven-point-five percent alcohol.

The head leaves a sticky, bubbly lacing on the glass, and there's a clean and malty smell with just a suggestion of hops. The first swig is sharp with slightly acerbic, darkly toasty grain. The eyes can play tricks in the dark and tell the mouth to expect a heavy weight, but this beer's surprise is its light mouthfeel. There's no viscosity here, and large spherules of carbonation burst on the tongue. Route Of All Evil is a counterpoint to silken nitro stouts or the caloric feast of many winter ales currently hitting the market. Two Roads simply calls it a "black ale," and leaves the rest up to you. The packaging is the most intimidating aspect of the beer - it proves to be unexpectedly mild on the palate - even the bitterness is just soft music from another room. 

I-95 may be, as was said, no simple highway, but I hear people telling me they plan to brave the trip up to Two Roads more and more frequently. Route Of All Evil (I think that's what I'll call 95 from now on) has been popping up at bottle shops and on tap at craft beer bars around Fairfield County, but the tasting room in Stratford is still the only place I know to buy a growler full of it. I found myself up there some days ago, contemplating the draft-only Two Roads Alessie Ale

This ale was brewed in honor of Bruce Alessie, the long time special projects coordinator for the Town of Stratford  who passed away in January of 2012, and Two Roads will donate a dollar for every pint purchased to the Monsignor McMahon Scholarship Fund at St. Mark's School.

Alessie is a deep brown ale, and there was minimal head on it, but I just had a 4oz. taster glass, so it could have just been the pour. There is a rich caramel maltiness to the nose, and a very smooth mouthfeel. It has a remarkably subtle flavor, overall, and is actually quite refreshing for a brown ale. The malts aren't thick or overly lasting, and you don't feel like you're drinking something heavy. The brewery staff made a point of indicating this was a hoppy brown ale, and the hops do their part well, but they're kind of like those stagehands that wear all black and scurry around out of the spotlights - it's all very behind-the-scenes. If I had to thumbnail sketch this one, I'd say it's like a decidedly upmarket Newcastle. Keep an eye out for it if you make the trip some time soon.

One last note, before we move on: Two Roads Holiday Ale, a bier de garde, was just released this week. Watch for it in bottles and on tap, as well asSixpoint's winter ale, Global Warmer

Some of you may have noticed I started off Froth this week with Robert Hunter lyrics. I thought they worked with the lede, but they also relate the new release from Dogfish Head, American Beauty. Dogfish grand poobah Sam Calagione put word out to the craft brew faithful that he would be making a beer inspired by the Dead, and asked for suggestions regarding its ingredients. One and a half thousand responses later, the clear winner was hash oil! No, I'm kidding - of course it was granola. I recently picked up a 750mL bottle.

Dogfish calls this one an Imperial Pale Ale, and it pours crystal clear with a fluffy, white head. There are some hops on the nose, but they're not too powerful, and there's a little malt to the aroma. The brewers mention a "sweet and toasty" profile they were going for, and there is a mild bitterness as the first flavor your tongue signals, as well as a bit of bitter aftertaste, but the granola sweetness is the centerpiece. 

It's an interesting sensation, because it's a completely different address from the rich nutrient bath of sweetness in a heavily malted ale, or the gooey candy of certain abbey brews. American Beauty's profile is honeyed, more akin to what is found in certain examples of naturally sweetened iced tea. The hops are slightly astringent, and do their part to make this beer a bit less sacchariferous, but it's not quite enough to balance things out. Dogfish suggests pairing this brew with Thai food, jambalaya or Belgian frites, and I tend to agree that it'd make a better accompaniment than soloist.

See you all on down that golden road. 

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again