Like beer? Like food? No? What are you doing here? Get out. Go back to your breatharian compound. Right: now that they're gone, we can lead off with a bit of news involving both beer and food, as Stone Brewing Co. and The Ginger Man in South Norwalk have announced a beer pairing dinner on Monday, May 12.
The five course meal will be paired with five Stone beers, including a cask conditioned batch of their Go To IPA, Matt's Burning Rosids, Ruination, a 2012-vintage Old Guardian barleywine, and a cellared batch of 12.12.12 Vertical Epic, which I reviewed right here in January of 2013. The dinner will be $75/person, and includes tax and tip. For more info, click right here. On to the reviews...
The last time I slid down the fire pole onto my usual spot at the bar at Ginger Man, I noticed a new beer from Omnipollo on the menu. I quite enjoyed my last encounter with the Swedish brewery, despite waking up covered in reindeer bites and lingonberry jam the next day, so I thought I'd give their Nathalius Imperial IPA a shot. There is an immense hop aroma just as soon as the glass makes its way within reach, like you've just stuffed your head into a bag of Chinooks, which... actually isn't a bad idea.
Nathalius is a cloudy orange color with a thin, bright, white head, and saying its flavor is hop-centric is like saying Kanye West kind of likes himself. The hops, then, are absolutely all-consuming. They are the medium through which the drinker travels, the aether in which your vessel floats. There is a slightly chalky dryness to mark the beer's passage, a trace in the aftertaste, but yeah, other than that: hops. The grain (which includes both rice and corn; the Omnipollo guys say they got the idea from Brian Strumke at Stillwater) seems to exist merely to give color and form to the hop essence.
All that said - I like it. This is possibly the diametric opposite of a session beer: one is sufficient, and two is probably the outer limit, but there is a certain purity of purpose here which I can appreciate. The hops are unalloyed by any semblance or hint of balance; it takes ramrod-straight dedication to look at the wide world of possibilities in modern craft brew and then say "Screw it, I'm making a weaponized, 8% double IPA."
If the preceding description has managed to draw your cheeks back into a personal rictus of Do Not Want, never fear, because I have something for you, too: Hitachino Nest Anbai, from Kiuchi Brewery in Japan. The closest English translation of "anbai" is "salty plum," which is apt, because those are both ingredients in this weizen. The brewers start with a higher alcohol (7%) version of their white ale, and add locally grown, sour, ume plums, and sea salt from the Japanese coast.
It pours a cloudy pumpkin color with a dense, white head, and is possessed of a big, fruity plum nose, with just a hint of funk. There is an immediate shock of sourness as soon as the beer touches the tongue, but it rounds right off into a smooth sweetness with real body I'm tempted to refer to as "bootylicious."
This beer is sour, followed by sweet, just like eating a real plum if the fruit left a swath of tiny bobbles fizzing against your cheeks. It may not be something I'd want to drink several pints of, but I think it's a great replacement for a lighter wine, and would be intensely interesting in a pairing with savory foods.
The person who said there was nothing new under the sun clearly wasn't a craft beer drinker in the 21st century. See you out there.