Saturday, January 18, 2014

Beer snob

To quote Elmer Fudd, "I've twied and I've twied." I simply don't like the bitterness of beer. Lately I do find that beer smells delicious, however. A friend spilled all hers when a foul tip zinged her at a minor league baseball game, startling her and sending her Bud Light flying. The man in the next seat actually caught the ball, but Friend #2 visiting from California scolded him to give it up. "Dude! She spilled her beer for it!" And the nice man sheepishly handed it over. How I admire nervy women -- sometimes.

Then a few days later, the nice Miller truck driver inadvertently cracked open a 22-ounce Icehouse, startling him and sending its contents splashing all over the receiving dock floor and his shoes. It, too, smelled heavenly. Perhaps these are both olfactory signs from God that I ought to try beer again.

But I do and I do, and I never can learn to like the bitterness. While sampling and taking notes a few months ago, on beers that I had specifically chosen in the hope that they would prove as dark or as sweet (or both) as the great one I like, I devised my own beer bitterness scale -- thus proving what property in the mug is most important to me -- ranging from 0 (probably no hop plant was grown in the same country where the beer was made) to 5 (what we are drinking here are fermented hops). My opinions follow. I modeled them in the style of much more experienced tasters who speak of how a beer pours, its color, its coffee and chocolate aromas, and of the laciness and endurance of the head. I twy.

Hobgoblin Dark English ale

brown-sugary, full bodied, light golden red. 
bitterness: 3 

Kostritzer Schwarzbier black lager 

black color, brown head 
aroma like burned corn tortilla 
thin body -- coffee
bitterness: 2 

(they lack the refreshing sourness of Duchesse) 

Ah, la Duchesse. My dear things know what I feel for the Duchesse.

St. Peter's Cream Stout

creamy, initially sweet mouthfeel -- toasted nuts and very black coffee 
mahogany brown color, brown sugar head 
bitterness: 2.5

Sand Creek hard lemonade 

pale buttery blonde -- pale beige head 
lemony aroma 
very good, very sweet 
not much different than if you had put some gin in a carbonated lemonade -- how is it beer? 
bitterness: 0

Then there is this. After all the above disappointments, I closed my notebook, waited a while, and then went shopping for something akin to the Duchesse. I found one.

Monk's Café Flemish Sour Ale

Dear things, with this we return to the most delicious and perfect of brews, the Flemish red or Flemish sour ale. Duchesse de Bourgogne is one of them, and now Monk's Café, and I must collect more. It is the only style I like and I have therefore decided simply to accept the fact that I must be a beer snob. 

How can one describe its enchanting scents and flavors?  

Cola and tea and dark warm fruits
and fizz 
and that delightsome sourness -- not lemony, not vinegary, not green or unripe. 
Bitterness: the merest shade: 0.5. One wants no more. 

And, what do you think? -- a few more days passed, and I had a chance to try a Corona! Not bad. Of course it does not dwell in the same universe with the great ones, and it lacked the weirdly heavenly smell even of those baseball park and receiving dock spills, but it tasted agreeably and inoffensively like water. Perfect, if you have run out of iced tea on a hot summer day and want something cool to drink with your guacamole and chips. Besides water. 

More on Monk's Cafe, the beer, here. 

More on Monk's Cafe, the Philadelphia "Belgian beer emporium and restaurant," here.

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