For no serious reason I’ve been drinking some beer lately. I don’t believe I’m developing a problem since I still rarely have more than one and then only a couple of times a week. But, this is a change. For most of my recent years I’d buy a six-pack and it would end up being used for cooking and not a beverage. I would simply forget I had the stuff and it would go flat and be good for nothing other than stewing some meat or adding to a batch of chili.
Beer is becoming a bit like wine. The web is filled with sites delving into the fine points of what I call beer snobbery. Lengthy discussions about the ASTMO of a particular carbonated adult beverage. ASTMO represents the things to consider when judging a beer; appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel, and overall satisfaction. I don’t have a lot to say about ASTMO. If a beer looks inviting, doesn’t smell like shrimp urine, has a crisp clean flavor, feels bubbly to the tongue, and leaves you smiling it has enough ASTMO for me.
That being said, however, there are lots of beers I don’t really care for. While I don’t speak much ASTMO I am somewhat of a beer snob. Basically I don’t like the run of the mill American lagers, especially all the light beers. I think I’d rather drink a bottle of shrimp urine than a bottle of Bud Light.
These have been good times for a beer drinker. In the last couple of decades we’ve witnessed an explosion of imported brands and seen some wonderful American crafted small batch brews. In the past several months I’ve made it a hobby to try as many different beers as I can. Scotland’s Belhaven Scottish ale is my measuring stick. I was introduced to it several years ago and it quickly became my favorite. At the other end of the stick may reside Michelob’s Ultra Light which is akin to squid seepage.
Some of the brews that have met my lowly ATSMO standards include Smithwick’s Irish ale and Old Speckled Hen English ale. I think at heart I’m an ale drinker and nobody does it better than those brewers who occupy the British Isles.
Another favorite is one of the world’s most famous and favorite brews, Guinness Stout. Stout isn’t really stout. It is thin enough to float on top of an ale but packs lots of flavor including a trace of chocolate. Lots of brewers are now making a stout but I think Guinness is the only one I have had. Another thing I like about Guinness is their use of nitrogen to make bubbles rather than Co2. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller and hold their head longer and feel creamier.
If you’re interested in non-alcoholic brews Guinness makes one of the best, Kaliper. Other good ones include Buckley, Clausthaler, Beck’s NA, and St. Pauli. Buckley is Dutch while the latter three are German.
Some lagers I’ve liked are Kalik Gold (Bahamas), Red Stripe (Jamaica), Pacifico (Mexico), Peroni (Italy), and from America the red lagers from Yuengling and Hudepohl get my vote. Yuengling also makes a wonderful Black& Tan that’s worth your attention.
I just read that Samuel Adams and Yuengling are now tied as America’s largest domestically owned brewers. This follows the sale of Anheuser-Busch and Miller to foreign owners. Adams brews a big variety of styles and I’ve recently tried several. Unfortunately they’ve left me wanting. Their lager and ale are okay but so many of Sam’s brews taste like spices and flower buds. Beer, in my book, isn’t supposed to taste like blackberries and it’s also not supposed to have a damned slice of lime or orange stuffed in the bottle neck. Adams makes a Latitude 38 IPA that reeks of raspberries. I’d suggest one save their money and just go chew on a wild raspberry root along someone’s fence row. I really don’t care what people want to flavor their drinks with or shove down the opening of a long-neck bottle. Just don’t call it beer, please.
One of the SA brews I tried was something called Coastal Wheat. The ASMOT folks used words like honey, citrus, bananas, and lemon when describing this brew. What I experienced was more akin to drinking an antiseptic. Just a few sips into it I became convinced I was drinking a cough remedy. The closest fruit should get to beer is the shade a cherry tree provides while relaxing under it with a cool pint of British ale.
I’ll end this on a high note and mention the one American creation that really stoked my fire, Maduro Brown Ale by Cigar City Brewing of Tampa, FL. Just before I left to come home from a fishing trip I came across a six-pack but didn’t try any until I got home. If I’d known how good it was going to be I’d brought home a case. In formal ASTMO terminology this lovely, unassuming, aromatic gem of a brew provided subtle hints of the finest chocolate with a creaminess and body that engaged the teeth leaving one to believe one were chewing rather than drinking a beverage. Overall it was satisfying to the point of producing tears to the eyes when one considered the glass was soon to be empty. Now, is that some ASTMO speak or just a lot of beer bull?