This is a beer town. I say that despite the opening of the Troy wine bar and their fantastic wine list. But there are many more places to drink great beer. I just wrote about The Ruck and their killer wings on AOA. And I have always loved Mahars even though I wish they had more seating. But the list of great beer halls is much longer than that of wine bars.
Not too long ago I was at The City Beer Hall with Mrs. Fussy and we created two different beer flights. Each was composed of four five-ounce pours from their beer lines. The first was a selection of IPAs. The second was a more wintery mix of brews.
For the curious, the IPAs included Crossroads Outrage, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada Floral, and Dogfish Head 60-minute. The wintery mix was made up of Harpoon Winter Warmer, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Firestone DBA, and Southern Tier 2X Christmas.
One of the great things about these flights in particular is that they were only $6 a piece. It’s a steal. But the other great thing about flights in general is that a well selected grouping can really help you get a better understanding of not just a style, but also your own taste.
After drinking eight beers, what did I learn?
First I learned that the Crossroads Outrage was my favorite among the IPAs and the Firestone DBA went amazingly well with the braised short rib shepherd’s pie. I also became reacquainted with the phenomenon of how the order of a tasting can affect the results.
Mrs. Fussy and I were stymied about the provenance of the Dogfish Head 60-minute. It’s a beer we’re both familiar with, but that night it tasted different. Not bad. Just not like itself. We had seriously contemplated that we were given the wrong beer. After our second flight of wintery beers, we ordered one last half pint of the Dogfish Head 60.
This tasted like the beer we knew.
What had happened was that the bitterness from all of the other IPAs transformed the Dogfish Head into something else. Its own bitterness was diminished, and as a result it wasn’t quite as good.
It’s an important lesson to remember when tasting anything. Your tastebuds can play tricks on you. That’s the story of The Pepsi Challenge.
But I also learned that while I love drinking certain beers in winter, I’m not a big fan of winter beers. Christmas beers and pumpkin beers have their fans. But I really don’t go for the sweet spice profile of these styles.
For me, winter calls not for warming spice, but for something thick and hearty. Give me a porter or a stout. Something that’s dark and heavy, deeply roasted and maybe even a bit smokey. A beer you can sit by the fire and contemplate. A beer that would be as out of place on a hot summer day as pants on a trout.
I don’t know why IPAs feel more fall-like. My favorite have a bit of grapefruit brightness to them. And grapefruit is seasonally appropriate to winter. Maybe it’s that their more golden color is redolent of the changing leaves, while the porters and stouts conjure up the long dark nights of winter.
The exciting thing is that there are so many places to explore more of these beers in the area. The killer part is that we have no good late night public transportation here and almost everything is a drive. Still, instead of going out and only having one beer, the City Beer Hall found a way for me to split two flights. That means I could effectively sample everything I wanted to try on their tap line and still be able to drive home safely.
That’s something special. This place is great, and their food is pretty freakin’ delicious too. But unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, that last part (along with praises for their beer brunch) is all old news.