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Beer Season

May 15, 2011

Don’t think for a moment that I don’t love good beer (you know, just because I barely write about the stuff). There are some wine people who only drink wine, and some beer people who only drink beer. I think that’s madness.

Why close yourself off to great taste sensations?

That was meant to be a rhetorical question, but I actually have an answer to that. You close yourself off to some taste sensations because absence makes the heart grow fonder. Too much of a good thing ultimately leads to fatigue. And it’s the saddest thing in the world when something amazing becomes commonplace, and ceases to be special.

These days things like strawberries are available at the supermarket twelve months a year. The fact that winter strawberries barely resemble the best local ones at the height of the season helps many people resist the urge to eat them in December. Committing yourself to eating strawberries only in the summer ensures that when they arrive, they will be celebrated and cherished.

Beer is a bit different, because many seasonal styles do not deteriorate when they are “out of season.” But still I support the notion of using the climate to help choose what to drink.

I mention this because recently I went out to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the FUSSYlittleBLOG, and I enjoyed a lovely spring day with some delicious beers on the back deck of a local tavern. However, I was drinking way out of season. And someone asked exactly what that meant, when it came to beer.

So I thought I’d expand on the topic a bit.

Backing up, the only reason anyone should go to Sutter’s Mill and Mining is to take advantage of their large back deck. It’s a shaded and comfortable place to enjoy a beer in the fresh air. They even have beer battered steak fries, which aren’t quite as battered and disgusting as they sound. Actually, they are the opposite.

They also have a lot of mediocre beers. But there are a few special ones on the menu, and I chose my beers based on their sheer deliciousness, so this is what I got (in order):

–       Lake Placid Brewery Ubu Ale
–       Ommegang Rare Vos
–       Dogfish Head Chicory Stout

The one beer that was clearly out of place was the stout. A dark heavy beer brewed with licorice and coffee screams fall/winter. It’s during the colder months that I find spicier, heavier things to be appealing. And that’s this stout.

However, in this case, I was going to be going for coffee after my beers, and I thought this would be a great transition. Indeed it was. But that’s beyond the point.

Summertime quaffs are easy. I want beers that are light and refreshing. After a hot and sweaty bout of lawn mowing it’s nice to cool down with one of the refreshing piss beers of upstate New York, but I’ll take a can of anything cold. When it comes to drinking something that actually tastes good, I’ll look to lighter bodied pilsners and bright refreshing wheat beers (with no fruit, please).

And as I mentioned, winter is when I want my creamy pints of Guinness and rich dark porters. It’s also always fun to enjoy the spiced winter beers that come out around Christmastime. These seasonal beers are always labeled as such.

If I were into more gimmicky beers, I might be inclined to reach for a pumpkin ale come fall. If we were looking at the wider world of brewed beverages beyond beer, there would be a strong case to be made for hard sparkling cider, especially here in apple country. But instead of drawing on seasonal produce for my October beer inspiration, I’m drawn by the palate of the season.

Those burnt oranges and browns make me thirst for darker ales of complexity and depth. Although I know that the beer of choice in Oktoberfest is a pale Märzen, and I’m not going to argue that all of those Germans are wrong. Should I find myself in a beer tent during the festival, that’s what I would drink too. I’m a sucker for tradition.

Spring is a bit trickier. I really want something that wakes up the palate from its winter doldrums, but isn’t quite as dark as the fall beers. Something like the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would really hit the spot. In fact, F. Paul Pacult calls the nose, “Delightfully hoppy/floral spring-garden fresh.”

God, I love that guy.

Really, I just don’t drink enough good beer. Nor do I drink enough good wine or cocktails. The answer is that I should simply be drinking more. And one day, when I’m rich enough to have my own driver, I will. But until then, my forward progress will continue, slowly but surely as I explore the great regional breweries of New York and the Northeast.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Esposito permalink
    May 15, 2011 3:06 pm

    Totally agree. Spring means to me that for the most part the stouts, porters, strong ales, go away along with the bourbon collection.

    The only beet that I drink all year long is browns oatmeal stout.

  2. speshulk99 permalink
    May 16, 2011 6:14 am

    I’ll admit, we have have many piss beers upstate, we as a nation revel in them, Coors Light, Bud Light, Miller Lite to anme a few. After toiling on the lawn in the Summer, I would suggest a Lambic brew. a malt beverage made with wild yeast and flavored with cherry, black raspberry or peach, though fruity, doen’t hit you with sweeetness like the Mikes Products. Crack one of these babies open and admire the lawnwork sitting under a shade tree.

    • June 10, 2011 11:35 am

      Not flavored with, but brewed with. They’re added during secondary fermentation. There’s a big difference there. To note the difference, taste a Lindeman kriek and then a Sam Adams cherry lambic. Note the lollipop flavors in the Sam Adams vs the natural tartness of the Lindeman.

      Do be careful with lambics though, as they tend to be much higher in alcohol than the average beer drinker is accustomed to (upwards of 8% vs 4% for their Coors Light). And for a real treat, pick up a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Fort, and make no plans. It’s a champagne-style bottle full of 18+% raspberry beer goodness.

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