STEVE FEST (2007)
For my essay I want to try something different. Instead of just listing 12 beers that I really enjoy, I will list my favorite beer styles and name beers that are representative of that particular style as well as why I appreciate it.
(1) Cask conditioned
Cask conditioned ale is truly one of the joys of the beer connoisseur, when one can actually obtain it. Sublime, complex, with only natural carbonation to avoid getting in the way of the intermingling of malt, hops and yeast, cask conditioned beer is simply beer at its best. I love to sample the cask selection when I’m at Rich O’s or if I happen to stumble into BBC St Matthews on a Thursday evening. I’m usually not disappointed. Some examples I’d like to try in the cask are local brews Elector and Conesmoker, both lovingly created at NABC. Think globally, drink locally is one of the mantras of the publican at Rich O’s, and so let’s pursue that approach.
Described by cognoscenti as nectar of the gods and by the unwashed and unappreciative as liquid bacon, one is either passionate about smoked beer or wrinkles the nose at the mere mention of the stuff. I love smoked beer in its many incarnations, be it smoked porter, marzen, bock, or doppelbock. My favorite two applications would be Rogue Incinerator Doppelbock and Schlenkerla Marzen Rauchbier. In a very close third place I would stake claim to NABC Bonfire of the Valkyries smoked schwartzbier. Yes, it is a house beer but how many pints will be available when Saturnalia is but a pleasant memory?
(3) Wood aged
Funky, rich, and unrepentant, a fine wood aged beer will stand comfortably alongside single malt scotch, a fine blended red wine, or a nice ruby port. A recent sampling taught me to appreciate New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk with its supple, caramel kiss that was almost quaffable save its hefty 11% abv fire. I am also fascinated by the intimacy of beer and liquor, be it port or whisky. Yes, that does cross over into the realm of wood aging, but so be it. My pairings would be 1) J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (Sherry aged) and 2) J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (Lagavulin aged).
Three Floyds’ Alpha Klaus Xmas Porter: What could be better to quaff in any season than robust porter. I know that It’s not traditional with its generous mix of Mexican chocolate and honey, but I simply love the over-the-top, outrageously yummy Alpha Klaus Xmas porter. Nothing screams epicurean, pagan, sun worshipper better than a couple of pints of that stuff. For a consistently good porter that’s available year round I choose BBC Dark Star Porter, always a winner, always satisfying; with a spicy hop finish thrown in for free.
I don’t really count myself as a hophead because not everything I drink has to be 100+ IBUs to be worthy, but I simply love the layering of hops in a well made beer. I love the aroma, the bittering, the different varietals that weave their way into the dance with a solid malt backbone of a well made IPA/APA, as well as a dry hopped finish. Yes, I do love hops so maybe I don’t mind being called “hophead”. It sure beats “fathead” any day. This category is a tough one. Roger said not to pick easy beers but the first beer that comes to mind is Hoptimus; solid, over the top, hoppy goodness. Arrogant Bastard, with its many hoppy variations, would be another choice. I like the Arrogant Bastard ale the best of all of its brands. In the same breath, a solid, well made brew like APA from BBC, Clay & Main location is a 2-3 pint per session beer. I remember last summer sitting in the BBC taproom watching World Cup play while the publican and brewmaster, Dave Pierce poured me several pints of the nectar. That was both a pleasurable and civilized experience that I will cherish.
(5) Trappist Ale (Belgium)
I remember the first time I sipped La Trappe Quadrupel Ale. My heart started pounding, my face got flushed, and I’m sure I was babbling incoherently. And that was only after a few sips. Truly a wonderful beer in every sense of the word, sweet, full, malty, spicy, with hops lingering in the background, what a remarkable beer. My second choice in the Trappist column is Chimay Grande Reserve (blue label). Such a well balanced beer, and something I sip reverently, almost like Communion wine. I don’t know that I’ve ever had it on tap but I would sure like to try. And please serve it in the glass goblet, so cool.
(7) Red (American ale?)
Red beer seems to be an obscure style, but one that I find endearing, perhaps because of its rarity. Rogue Dry Hopped Red and Cumberland Brews Matt’s Red are my favorites in this often overlooked category.
8) Flanders Red Ale
Yes, this style is also red in color but much different than the last category. Rodenbach Grand Cru, a rich, winey tasty beer, my mouth is puckering in anticipation, is my first choice in this rare and savored style. Another beer that I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted from the tap; it is a brew that is meant to be sipped and savored. A tap beer from this style category that I have savored several times is Mestreechs Aajt Flemish Red Ale, an intensely sour drink reminiscent of musky cherries and old wood, it gains in complexity and tartness the longer the publican keeps it on tap.
I think I counted 19 beers in my essay. I could list more styles that I enjoy but believe that the styles and their representatives are sufficient for a beer fest in my honor.