Saturday, November 10, 2007

What was hot and what was not for the Curmudgeon in 2007.

For many years, I’ve steadfastly resisted the temptation to definitively answer frequent questions along the lines of, “So, what’s your favorite beer?”

The same goes for this: “Okay, if you won’t tell me your favorite beer, then what about your favorite style of beer?”

Granted, there’s no reason why newcomers should know the drill, and that’s fine, so if you’re just tuning in, know that any query smacking of “favorite” comes replete with numerous qualifiers, including the time of year, the locale, the food being served, and perhaps even the activity being contemplated – the music, the book, the company.

However, having provided the disclaimer, and now thinking back on a year almost concluded, it strikes me that far more often than not, my beer favorites actually can be loosely grouped by category if I care to take the trouble to record them.

Imperial Stouts
Checking the list of beers being squirreled away for Gravity Head 2008, I noticed that we’re in imminent danger of a baker’s dozen of them being Imperial Stouts. Furthermore, I’ve concluded that this doesn’t bother me in the least. Black, oily, roasted, chocolate tinged, bitter … bring ‘em on, and don’t forget the pickled herring and rugged pumpernickel.

Sour (any sub-style will do, ma’am)
My liver will remember 2007 as the year that Rodenbach Grand Cru returned to Southern Indiana, consistent supplies of Jolly Pumpkin began trickling in on a regular basis, and NABC’s late summer batch of Phoenix Kentucky Komon proved to be the best ever, perhaps owing to the hundred degree temperature in the brewhouse. I can’t get enough of than funky stuff.

Speaking of funk, just last night it was my pleasure to introduce a discerning customer to Cantillon Gueuze for the very first time. His enjoyment so influenced me that I made a quick dash to the lambic rack for a bottle of 3 Fonteinen Schaerbeek Kriek and split it with him just to provide an opportunity to taste the unsweetened fruit essence.

Barring the unforeseen, the evening of Monday, December 10 will be spent in part quaffing Schlenkerla Marzen somewhere within the hallowed halls of the Trum family’s traditional Bamberg pub. Earlier this year, Rich O’s had four Schlenkerla lagers (and Spezial) on tap simultaneously along with NABC Happy Helmut, which used Weyermann smoked malt. NABC ConeSmoker is aging as I write.

Hops, hops, hops
Yes, they’re in short supply, but I suppose we’ll manage. What will you pay for a fix? I’m prepared to go high, not home.

If these represent what’s hot, then what’s not?

I try them again periodically, hoping that the light bulb might someday ignite, but very few (if any) brown ales in the style of Newcastle made their way past me teeth during the past year, and almost as few American-style browns. A notable exception was Dogfish Head’s Indian Brown, but then that’s hardly typical of the style, is it? It reminds me far more of the Colonial-era molasses ales.

Browns, ambers, reds … yes, perhaps serviceable on widely scattered occasions, but otherwise a waste of valuable drinking time for anyone who has progressed beyond intermediate. Life’s just too short. IPA, please.

Outside of a few scorching days in mid-summer, the broad range of wheat ales, whether German, Belgian or American, again utterly failed to excite me. I’ll drink the European ones for the purpose of refreshment when joyfully present on the continent and beercycling, and of course I’d visit the Schneider brewery in Kelheim weekly if permitted, but there was no biking trip this year.

In like fashion, the biggest disappointment of the year to me was Bell’s Batch 8000. Imperial Wit just isn’t where it’s at even if I continue to adore the brewery otherwise.

And I keep forgetting to try Miller Chill … neglecting to visit Louisville’s pre-packaged Fourth Street Live … let’s see, what else?

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