Thursday, October 15, 2009

Milestone Beers

After nearly a two month absence, the blog is back.

As is the great beer. September was a bit of a break for me, when I tallied only 13 new beers. That ranks as the fewest for any month since I started tracking in mid-February 2008. The reason for this? I was nearing my biggest milestone beer to date; beer 500.

I had the perfect beer in mind, though I'd have to wait until October 7 to try Surly Wet, their highly-anticipated fresh-hopped IPA. Typically, hops are harvested and dried before being added to your favorite beer. With a fresh or wet hop beer, the hops are harvested and immediately added to the brew, without being dried. A hop head's dream. Surly shipped in 1400 pounds of Washington hops for Wet.

The release party, held at Uptown's newest Thai restaurant, Roat Osha, was crowded, and it probably didn't help that it coincided with a Twins playoff game. The beer didn't disappoint, even if the elbow-to-elbow bar felt more like a Saturday night in Dinkytown than a Wednesday at a Thai joint.

The beer: classic grapefruit and floral aromas, instantly identifiable as a West Coast IPA. It had been a long time since I'd had a hoppy delight, I realized. The taste featured more pine than citrus, and the bitter finish was awesome. I like to describe that sensation as something that sucks the moisture from the roof of your mouth and buries it down your throat. I love that feeling. A nice, long linger.

I've had a number of fresh hopped beers (and I had a handful more this week) and I've found that they are rewarding for hop purists, but even I sometimes struggle near the end of a pint. I need balance. But Surly Wet got better with each sip, and stood up after several tastings. A week later, I tried it along side four other fresh hop beers: Left Hand's Warrior IPA, Cascade and Willamette versions of Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA and Town Hall's Fresh Hop 2009. Surly was still the best. Not that I'm biased.

I'd finally matched the accomplishment of drinking 500 different beers (in 21 months) with a deserving beer. I knew I'd struggled with this in the past, often forgetting when milestones were approaching or losing track of the beers I'd had. This time I nailed it.

Or so I thought.

Tonight, I re-calculated my archives to determine beers 100, 200, 300 and 400. Somehow, along the way, I lost track of a couple beers. Surly Wet was beer #502.

The milestone beers to date:

100: Michelob Ultra Tuscan Orange Grapefruit. What a mistake, but one that was entirely intentional. One must tour the basement before graduating to the penthouse. .5 stars

200: Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen. I don't particularly enjoy traditional Oktoberfests. 2.5 stars

300: Medalla Light. Puerto Rico's macro! Whatever. I was drinking a beer on a patio in Puerto Rico. 1.5 stars

400: Tyranena Bitter Woman in the Rye. Ooh! A chance here. But no, a major disappointment in my opinion. 3 stars

500: Sam Adams Oktoberfest. Blah. 2.5 stars

There will be more milestones to come, for sure, with the next biggest being my 1000th. I've got Surly penciled in for that one.