Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Six Months-a-Drinkin'

About time, don't you think?

Flash back to early 2010, when I felt lamely inspired by Julie and Julia to re-dedicate myself to my beer blog. I would take pictures! Expand my content! Have some goal-oriented project! And then, Kristie was put on bedrest. Money got tighter, housework piled up and I felt guilty--not just because I could drink and she couldn't, but because every time I went out, I knew she was home watching a rerun of Gilmore Girls and popping contraction-stopping pills. Blogging about beer was far from my mind.

But wait, there's more. We eventually had a child, in early March: you know, this pregnancy thing is finite and the end product is much more time-consuming than the journey. Show me a man who's increased his craft beer drinking after having a child, and I'll show you a negligent father.

Don't be daft, now. I kept drinking beer, and drinking good beer. I just drank at a much more relaxed pace, and often settled for 12-pack samplers (usually underwhelming) or 6-pack staples (usually IPAs). I bought virtually no bottles large in size, price or reputation. I dipped into my under-developed basement reserves. I skipped many tantalizing tastings, events and festivals. Times were a bit desperate, but you can't keep a man from his beer. With that in mind, here's a brief recap of the last half year of my drinking endeavors.

In the first six months of the year, I tried 92 new beers. That may seem like a big number, but it doesn't compare to 2008 or '09, when at this point of the year I'd enjoyed more beers than days. Still, those I tried were the tastiest, on average, of any year's beers since I started keeping track. Though I've only given one beer the full five stars (I'll touch on that later), more than a third of those I've rated I considered better than average on a craft beer scale. Translation: Budweiser, on my scale, is not an average beer. Budweiser is a one-star at best. I consider an average craft beer to be 3.5 stars on a scale that accounts for those skunkiest of skunk. It makes sense to me. Anyway, 37 of 92 garnered four or more stars, and another 20 checked in at the 'average' 3.5-star level.

OK, this is getting far too nerdy. I'm a stats guy, what can I say. So, in the early months of the year, many of those above average beers fell roughly under the Flemish/Flanders Red Ale category. New Belgium's La Folie calls itself a Sour Brown ale, but who am I to argue with Beer Advocate. A bold sour smell, like the one La Folie has, is the only invitation I need, and the dry, chalky finish is a crisp and refreshing way to subdue the potent sourness that dominates the tongue. Maybe the wordiest sentence I've ever written. Soon after, I tried Ommegang's Flemish offering, Rouge, at the Blue Nile and had a Flemish classic on tap at the Muddy Pig: Rodenbach Grand Cru. Without question, the end of winter meant the rise of the Flemish Red. These three are universally sour, and that is a pretty quick turnoff for some. I, on the other hand, can't get enough of them. I always tell people trying them for the first time that they must suspend their idea of what a 'beer' is, and enjoy what they're tasting on its own merits.

I had been saving a bottle of Westvleteren 8 for a special occasion, and there are none more special than the birth of a child, so it was soon after we returned home with her that I cracked it. I must say, I wasn't as blown away as I hoped I would be. Perhaps this was a case of me pumping a beer up so high that it had no chance of meeting my expectations. Reputation often dampens enjoyment, unfortunately. It was still great. It wasn't, however, the first beer I had as a father. That honor went to Two Brothers Moaten, another Flemish red, and a collaboration between the Illinois brewery and Urthel, a respected Belgian brewery. Like the Westy, expectations set by the three outstanding reds gave Moaten no chance to live up to its honor as the celebratory fatherhood brew. This time, it was more the case of Moaten being a below average beer, rather than one over-hyped into submission.

So, I've taken you into mid-March, and my unplanned and lengthy introduction is forcing me to split my mid-year recap into several posts. Hopefully, it'll be fewer days before my next post than it was months since my last.


pete said...

Glad to see you are finally off the wagon and back on the keyboard!

al MCCARTY said...

Just a small correction: Ommegang was the name on the beer, but it was brewed by Brouweij Bocker of Bellegem, Belgium. If you ever see Cuvee' de Jacobins Grand Cru Rouge from them, (and I'm trying to get it), it's the same as the Ommegang Rouge.

Glad to see you're back. I would like to return, under a slight change of format and focus. Soon, soon...

nils said...

Al, of course you're right. I noted that in my journal, but sometimes for simplicity I omit some of the geekery facts. These collaborative brews are getting so common and hard to keep track of. For the purpose of this blog, I decided to keep it simple. Nice to be corrected in such a gentle way, though. Too often beer people come off as complete you know whats.