What I Talk About When I Talk About Beer

Me being misinformed

Me being misinformed

In a recent editorial, or “Beer Smack,” as they’d have it, the Alström brothers of Beer Advocate urge beer-lovers to become knowledgeable about beer and the brewing process. After all, they say, “the internet is littered with misinformed beer geeks.” And I said, Hey, that’s me they’re talking about!

Because, let’s face it, I know plenty of people in my immediate friend group who know more about beer than I do. I can’t keep straight all the hop varieties that begin with “C,” I never measure the gravity when I brew, and I thought “Grisette” was the name of a new Muppet.

Some people think that’s all there is to beer. But to me real beer is nothing less than spiritual.


The Big Hunt, home of the Chaz

Several cities ago, I found myself sitting at a bar on Dupont Circle, my idealism newly squashed under the weight of corporation-sized nonprofits. I was with my new roommate, a stranger who said “know what I mean?” too much. The bar was called The Big Hunt, and, at least in my memory, part of the seating area looked as though it was in the belly of a whale, ribs and muscle arching across the ceiling. Continue reading

Bottled Sunshine: a Summer Beer Sampler

Southern Tier's Hop Sun: the last & best beer we try...coincidence?

Last summer we discussed a variety of styles typically put out as summer beers. This year it’s time to get down to brass tacks (whatever that means!) and sample some breweries’ summer offerings.

We pick the first beer to try because its label was the most summery: Brooklyn Summer Ale. Its initial sharp bite brings you right out into a sunny summer afternoon picnic before it smooths out and takes you to a shady place. In fact, these exact words float through my head as part of the Pixie’s hit, Gigantic. Though an ale, the beer is pilsner-esque with that taste in the back of the mouth that borders on skunky. Must not be too bad though, because I quickly forget to taste it and instead debate the relative creepiness-level of this song: like, is the singer a voyeur or envious or both? And then admit that, man, it took me a long time to get that whole “hunk of love” line.

Up next is Victory’s Summer Love — far from a beer you’d get at a baseball game, despite the game-themed label. The perfect juxtaposition to Brooklyn, its bright sunny taste began smooth and ended dry. Reminiscent of a good pinot grigio. Suddenly and inexplicably I’m watching Liam Lynch’s This Town Sucks which I immediately recognize as my own teenage anthem to summertime doldrums. I think I quite like this beer and ponder what a difference a little Summer Love would have made to my seventeenth summer. Continue reading

Judging Beer by Its Cover

I believe most of my bookish friends will back me up when I assert that YES, in fact, you CAN judge a book by its cover. I hold that that the same does NOT hold for beer; in fact, many of my favorites have downright ugly labels. (Ahem, Dogfish Head.) But I’d like to share some of my favorite tasty, artsy beers because they look good all lumped together. What follows is a mix of well-illustrated, graphic, eye-catching, and imaginative label art. Click the image for a better look at it; web addresses are below.

This is making me drool a little. I’m sure there’s more out there I’ve yet to taste–what’s your favorite beer label?

*Beers left to right, top to bottom:
Flying Dog (Ralph Steadman!)
Left Hand Brewing
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Sixpoint Brewery
Oskar Blues Brewery
Surly Brewing
Brooklyn Brewery
The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery
Cisco Brewers
Redhook Brewing
Southern Tier
Rogue Brewing

A Matter of Taste: Pairing Writers and Beer

“What beer should I drink when reading this author?” It’s a question I ask myself on a regular basis. I was inspired to commit some of my favorites to paper when I read an Esquire Magazine post that paired beers to football teams. A little cute. Essentially they just attached a good local brew to each team. There is a science to matching beer with anything, though: food, parties, type and severity of bad day, and yes, authors. I realize that many writers vary in style and tone from book to book, but as with a brewery’s particular strain of yeast, every one of their books tastes a little like the others.

How do I choose? Every pick has to do with the personality of the writing and of the writer herself. Subject matter, setting, sentence structure, attitude, nationality, political bent, story arcs, hairstyle, and ability to hold liquor. Lets pull a few recent reads off my bookshelf.

  •  Billy Collins: Are you allowed to drink beer while reading poetry? Well, no one’s stopped me yet. Man up and try something powerful and brooding like Maudite, a strong Belgian dark from Unibroue that can (and will!) fly you across the River Styx in a canoe, as promised on the label.
  •  Jonathan Franzen: Known for his family epics, his fascination with birds, and his floppy, writerly hair, Franzen is best read with something a little green and a little crunchy, like Peak Organic’s Pale Ale – down to earth and still pretty waspy.
  •  E L James: You really have to drink to read her. I know; I tried. But there’s no question here: Lagunitas’ A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.  Continue reading