Billy VS. Ignorance & Inebriation

Tasting Beer Badly

Prologue:

I recently had an embarrassing exchange over beer. This could be the start to a lot of stories by a lot of people, but not everyone takes on a project to atone for their embarrassments like I have. I was playing a gig at a local brewery and, afterwards, the owner Steve offered the band members some bottled ales. By the point the offer was made to me, the gig was over and I was a fair few pints of ale deep myself. This is all poor justification for my general lack of tact when faced with a choice of ales, various shades of yellow, amber and brown, and being completely ignorant of what is “good” or what I would prefer.

“Take your pick!”

“Uhhh….”

“What do you normally drink?”

“I normally drink whatever cheap lager I can get, I’m not fussy”

I said this to a guy who was not only offering me free beer, but quality ale that was pretty much his own baby, brewed under his roof. I said it to his face. He picked out some pale, light ales for me to try and I went on my way, feeling ashamed at my beer ignorance and lack of grace during the entire exchange. The ales I got were as nice as any and, if you get chance, you should definitely try a Cotleigh ale. I will most likely write about them in more detail in the future.

Despite not being aware of this event, my girlfriend had ordered a crate of various specialty American beers as a Valentine’s Day gift and, when it arrived, I decided that I was going to put these posh beers through my decidedly un-rigorous tasting test and review them as a prime piece of Quality Content for everyone’s favourite medium, the Internet.

Method:

I’d read somewhere that, while drinking certain beers, you should reuse the same glass, not rinsing it out between drinks. I elected to apply that method to my own drinking experiment. Halfway through, I remembered that this only really applied to stouts and may have changed the consistency or fizz of some of my sampled drinks, but any scientific credentials you may think I have at this point will soon be discredited by my generally sloppy methods.

I did persevere with the one-glass method, using the same IKEA tumbler for all five of the drinks in my initial testing. While the testing might not be in any way scientific, it is consistent. And it was a productive way for me to get mildly blitzed on a Saturday night, which is the greatest achievement of all.

Flying Dog – Lucky SOB

This beer’s label appealed to me more than any of the others’ because the Ralph Steadman artwork and a quote from Hunter S. Thompson

Good people drink good beer

That’s all it takes to cut right to the core of this typical early-twenties male whose favourite books are Fear and Loathing, On The Road and Naked Lunch. Therefore it seemed appropriate that this be the first drink to hit my ignorant palate for assessment. Due to either thirst or general ineptness, my notes on this beer are thin on the ground. I can assure you that it was very nice and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I had not gotten into the groove of taking beer notes at this point (almost paradoxically and by my own assessment, I did get better at note-taking the more I drank).

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Just look at that lense flare. This is what beer looks like in 1970s music videos

It’s a very dark beer, with a thick head like you’d get with a stout. It tastes stouty, but has a mild taste and light texture that makes it easy to drink. On their website they describe this beer as having a “clean finish”. I’m not going to pretend to know what that means but I will say that this was very nice and I would happily drink it again (this will become a recurring theme, stick with me and you’ll see).

Left Hand Brewing – Black Jack Porter

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This heavy hitter weighs in at 6.8% and tells you to expect “notes of dark chocolate, espresso and herbal hops”, all of which my tongue identified upon tasting it. However, I am compelled to remind you that I am only human and thus likely to fall prey to CONFIRMATION BIAS, so your experience may well vary. It definitely has a complex taste, and distinctly smells of chocolate to this nose. Unlike some beers I’ve had that promise chocolate and coffee flavours, this one backs it all up with a good beery taste underneath it all. It’s got fruitiness to it as well, but it’s a heavier, slower drink than the Flying Dog.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Ah, I could tell this one is meant to have a more broad appeal than some of the other beers. It looks much more like the mass-brewed pissdrink I’d normally subject myself to because of economics and custom, but tastes very close to the Cotleigh beers I’d been given for the gig I played.

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Look out for my future piece on how not to pour beer

This ale is certainly pale, both in taste and appearance, and a very easy drink due to its mild taste and light consistency.  The website says to pair this beer with “Grilled Steak, Citrus Salad, Thai Curry, Roasted Vegetables”. Well, I had spaghetti, it was delicious, and the beer was still good.

Anchor Brewing – Liberty Ale

By the name, I expect this is what Captain America would drink when sitting down to a steak, a Captain America wearing a flannel shirt with a light beard. Apparently, this beer was first brewed in 1975 to celebrate the bicentennial of Paul Revere, Jack Black’s distant ancestor, warning Americans of British troops coming to keep America British.

This beer has a lovely colour to it, almost too nice to drink, but I’m not one to let something pretty get between me and quenching my thirst. I am, however, liable to forget to take a picture of particular drinks for some reason and this was one of those drinks. My notes mention a ‘slightly funky’ smell and I really wish I’d been more specific about what I mean by that. The Anchor Brewing site describes this ale as having “champagne-like bubbles”, which means that at least one of my observations wasn’t completely stupid. It’s very sweet and another easy drink.

Brooklyn Brown Ale

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This one is very dark, but with a hint of red in it. The webpage for this brew again mentions a variety of not-beer flavours but it mainly tastes like a rich, superbeer to me (probably because they didn’t put “chocolate and coffee” on the label – you see? CONFIRMATION BIAS). It’s very smooth, and has a fine fizz but isn’t too light in texture as to make you (me) drink it too quickly. It is incredibly rich, and I really liked it, probably one of my favourite brown ales.

Final Thoughts

I liked all these beers. I would drink any of them again. Going into this project, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did but all of the above beers were quality brews. However, perhaps five in one go wasn’t the proper environment to enjoy the variety properly. I think the less fancy stuff is more appropriate for quantity-drinking. Most importantly, I think I now would know what to ask for from Steve at the Cotleigh brewery because I made myself think about beer, instead of just drinking it because I’m thirsty and it’s after five in the afternoon. It’s generally a good thing that I’m not all that fussy about beer, but I can definitely say that it is Good to drink Good Beer. However, I’m not sure if that makes me a ‘Good Person’ in the eyes of anyone other than Hunter S. Thompson.

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