Last Friday afternoon , I was puttering around the house when the doorbell rang. By the time I got to the door, the deliveryman had already left, but there was a box on the front porch. I carried it in wondering what it could be , a little mystified by its size and weight as it was heavier than the packages my wife usually gets from QVC. I slit open the top of the box , removed the cardboard spacer and then suddenly it all became clear. It was my niece’s holiday gift from last December.She had gotten me a membership to a beer club and this was the first consignment. At the time , my niece had remarked ” Uncle , I know you like beer and so , I thought you’d enjoy this .” I thanked her but now, having sampled the first beers , I feel I didn’t thank her enough. I love the gift!!
This first month’s batch had beers from two boutique breweries, Casco Bay in Portland , Maine and Chameleon Brewing Company in Glendale , Wisconsin.There were three bottles each of four different beers ,twelve bottles in all , and they were all very different. They are as follows ( descriptions from the Beer Club):
Riptide Red ( Casco Bay) … an Irish style Red that won a Gold Medal at the World Beer Cup.
Casco Bay Brown .. .clear brown with a hint of ruby; has notes of toasted malt, hazelnut, , a hint of chocolate and spice. ( Wow! And I thought only oenophiles talked like this about their wine. I think three bottles may not be enough for me to pick up all these flavors. LOL.)
Chameleon Fire Light … golden colored with a light , toasty , malt finish.
Chameleon Ryediculous IPA… brewed from rye and malted barley, it’s a medium bodied rye/IPA hybrid with a citrusy barley, slightly spicy hop nose.
If some of these descriptions seem exotic , listen to this . Chameleon also makes a Witty White Wheat with undertones of black-pepper, coriander and orange. Somebody out there in Wisconsin sure likes to play around with words. If I don’t watch out , I’m going to turn into a Beer Snob by the end of the year, forever going on about “body”, and “long nose” and ” floral bouquets” and ” finish”.
So far, I have tried two of the beers, the Fire Light and the Ryediculous IPA and I’ve liked them both. The Ryediculous was a cloudy brew , quite different from anything else I’ve sampled , no doubt because it’s made from both rye and malted barley. The flavors were complex though I’m still trying to decode ” a citrusy spicy hop nose as well as assertive Cascade and Chinook hops.” ( And I thought Chinook was only the name of a type of salmon , silly me.) The Fire Light ( ideal for relaxing around a campfire or a fireplace) was more mainstream but also delicious. The other two kinds I haven’t sampled yet; I plan to do so this coming weekend , Super Bowl weekend.
I am not a Beer Snob ( not yet, anyway) though I do know what I like and what I don’t like when it comes to beer. I do not like the mass market brews like Miller, Budweiser, and Coors. As U.S breweries have gone out of business or been bought out by the giants , the beers they make have lost their individuality. At parties where they are all that is on offer, I stick to diet Coke. When I buy beer , it’s usually from one of the small , boutique breweries or an import. When we dine out, I try to sample the local beer ; most of the time it proves to be a good choice. My favorite is Red Stripe , from Jamaica of all places. We discovered it when we went to the Caribbean and fell in love with its ‘ crisp ‘ taste , so different from any other. Another beer I like is Yeungling which ,despite the name , is made in Philadelphia in one of the nation’s oldest breweries; it’s cheap and good. Other favorites are Magic Hat , Brooklyn Lager and Blue Moon.
The beers I drink are usually lagers. I don’t like stout or porter or any of the darker beers. The beer club membership will broaden my tastes since it offers a greater variety of beers than I’d choose if it was left to me. It will also broaden my beer education ; already I’ve tried to find out what exactly Irish -style (beer) is.
Reading the above , it strikes me that I may have given a wrong impression of my beer swilling propensities. I don’t drink on a regular basis , averaging perhaps one bottle a week. I limit myself to one beer at any one sitting though I may , on rare occasions , have two. Beer to me is to be sipped and enjoyed in company, preferably while sharing some snacks. I don’t anticipate being able to finish these beers before the next consignment arrives. In summer, when the weather is warmer and we have some friends over for barbecues , we might be able to cut into the backlog a bit but there will always be plenty of beer left.
Right now , I also have some Sam Adams , some Stella Artois and half a case of Yeungling left over from the holidays .Yes, there is plenty of beer to go around . Perhaps ” Swimming in Beer” was an exaggeration but it sure got you reading this post , didn’t it ? (LOL)
It’s not just the beer that I enjoy; it’s the total experience. Getting the consignment , lugging it in eager to see what this month has brought , opening the box and seeing the different bottles ,reading the varicolored labels and the descriptions, sampling and comparing the beers before stocking them in the garage , secure in the knowledge that they’re mine , all mine to do with as I please. Perhaps it is not as highbrow as collecting fine wines . A garage full of beer is not as impressive as a wine cellar but then that’s me . My tastes , I guess, tend to the plebian . I am what I am.