Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sunrise Sunset

Everything in is this life comes and goes, especially beer. Like a fine meal, each batch of craft beer is a perishable commodity, a transitory phenomenon like a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Enjoy them while you can, because they won't last. Even if there is another sunset or beer just like it tomorrow, it won't be the same; there will be some subtle difference.

While I know that all good brewers strive for consistence, I think that may be one of the things which turns me off when it comes to the BudMillerCoors macrobrews: their utter sameness, both amongst each other and from one batch to the next.

Yes, I know it's a triumph of the brewer's art and modern technology, but drinking the same beer over and over again would be as boring as eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No matter how well-made and tasty, after a while you're bound to be sick of it. I prefer to take the risk of change, to enjoy the sunrise in the knowledge that the sunset must inevitably follow, to revel in the beer while realizing that in doing so I'm consuming the very thing I am enjoying, hastening its demise, even as I am conscious of the reality that there will never be another quite like it.

My friends Curt, Dave and I had this driven home to us last Friday when we stopped in at St. Elias Brewing Company on the way home, planning to start our respective weekends with a goblet of their Eclipse Strong Ale. However, when we took our seats at the bar, I could see that it was no longer on the chalkboard, and a quick chat with brewer Zach Henry confirmed that it was gone (along with the Winter Wheat), much to Curt's disappointment, as he has long thought it was fantastic. Imagine my chagrin when Zach suggested that my rave reviews in this blog had contributed to Eclipse's swift demise! By voicing how much I'd enjoyed drinking it, I'd hastened the day that I could no longer could do so.

So you can see why my thoughts are running the way they are. Even if Zach decides to try to make another blend like Eclipse, it will never be exactly the same. Perhaps it will be even better, but it won't be the same; from now on, the pleasure of drinking that beer will reside only in my memories...

However, for every sunset, there's a sunrise. Also on Friday Zach was just in the process of putting on this year's version of his Marathon Mild Ale. I reviewed last year's version of this beer on 6/5/2009. Zach has tweaked the recipe a bit, making the beer darker in color but even lighter in alcohol, coming in at 3.6% ABV. This is the classic session beer, the beer to have with lunch before you go back to the office or to choose when you've got a long evening ahead of you and you want to keep your wits about you. While it's low on alcohol, it's very high on taste; this darker version is even better than last year's in that area. This beer is proof positive that a beer doesn't need to be high in alcohol to be packed with flavor. If you've never had a mild before, you really need to try this beer.

Other news from St. Elias: Zach sister Jessie has brewed her first beer; look out for a raspberry ale real soon. Their outside patio is now officially open and they are still having live music every Thursday night from 7 to 9 PM. This week the band is Thumper's Credo, so either Bambi's rabbit friend is their lead singer or they've got lots of percussion...

Looking to the other breweries in the area, Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop released their latest batch of Gold Nugget Hefe last week, which is another sure sign of spring! Kenai River Brewing Company has their latest Single Hop IPA, made with Saphir hops, on tap. Doug and the lads have also been putting the occasional 5 gallon or 50 liter keg of prior IPAs on and announcing it on their Facebook page. So far we've seen Chinook and Glacier. Once the word goes out, they don't last long, so if you want a shot, you'd better "friend" them on Facebook. Assistant Brewer Joe Gilman is off to Haines for the Haines Beerfest; stay out of trouble, Joe!

And now for something completely different, as boys on Monty Python used to say. I came across this painting the other day and thought I'd share it with you.

The Ale-House Door was painted around 1790 by Henry Singleton; it's sometimes referred to as At the Inn Door. The original 10 x12 inch canvas in in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

I really enjoy the imagery: a weary traveler, his bindlestaff and tired dog at his feet, stops at the alehouse to smoke a pipe and enjoy a refreshing pint (or is it a quart?) of good English ale, served to him by the proprietress.

The quintessential English-ness of it, coupled with the sense of welcome that it seems to exude, very much appeals to me. I bet that ale tastes just delicious...

Based on the sign, it would appear that this pub is named The Bell. This was a very common pub name, thanks to a common saying of the day that "a bell speaks all languages".

Just another of the many examples of beer in art through the ages.

Well, that's about it for this week. I hope you will all enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend. Get outside, enjoy the good weather, grill some burgers and drink some good craft brews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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