Fifteen years ago when the craft brew world was starting to go into orbit, few at the time would have imagined that the orbit is permanent, or L5 as they say. Recently sampling Great Lakes Grassroots Ale, I was struck by the fact a brewery located in Cleveland, Ohio could produce an herbal farmhouse style of ale, found in Belgian and French farms, and somewhat rare, even in their countries of origin. Mind you, it is not my favorite beer, but the Belgian yeast strain, combined with the herbs, keep this in authentic context. On the bottle’s label, it is referred to as a mild ale, which when you see that it is 6.2% abv, they are using the term mild in the Belgian sense of the word. In British vocabulary this ale would be deemed strong.
But there is certainly something to be said about sitting in the backyard, on one of the warmest days so far this year, amidst abundant foliage and sunlight, and pouring this beautiful golden ale into what could be rightfully called a performance ale glass, which exhibits this beer in all its saison glory.
Brewers in the United States are very interested in all different styles of beer. Take Andygator from The Abita Brewing Company in Louisiana. A big southern take on the traditional German Mai bock. Packaged into a 22oz bottle (a bomber as the beer crowd calls it) this 8% golden boy, is most definitely a bottle for two. If you open this while alone, well its time to get happy and responisble ( by not performing any tasks that require responsibility). Time to sit back and enjoy the malty golden nectar.
Which brings me to a point I would like to make. As The Beer Doctor, I was schooled in tasting by Beer Hound James D. Robertson, who taught me as a taster, its my job to meet any beer’s recipe halfway. In other words, if I am sampling a beer brewed with corn grits, say Straub or Pabst for example, I am not going to compare it with an all malt recipe. To say that beers made with adjunct grains are inferior is to deny the history of brewing (especially in the United States) that brought them about. Whether it is macrobrews or craft brewed, these marketing terms are incredibly overrated, because in truth, it is the recipe that counts, and how it is put into production. Of course branding has something to say, when it comes to satisfying the ticklish consumer palate. That is why Heineken Lager is sold in green bottles. Why Corona is sold as some fantasy beach vacation, rather than the dull migrant cooler that it actually is. Stella Artois is another marketing coup, taking a rather common table lager from Belgium, and making it “Reassuringly Expensive” as it was touted in England up until a couple of years ago.
The price of beer is often used as a way to determine the quality of the beer. After many years in the trenches, so to speak, I can assure the dear reader that this is not so. But people believe what they want to believe, so I am not at all surprised when I observe someone forking out serious dough, for a six pack of something I would consider not worth buying at half the prize. Such is essential human freedom, and bless us all for deciding what each of us wants to drink.
The recipe is the thing that will catch the conscience of The Beer Doctor. Whether it is new world or old world or downright acrchaic (such as brew lagered for months in stone caves). If it tastes good or interesting, it is going to be counted. Cheers!