Its been a while since I wrote anything about my encounters with alcohol. Its definitely not been due to a lack of consumption on my part. (Lets just think of what the sloth has come to represent and go on further) Instead, I have had some really interesting experiences with quite a few exotic alcoholic beverages. Of late, most of them have been with alcohol, in the form of beer.
Beer has almost become synonymous with male bonding over time. And by over time, I mean ever since I came to America. This may have something to do with the fact that beer is cheaper than water. And so, beer became the most freely and most frequently consumed alcoholic beverage. (So much so, I had totally forgotten the taste of good Scotch). Having pretty much exhausted all the cheap beer that America had to offer- the list going from Steel Reserve (the Old Monk of American Beer) to Natty Lite to Budweiser- I set my sights on trying out some beer that was actually good.
And so my first tryst with good beer came about in the form of Corona and the inevitable piece of lime. And it was goooooooood! A refreshing change from the banalities of everyday cheap beer. Then I went on to try the other standard well known ‘good beer’ brands: Stella Artois, Blue Moon, Guinness, Samuel Adams, George Killian etc. And every one of them was rightly classified under the ‘good beer’ category. But then, I eventually realized that most of these ‘good beer’ brands tasted more or less the same. Most of them were Lagers (except Guinness and Killian) and they tasted a little less bitter and had the same amount of alcohol. And so the alcoholic gene in me began craving for some better beer.
And in time, I had the opportunity to visit this nearby small town by name of Floyd. This town warrants an entire post dedicated to itself. It signifies everything that I had imagined in a typical American small town- cozy book stores where you find some amazing titles at cheap prices, a house serving as a coffee shop, a bunch of antique stores, bars playing live music from the local scene, beer stores selling hundreds of only the totally unknown local beers and most significantly: bars serving locally brewed beer.
And it was in a place called Dogtown Roadhouse in Floyd, that I had my first experience of some totally mind blowing beer. It came in the form of Bourbon Barrel Beer. Yes. This stout is actually ‘aged’ in used bourbon caskets. And it was god-damn good! Then I tried another beer: Hopsecutioner. As the name suggests, it is a treat for hop-heads. Not knowing what ‘hops’ even stood for prior to that, I drank it without the least idea of what it contained. It was extra bitter – the good bitter kind that is. And I liked it.
I would eventually go back to Floyd and try out more awesome beer. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Allagash Belgian White Ale- each made with a plethora of very interesting ingredients such as cherries, coffee, spices, dark chocolate etc. Needless to say, these beers taste like nothing you have ever had before. It is a memorable experience really when you first drink beer which was made with the intention of tasting good.
I later found that the international grocery store in Blacksburg (Oasis), has this geographically diverse collection of awesome beer. I also realized that being geographically diverse inevitably meant that the beer itself was quite diverse. The store thus has all kinds of beer. So much so, everytime I go there to buy beer, I have a problem of choice. The first time I did buy beer, the beer expert in that store suggested a Latvian beer: Aldaris Porteris. It is a malt based Baltic Porter with a chocolate and burnt caramel taste to it. Next time I went, there was a beer tasting session going on. I ended up sampling a few Irish beers- Smithwick’s and Guinness. Smithwick’s is a beer that does not use hops at all and so is hardly bitter for a beer. I ended up buying Shooting Creek’s Farmhouse Stout, another Floyd brewery product. It tasted similar to Aldaris except for the fact that the hops were more significant and there was a hint of maple syrup in it.
And so as is quite evident from my above mentioned experiences, I suddenly found myself drinking beer for its taste! Which got me thinking- WTF has gone wrong with me? I am not drinking beer to get drunk? Also, I am paying attention to the kind of beer that I consume and to how much I like or dislike that particular type. Lagers, Ales, Stouts, Porters etc, I have realized, have their own specific taste, primarily arising out of the brewing ingredients and processes. So next time you have beer with me, I might have a tendency to spoil the entire occasion by describing the beer with words such as ‘notes, undertone, after taste, cloudiness etc.’
In all seriousness, I have gotten quite interested in exploring new beers- not just for their taste, but also for their historical, geographical and brewing aspects. I can already see myself developing this as a hobby of some kind. And fortunately, I am in the right continent to be able to do so.
Which got me thinking, why Indian breweries fail to make good tasting beer? I am pretty sure that they do not lack the resources or the equipment for it. My only guess is that the demand is so damn big that the breweries do not really need to think of good tasting beer for making profit.
Oh and one very important tip for those who plan to drink beer to enjoy its taste. Always, drink from a glass. Never drink from a bottle. Drinking from the bottle masks so many fine aspects of the beer. Drinking it from a glass instead is the complete experience.