If it’s true what Benjamin Franklin once purportedly observed, that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” then the heavens are certainly smiling down on my neck of the woods right now.
For one thing, the city where I live and work is in the throes of the second-annual “Baltimore Beer Week,” an 11-day celebration (luckily, this week “goes to 11″) designed to highlight the “unique beer culture in the ‘Land of Pleasant Living.’” I thought last year’s inaugural Beer Week was missing some, well, fizz, mainly because promotion was lacking. This year, organizers say they have “broadened the spectrum of brands and events” in the hope to “enlighten more of the macro-minded consumers — while making sure the craft consumer has plenty of great options to choose from as well.” A frothy goal? Perhaps. But with a number of prominent TV and radio spots, and more than 300 to-do’s on tap to celebrate all things beer, it appears to be one within reach, hon.
Also — need I remind you, faithful reader — it’s still Oktoberfest season. Unofficially, of course, since the primordial weeks-long event ended on October 4. But I’ve always thought that starting the eponymous Bavarian bash in mid-September was needlessly confusing. What’s the harm, then, in putting a little extra oomph in your oompah-band, as it were, and extending the festivities for a while longer? Frankly, with so much malt-happiness happening right now, they should rename this month “Octobeer.”
So, in honor of Beer Week and in the spirit of all the beery good cheer all around me, I thought I’d do something a little different this week and offer one brief review of a new (or new-to-me) brew each day. I’ll select something from one of the many breweries supporting the Bawlmer benefit (read the impressive scroll of sponsors here), or at least offer a bottle’s worth of something you might find at a bar or store in this region. As always, and especially on occasions such as this week’s, I’ll be choosing something unique or somehow out of the norm. And I’ll be sure to provide some suggestions for pairing my picks with food for your enhanced pleasure. Enjoy!
- Saison du BUFF, Stone Brewing Co. Although technically brewed and bottled by San Diego-based Stone, this beer actually represents a new collaborative effort involving Dogfish Head and Victory Brewing Co., two East Coasters with a knack for crafty craft-brews. As an indication of the “seriousness” of the trio’s endeavor, the acronym in the beer’s moniker actually stands for “Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor,” a cheeky name for, according to the label, “a clandestine organization committed to liberating collective taste buds, citing the dastardly and/or oppressive reign of so-called ‘fizzy yellow beer.'” According to Stone’s Web site, this strong (6% alc/vol) Saison, made with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, will be brewed three times, once at each brewery, using the same recipe. It’s no wonder, then, that this is an ale with “attitude.” It’s certainly got a flavor-forward posture: very citrusy, right out of the bottle, with a palpable aroma of orange, sweet honey, and bold, bitter grapefruit. Plenty of peppery, spice, and herbal notes, as well. And, with an abundance of tongue-scrubbing bubbles and a creamy, savory aftertaste, it was an ideal accompaniment to a cold dish of Szechuan noodles with chicken and broccoli. The fruitiness of the brew perfectly matched the lemon zest and bits of chopped ginger and garlic, while the hops and carbonation swirled with and swept away the thick, spicy-nutty sauce, making way for the next bite. It was the perfect cold fusion (and remedy) for an unseasonably warm fall night.
So, there you have it, at least one new way to celebrate Baltimore Beer Week 2010. But before you head out in search of other festive findings, I suggest you get a copy of The Beer Journal, by Chris Wright, a handy guide to hand-crafted brews. With detailed information on 22 categories of beer — who knew there were so many? — as well as tips on everything from recognizing beer flavors to picking the proper glassware, the Journal is the ultimate tasting companion for connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.
As always, tell us what you think. Have you attended any Baltimore Beer Week events? Are there other new beers, or beer and food pairings, that you think everyone should try? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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