Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Ales Ya?: Not making the grade as a beer lover

Woody learns beer babble.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 7:01 PM

click to enlarge woodybeersmalljpg.jpg

By Bob Woodward

The great American jazz maestro Duke Ellington once noted: "if it sounds good and you like it, it's good music."

I feel the same way about beer. If it tastes good and I like it, it's good beer. And thankfully every one of our local craft brewers makes at least three beers each that I enjoy quaffing. Thanks to all for keeping me happy.

But recently I found out how wrong I am in simply "liking" beer. That and how out of touch I am with some local beer fanatics. Here's how it all came down.


I was working with a group of people one Saturday afternoon working on a volunteer project when the subject of beer came up. A lively conversation ensued and quickly turned from what local brews the people in the group liked to a session in tehno beer babble worthy of course being taught by a slightly smashed , beer-loving MIT physics professor on loan to a culinary institute.

One person in the group in question dove in with something like: "Have you tried Two Bicycles Brewing's oak ale? It has the smell of a Kansas wheat field after a rain storm with a whiff of old baseball mitt leather and citrus in its body and definitely a wintergreen and oleander finish."

Geez, I thought the ale was o.k. but not worthy of a paragraph of sensory description.

"Well, "offered another beerofile (new word), "how about the Ace of Spades Brewery's pumpkin stout, you know the one that smells like Charlie Brown's mom's Halloween pie with a body as heavy as a middle linebacker's and a subtle grape and tequila finish."

I'll admit, I missed all of those tastes but liked that stout despite my indelicate palate.

Then the group got really fired up as they talked about IPAs. "Oh, I adore Steel City Brews Hopped to Death, " exclaimed an excited woman beerofile who I presumed, after her holding forth for minutes on any and every beer, must drink 10 gallons of beer a month, maybe a week.

I ventured that I wasn't thrilled by hoppy beers and this started to solidify my fall into being uncouth at best in the group's eyes.

"IPAs" I questioned, " weren't they created with a lot of hops just so the beer could survive the long sea voyage in barrels from Britain to India to quench the thirst of the colonialists?"

That statement was summarily ignored and the group started in on the numbers game. "Give me," noted one male, "something with 7.2 percent ABV and 100 IBUs."

I understood the ABV. It's, I think, how much punch a beer has. For example, take the 13 percent quaff I ordered at the Abbey Pub this past winter. On leaving the pub I got about three steps towards my car and had make a cell call for a taxi ride home. Wow, that beer knocked me on my rear.
So I get the ABV deal but IBUs eludes me and I refuse to learn about them. When I mentioned this to the group it elicited more "what an oaf" looks cast in my direction.

Knowing I was losing ground quickly, I tried to rally by saying: "you know, I do love a good Pilsner and there's nothing like a Kolsch on a hot summer's day."
This rated even more derisive looks. Apparently Pilsners (the first true modern beer so my Czech friends tell me) and Kolsch are humdrum at best.
"Isn't" derided one gentleman in the group," Miller Lite a pilsner?"

"I think they call it a pilsner-style or something like that, "I replied, "but to be honest while Lite beers suck, I do, from time to time ike a cold PBR or an MGD."

Nobody spoke to me the rest of the day.

So, I am an ignorant beer drinker who doesn't know his IBU from his IQ. I kept thinking, that something similar to this happen to me about twenty years earlier.

Then I remembered, it was when wine was trendy and people were sourcing copies of "The Synonym Finder" to come up with words to describe various reds and whites.

Chacon a son gout (everyone to his own taste). Hey barkeep got a craft beer on tap that tastes really good?

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