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Many beers ago, somewhere around the turn of the century, a reader berated me for drinking and writing about a big, heavy winter warmer-type beer in the middle of summer. My thought then, as now, is that I will drink whatever I want when I please.
I think that fellow was taking the idea of seasonal beers too literally. Seasons can be in the mind as well.
For example, on this first real day of winter, I reach into the magic fridge and happily pull out a French beer, Kronenburg 1664 Blanc. This French wit is a summer seasonal, the literal-minded might say. But I say, I’m glad I had the foresight to put this beer in the refrigerator and find it on this otherwise gloomy and wintery January day.
“This “flavored white beer,” as it is described on the white neck label of this blue-bottled beer, tastes like liquid sunshine – bright, warming and full of promise.
On top of the wheatiness of the wit, there is a playful fruitiness that blends beautifully with the traditional spicing of coriander.
I’ve always known the French can make more than wine. In fact, physical violence using a bottle of French ale was suggested against me by a reader who took exception to my writing in favor of a French beer in the post-9/11 world of “American” fries – the guy said the only reason he would buy a bottle of French ale would be to “shove it up my Francophile ass.” I told him to “come down here and say that.” Several weeks later, a semi pulled up in front of my house and the trucker delivered a box of different beers from the French brewer and a note thanking me for sticking up for them in those trying times. I never heard from the anti-French guy again.
The only reservation I have about this beer is that the last line on the bottle label says “caramel color added,” a common tactic of macrobrewers that does not compute with me. I just don’t understand why a brewer would need to add color to an all-grain brew.
And then I take another sip and my doubts are washed away by the velvety feel of this delicious wit. I could drink this any day of the year.
So, where in the world to go after that? I close my eyes and reach deep into the magic fridge and pull out a stubby bottle of Sierra Nevada’s 2015 Hoptimum, a whole-cone Imperial IPA.
The label displays a lovely artistic rendering of hops surrounding a surrealist portrait a la Rene` Magritte of a gentrified hop head.
The beer begins with an exquisitely deeply sweet maltiness that quickly gives way to an even deeper spicy hoppiness.
After taking a few sips, I sit back to think about this lovely beer and find that my lips have been sealed by its maltiness, while the hops continue to dance a prickly mazurka in stiletto heels on my tongue.
The amazing thing about this 100 IBU Imperial IPA, the hops are not obnoxiously overpowering. Sierra Nevada knows how to strike a fair balance between the sweet malt and the intense whole cone hops. They complement each other in a most sophisticated way, as one has come to expect from the venerable brewery in Chico, Calif.
To drink such a superior beer makes you feel good to be alive, even if the weather outside suggests the end is nigh.