This marks the first year in at least the past 10 that I have not resolved to learn even the basics of a foreign language. My monolinguism is deplorable, considering that I aim to communicate for a living and have had plenty of opportunity to learn other tongues over the years. But I've never made any real progress, and this year I decided to stop even el deceptivo-ing myself, because I have another education goal for 2015, and these teeth are way too long to learn two distinct new tricks in the same calendar year.
Instead, I'm going to take the Cicerone exam, after which point I will be an official Beer Genius fully qualified to discuss any beer matter at exhausting length and, of much more importance, legally permitted to smite all those who dare disagree with my pronouncements. (Bad news, yinzers.) I've been ambivalent about the Cicerone program in the past, but I'm out of excuses, so this is the year.
The simplest way to describe a Cicerone is "beer sommelier"; it's capitalized because the whole racket's run by one for-profit company. The company seems completely legit, and my friends who've taken the exam say it's well worth the education you get just by studying, even if you have no professional use for the title, which is a good thing, because guess how much Gawker cares if I'm officially licensed to write a beer blog? No one I work for gives a shit, but still, it'd be nice to know what I'm talking about a bit more often.
The other booze-related resolution I've made for 2015 is to do a bit more beer travel. I have a huge fear of wrecking a hobby by turning it into an obsession, which is a well-founded concern given that I'm in the hugely at-risk population known as "adult male with time on his hands." Anyhow, I dipped my toe into beer-tripping this past Saturday with a very safe-seeming foray out to the far side of Somerville to check out a year-round beer garden at one of those new malls they market as "mixed-use retail, residential, and entrepreneurial hubs." Not really my scene, but, again: beer tent.
It was great. The beer—made by Massachusetts's Slumbrew, which seems to be trying to rebrand themselves as Somerville Brewing Company—was better than I expected. That's the cool thing about new breweries: You can taste them improve right before your eyes. The atmosphere was fun, the charcuterie plate had four kinds of meat, and the pretzel came with three kinds of mustard. I was in no hurry to leave, and I'll be back.
Now that I've conquered the city adjacent to mine, it's time to step out a bit farther afield, and I hear Quebec is nice, so let's go to Unibroue, in Chambly (which I bet is pronounced Shambly, but, as discussed, I have no real basis for this assumption). Their Ephemere, a white ale brewed with apple must, was the first fruit beer I ever loved, and they make the Trader Joe's special winter beers, which I love. They also make La Fin du Monde, which translates roughly to "damn fine Belgian tripel adored by Drunkspin."
A 750-milliliter bottle of 9-percent alcohol-by-volume La Fin du Monde will run you about $8, which makes it a very good deal among Belgian-style tripel ales. It's also considered very representative of the style, which was drummed up by the monks at Westmalle Abbey in 1930 (check out the wannabe Cicerone, with his facts and his trips to Somerville!).
It pours a dark straw color, with a big head that fades quickly into a thin film that lasts awhile. The nose is heavy on flowers and citrus—lemon and orange, if I had to guess, those being citrus and this beer not smelling like limes—which balance the typical coriander and a slight hint of nutmeg; the yeast character is relatively restrained, allowing more malt to show through and contribute to the impeccable balance. La Fin du Monde has very low bitterness, even for the style, with just a dose of black pepper on the back end to dry things out.
One of these days, we've all got to take a big Drunkspin field trip to Belgium; until funding for that comes through, we can start in Quebec. See you there.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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