Happy Tax Day to all those who observe. Thank you for helping keep the roads paved and the schools open. Your service is greatly appreciated, and as such I will try not to be judgmental about your personal choices today. But please tell me you're not reading this on your phone as you stand in line at the post office.
As flattering as it is to imagine an army of citizen-saints combining their primary patriotic duties by reading Drunkspin as they await their turn to pitch in to the national treasury, I must point out that if you've got the technological wherewithal to read online beer reviews at the post office, you've got the means to avoid the post office altogether.
I used to like the United States Postal Service, because I used to like the mail carriers I drank with in the early afternoons while they were waiting out the end of their shifts. I no longer keep such a schedule myself, so my only real point of reference in evaluating the post office is noting how well they manage to collect and deliver my mail, and oh brother, it's been a tough few months. Our mail carrier gave himself a good six weeks off starting in mid-January, which means I had a hell of a time scrambling to get my tax documents in order in time to file.
When you are a full-time freelancer, you pay quite a lot of taxes. That's cool, because you also don't wear pants to work; I'm not complaining about the IRS here, but rather the USPS, as the latter spent tax-form-delivering season trying its damndest to run me afoul of the former. Drunkspin's a pretty steady gig, but all freelancing is essentially day-to-day, catch-as-catch-can, so you've got to get a few different eggs in a few different baskets, which means you might need to keep track of—and report, and pay taxes on—payments from a dozen or more companies through the course of the year.
I'm not the world's most aggressive record-keeper, so I typically just rely on the mail carrier to let me know who paid me what over the course of the preceding year via the steady dribble of 1099s that start showing up the middle of every January. There was no such dribble this year, due to the aforementioned weather-related USPS work stoppage in my neighborhood, so I had to frantically email around asking every company I could think of, "Hey, pals, any chance you sent me $400 sometime in May? I think I remember having extra beer money that month. Was that you?"
Lucky for me, both the UPS and FedEx guys who bring my beer samples fought through the tough weather, though, which meant that despite the isolation caused by a particularly long and lonely winter, I was able to mentally travel to sunny Cincinnati via a mixed six-pack from MadTree Brewing.
I was really impressed with their Galaxy High double IPA, a 10.2-percent alcohol-by-volume brute dry-hopped with half the world's supply of New Zealand's Galaxy and Topaz hops. Galaxy High smells like pine, peach, orange, and mango. There's a subtler grassiness on the palate, along with some caramel malt and brown sugar, but the tropical fruit and pine resin character ultimately dominate. This is fantastic beer, not as boozy and chewy as many in its class, but every bit as aromatic and flavorful.
But the American beerscape is lousy with great double IPAs these days, so if Cincinnati really wants to atone for its grievous culinary sins, we need a bit more than just another top-notch hop bomb. I am pleased to report that MadTree delivers with their equally impressive Lift, a thoughtful and gentle kölsch that should be the primary summer-afternoon beer of all good Cincinnatians.
Kölsches are ales with some strongly lagerish characteristics (they're fermented at higher ale temperatures, but then conditioned in a cooler lager climate), famously brewed in Cologne, Germany. Cincinnati has a strong German heritage, and our great nation's innards are generally less enamored with extreme hoppiness than are the coasts, so it makes sense that one of the finest American-brewed kölsches comes from the city that brought us Doctor Johnny Fever (good) and the "abominable garbage-gravy" known as Cincinnati chili (abominable garbage-gravy).
The 4.7-percent ABV Lift is a fairly unassuming beer, but a well-thought-out one, with 2-row malt augmented by red wheat, Vienna malt, barley flakes, and four different hops. Lift makes a nice first impression with aromas of bready malt on top of crisp orange, lemon, black pepper, and a creamy, subtle white-grape-juice element. The flavor adds some honey and a lightly floral hoppiness on the finish.
MadTree Lift is an excellent warm-weather option—RateBeer scores it in the 99th percentile of kölsches—and while it might not be assertive enough to wash the wrong kind of chili out of your mouth, that's what Galaxy High is for. Those are the only two MadTree beers I've tried, but they're enough evidence to suggest that Cincinnati, for all its culinary demerits, also hosts one of American brewing's lesser-known gems.
This is Drunkspin Daily , the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Image by Jim Cooke.
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.