Yesterday morning found 99.9 percent of the world's beer-abiding citizens just humming along and doing their thing—going to work, probably, because most beer drinkers work, and lots of work happens in the morning.
I bet the majority had coffee—either a Thermos from home, or whatever they've got in the office cafeteria, or maybe a cup from one of the chains into which we insist on cramming way too much cultural meaning, because our lives aren't nearly as full as we'd like to imagine and therefore we desperately seek to imbue even the most casual lifestyle choice or consumer interaction with way more significance than is warranted.
But what's all this coffee talk got to do with the real reason we gathered here today, which is to complain about my accidental foray into the other, uglier .1 percent of Planet Beer? Because while the blessedly large majority of beer-world folk were busy drinking or at least working, the rest of us were sitting around sniping at each other over personal preference, just like the sort of imbeciles who think it matters what kind of milk substitute or mocha goo other people put in their coffee.
You know how there are still people among us who think they are delivering incisive cultural commentary when they perform an exaggerated version of a complicated Starbucks order? The ones who rant about "triple-skim-whip-this-or-that" in a way that is supposed to paint a really evocative and unflattering image of the poor stranger in front of them in the coffee line that morning?
Here's a fun trick: Next time one of these clowns delivers their coffee monologue, don't indulge him with the sympathetic eye roll he has come to demand as his reward. Instead stare blankly until he mentions that the person with the offending coffee order was also wearing yoga pants. I'm not sure what's behind the correlation, other than that it is 100 percent. If somebody is mad at the way you order your coffee, he is also mad about your pants. And he is also QUITE LIKELY to have an opinion about your beer.
So yesterday, all the yoga-pantsless killjoys of the Fraternal Order of Dudes Who Yell About Beer had to take sides on this pretty good article about the declining perceived popularity of Samuel Adams beers among the .1 percenters who fight about these things while the rest of you work, drink, or have your pants judged.
A few quick disclosures: I've never met Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer Company. I've heard he's a good guy (though he comes off as a bit of a prick in this story). I really like his flagship Boston Lager and the intermittently available Noble Pils. I think most of the several dozen other beers the company produces range from pretty good to unnecessary-but-fine to downright bullshit. They seem, from my perspective, to be overextending themselves. They're Cheesecake Factorying it out there a little bit.
But they make some good beer, and while I won't get into Koch's precise relevance in the history of craft beer, I will say that we are quite likely all better off for his having deciding to take up the business. But Sam Adams beers are having a hard time finding their way into some of the top-tier craft-beer bars these days. The owner of one particular bar is quoted as attributing this to Sam Adams being "mediocre." I go to this bar; they carry great beer, but their selection would not suffer from serving America's finest Vienna Lager. I strongly suspect that Sam's lack of cache among the trophy-hunters plays a role in the bar owner's decision to never carry it, which makes the "mediocre" crack a low—and disingenuous—blow.
BUT! I don't give a shit. It's your bar, you can sell whatever you want. I'm ashamed of myself for wasting so much time bickering about this online yesterday. The reason I'm telling you about it today is because the original Boston Magazine piece makes for a pretty compelling story. At what point do the architects of any cultural movement get cast aside? Is consumer demand for constantly rotating beer taps going to ultimately dilute quality by forcing brewers to favor novelty and extremity over craftsmanship? Does competition actually stifle innovation if it leads to every brewer chasing the accolades typically reserved for just a handful of styles?
I know I like to try new things, myself. Part of this is professional obligation, but a fair bit of it is just good old-fashioned joie de vivre. It's fun to pick out a different bottle every time you're at the store. It's also fun to just pick the same beer—or handful of beers—that you know always get the job done for you. There's definitely merit to either side of the argument.
One of my favorite types of beer to try are the ones not available in my market. Commenters are always telling me I neglect the Pacific Northwest, which is bullshit: The Pacific Northwest neglects me! I'm sure your beer is great, but it's not easy to get my cold, dead New England hands on them. But Deschutes, from Bend, Ore., sent me their seasonal Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale a couple weeks ago.
I can't think of any stylistic reason that this hoppy pale ale would be seasonal—its not frost-hopped, and it doesn't have any of the kind of spices and pine needles and things that help you market something as a winter beer. But Deschutes has somehow managed to stay afloat without my scheduling advice since 1988, so let's just talk beer now.
This 6.2-percent alcohol-by-volume pale ale opens with a light bready, floral, and citrusy aroma. The flavor features toffee and slightly roasted malt, then overripe pineapple for just a second before the orange and grapefruit reemerge before it straightens up and dries out into a medium-length pine-heavy finish, with the perfume-y flowers present throughout.
Deschutes Red Chair is balanced and excellent, and I'm glad to have had the chance to try it.
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.
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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