Happy Sub-Five-Percent Friday, where we try to find a nice, gentle beer to help you minimize the damage from your inevitable weekend binge.
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is a quirky little Massachusetts brewing company consisting of a husband-and-wife team and maybe one side gimp to help with deliveries and whatnot. This tiny operation is currently in its sixth year of making mostly excellent beers. Or hell, maybe they're all excellent—I don't care for a few of them, because Pretty Things likes to get a bit weird, brewing odd historical styles or using obscure ingredients, but I can't say I've ever tasted an obvious flaw in anything they've made.
They also don't employ a standard business model, contract brewing all their beer and only releasing it in kegs and 22-ounce bottles. This is frustrating. I don't understand how or why any brewer gets by without tossing us at least a four-pack of 12-ounce bottles, if not a sixer of cans. But that's not really the point, and I bring it up only to a) air an irrelevant personal grievance and b) illustrate that Pretty Things generally tends to do shit their own way. And good for them. I'm no big advocate of ostentatious individualism just for the sake of being different, but if you've got an offbeat personal style that happens to suit your interests, then go for it.
Pretty Things brewer Dann Paquette recently chose to stand out in yet another way, by launching a late-night (pssst: That's beer-journalism code for "drunken") Twitter rant about the prevalent and illegal practice of breweries—or the distributors who represent them in the bullshit "three-tier system"—bribing bar owners to carry their beer. Everyone even tangentially related to the beer game knows it happens, but the general public doesn't much care, and the government doesn't seem to either: No one's been sanctioned for beer payola in Massachusetts in at least 18 years.
But despite this indifference, it's still illegal and shitty, and good for Paquette for bringing the issue to light. He got a lot of not-super-helpful support from people who basically said, "Yeah, man, fight the good fight—I know it happens and I'm sick of it," but refused to name names for fear of whistleblower backlash, and also because so few people's hands are clean enough to withstand serious regulatory scrutiny. Pretty Things encouraged their Twitter followers to expose offending bars and beers using the hashtag #dirtylines, which didn't really work, but did remind me that it's high time I take the hashtag literally and complain about how sick I am of physically corrupted beer hoses scumming up draft beer.
A lot of the older day-drunks with whom I consort refuse to drink draft beer, which always used to strike me as a holdover from the bad old days before bars had automatic dishwashers and patrons were better off drinking from a bottle than from a glass that had just been floated through a disgusting three-bay washing station. But now I'm starting to join their protest, because as I shift away from IPAs and other heavy, flavorful beers, I'm starting to notice that a lot of ostensibly clean bars just don't maintain their draft systems well enough to handle more delicate styles.
After I declared North Coast Scrimshaw to be the finest pilsner in the land, I successfully agitated for my favorite neighborhood bar to carry it on tap, and then I let them down by basically ignoring it after discovering that none of the first several pints tasted right. I drink plenty of Lagunitas IPA and Harpoon Rye IPA at this bar, and those both taste fine, but a lighter, cleaner style like pilsner that doesn't have all the hops to hide behind is best enjoyed in either a higher-class bar or in a bottle. Dirty lines are a big problem in even relatively clean bars; the place I'm talking about is a little rough around the edges, but it's no dive, and they dutifully flush out the beer hoses every other week. But I think the problem is that at a certain point, you've got to start over with all new equipment: You can only wear a T-shirt to the gym so many times before it hits the point of no return, where no amount of laundry detergent is going to get the funk out.
So I advise you to drink North Coast Scrimshaw pilsner all weekend, with the caveat that you might be better off doing so in the discomfort of your own filthy home. I stand by what I said about it in April: Scrimshaw has a deep orange-tinted honey color, aggressive carbonation, and more body than its peers. It displays excellent balance, with a floral-citrus opening tilting slightly malty through the middle before the dry, tingly finish. This is remarkably well-rounded for a 4.4-percent-ABV pilsner, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Just be careful how you get it.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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