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Archive for June, 2009

This past weekend a wedding happened in the family. All was perfect: the conversation, the reconnecting to seldom seen relatives, the accommodations, the food, and the drink. Well, the beer was fine and there was plenty and there were a few varieties. Nothing more could be asked for… except… what if the beer guys created the beer list for the wedding?!

Now a wedding brings all ages together; it brings all tastes together. There are always surprises, folks from far away, different cultures, different languages, heritage, traditions. And that was just what made this wedding great. So what would the beer list be?

Must have an American light, maybe Coors – a crisp clean drink. The quintessential pedestrian brew, Budweiser. Corona for those favoring south of the border? Maybe Dos Equis too. Heineken, no one in western Europe would fault that pick (remember this is a wedding not a bachelor party). Now, specialty brews – for the smart set – the young professionals – should have micro brew status but be familiar (this is not a beer tasting – beer complements the evening not commands it). New England should be featured, especially for those from afar who are sight-seeing in the area. Harpoon or Smuttynose IPA, there! two NE states and lots of character.  Samuel Adams Boston Ale… yes, good pick and a Long Trail Ale, there is Vermont, maybe Tuckermans, that is a well known landmark but a quiet brew fresh from the White Mountains. Now the old timers need attention, well certainly the IPA should fit but how about a stout…

An American stout, Sierra Nevada? if we can find a supply, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout? but a New England stout??? Ah, two birds with one beer, 6288 Stout from Tuckermans. A great label, a solid regional brew, a reasonable stout and of course the title refers to the altitude of Mount Washington, site of the worst weather in North America.

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This brings me to the second half of the title, Harpoon. I have mentioned Harpoon IPA in other posts, “the standard setter for IPA’s” I said. What we have in Harpoon’s IPA is a brew for the long haul. We don’t buy it in four-packs; we purchase 12 bottle boxes which disappear from the fridge at an alarming rate. This is a substantially different drink than the Lion. It is steady, refreshing, and holds its attraction over time, day after day.

LabelHarpoon wasn’t always that way. When I first tasted the original Harpoon Ale I was sadly disappointed. Maybe it was the earliest days of Sam Adams and Geary’s Ale, before the craft brewing renewal caught fire. I found the brew unimaginative. after a few attempts to come to grips with Harpoon I gave up and stayed away for some time.

Eventually though with a revamped label and an IPA to offer I gave the brewery another chance. I have never looked back. They found the key to an ultra-fine brew. As Alex says in his comment to my Leviathan post where I say that Harpoon IPA is the standard setter,  “Could not agree more. It may even be the standard setter for beer in general.”

ipa_b_g_200x367(1)The real dividing line of beer is the brew that becomes a standard drink vs. the brew that is a novelty, a “seasonal”, an occasional, a “yeah, that wasn’t bad!” Harpoon IPA is the standard, much like Sam Adams is a standard. Lion Imperial is an occasional.

I popped a twelve pack of Harpoon IPA into the fridge recently and have reached in nightly with delight and poured a glass full. Ah, after a day of work, the hops bring out the crisp flavor with a fullness, a drinkability, a refreshing zing. Ah!

HaveAnotherEC_Stamp

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After working my way through the Lion Stout described in my May 28th post, I kept bypassing its step sister the Lion Imperial: Premium Malt Pilsner. All these terms seemed oxymoronic, like a mixed up scrabble game. Eventually though as I arrived home late one evening after an event at my daughter’s high school, with a mounting thirst, I reached into the fridge and dragged out the Imperial Lion. After a quick pour and a large gulp I thought that this feline missed the boat that Lion Stout sailed on. “Nuff said,” I went to bed.

The story continues the next evening when I set my mind on plumbing the depth of this 8.8%ABV. I knew there must be a tail… or tale actually, on this Lion. This time I poured down the center of the glass. The head rose thick and full, crowning the amber brew. With expectations ready for a complex brew I tipped the fluid into my mouth and followed it in my mind down into the depths. The distinct lager taste, like a Budweiser in its finest condition out of a fresh tapped keg, coming through clean-as-a-whistle piping, into a sparkling clean mug, arose and then multiplied in dimension. The alcohol rode up to the surface and put in the kick at the end. This was a complex yet relatively light lager.

As a second round followed I appreciated the character of this beer even more. Certainly a lesson learned once again. One must come to a brew with expectations to appreciate what it can offer. This is a quality brew. Would I drink it regularly? No, probably not, but the Imperial Lion turned into a nice refreshing surprise. Glad I had the chance to try a few.

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MooButternuts Beer and Ale Brewery in Garrattsville, New York packages their products in cans. After a sit down with Dales Ale with Nate (see the previous posts), he gathered up a few cans from Butternuts to sample. The brewery website is underwhelming but promising. I don’t have patience for some things. Oh well. 

Well, this evening as the sun slid down the west side of the Sandwich Range and the sky turned that dark blue of sunset, I grabbed for a black can from Butternut.  “Stout” said the label under a cartoon cow. “Moo Thunder” stretched over the top. I must say the label is a complete turn off but I didn’t waver and cracked the top and tipped into the glass.

The “stout” expectation was in the forefront of my tasting sense. The first long pull of the Moo Thunder was, well… not at all like thunder. Watery maybe, dry for sure, placid yes, respectable drink, well, yeah. I could call it a cream stout, a light duty stout, but not a bad stout. This is not a “knock your socks off” stout. Would I have another? … rather than nothing, yes of course! Rather than Guinness? Never!

KeepAway

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