My wife, Wendy, is in Florida this week, which has several important consequences:
1. I have to do my own laundry.
2. My coworkers have to tell me if my tie is sticking below my collar in the back.
3. Our German shepherd, Thea, gets to jump on the bed with me in the morning.
4. I don’t have to make the bed, mostly because there’s 80 pounds of German shepherd spread across it.
5. I can try lots of beers that Wendy doesn’t like.
It is principally to number 5 that I wish to address today’s comments.
Now, for starters, I don’t want to be a prophet of doom, but I do notice that there is a slight chill in the air — to the tune of about 35 degrees as I’m writing this, to be exact. In other words, the cold weather has arrived and everyone who enjoys beer is turning their thoughts to what fits with winter. To that end I have a couple of suggestions.
Generally speaking, during these darker winter months, many beer drinkers tend toward darker, heavier, malty beers, porters, stouts, things of that type. This is not to say that one ought to stop drinking light, hoppy beers; in fact they can provide a nice contrast, particularly during the long dark days of March, when the sky is gray, the ground is gray, and many people’s moods tend to start getting gray as well.
So, let’s start with something light to help us remember the sun, and then look to a couple of darker choices for the long nights ahead.
-- Shiner Prickly Pear (Shiner Brewing Co., Shiner, Texas) 4.9% alcohol by volume. “Beer brewed with prickly pear fruit and with natural flavor added.” This beer is part of the Limited Edition Brewers Pride Craft Brew Series from the Shiner, Texas, brewery. It is a rich gold in the glass, with an off-white frothy head, and there is indeed pear on the nose. It is a medium-bodied beer with light malt, and a predominantly hops profile with strong flavors of pear, against the background of citrus. If you should need a blast of summer in the weeks ahead, this would be a good choice.
-- Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., California and North Carolina), 6.8% abv. This beer was first brewed in 1981 for the winter season. It makes a comeback each fall. It’s made, they report, from the first hops of the growing season. A huge light tan head over cloudy golden/amber beer. The nose is rich in malt, with some light citrus aromas behind it. This one stands out in that it is a full-bodied ale, with very good weight, creamy on the palate, which is where the bitterness of the hops burst forth along with some citrus and then a long, slow malt profile of bread, hints of caramel and green that combine into a certain earthiness that moves through a long and balanced finish. This one is a winner. They say it’s for the holidays; I would say it’s good for the whole winter. It would pair remarkably well with turkey (dark meat), and with other roasted meats on cold winter nights.
-- Warlock Imperial Stout (Southern Tier Brewing Co., Lakewood, N.Y.), 8.6% abv. Brewed the pumpkins and natural flavors. Southern Tier recommends pairing Warlock with spicy barbecue, roasted foods, smoked foods and carrot cake. They also recommend serving at 42°F. Dark brown beer, a little lighter at the edges of the glass, under a frothy tan head that is lasting. The nose is all grain, as if you were sitting up in a barn’s hayloft. This too is a full-bodied beer, and the pumpkin they mention on the label comes through on the palate, along with spice, malt, and a medium bitterness from the hops that is beautifully integrated with its dark, rich flavors.
And so begins our winter explorations. More later, after I get the dog off the bed and brush off all the hair before Wendy gets back.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com.