From Empty to Discovery – T.J.’s look at the Evolution of a Beer Drinker & the American Red Ale

IMG_0647I came to a realization the other day as I gathered my empties to bring back to the shop, and the craft beer nerd will sympathise with me here. I noticed that I wouldn’t get a refund for most of the beer bottles that had collected themselves on the kitchen floor. As my curiosity for craft beer grows, I find myself going farther and farther outside the city limits to buy the latest and greatest that the Canadian and American craft market has to offer. The result of this being that most of these bottles are from a different Province or Country, and have no return possibilities. That got me thinking.

From the time I started drinking the local macro brews (Molson, Labatt, ect…), I’ve constantly searched for new beers. By the time I was in college and could actually afford something beyond the big advertised “drink Ice Cold” schlop, I mainly searched for something that tasted better than pilsner. I tried other local brands, like Boreal and Unibroue, who offer a range of beers like “amber” and “white.” Then I moved to more eclectic territory: Mcauslan apricot and Guinness – which is the ultimate gateway beer – onto Leffe and Hoegaarden. Then I found THE beer.

IMG_0570Beer snobs and hop heads will always remember that one beer that turned them from mediocrity, to the truly great stuff. For me it was Paulaner’s Heffeweizen. It was thick yet refreshing, with a bouquet like a summer field and just a perfect balance of everything that is great in a drink. Once I found that, I knew I had to find more. It wasn’t just another beer. Here was a brewery that referred to its beer not by a brand name but by its style – just like wine. It took me a while but, with a bit of research, I found out that I liked wheat beers, usually of the Belgian variety. That was my “in”.

Once I found a style of beer that I liked, I started branching out and trying wheat beers from every brewery I came across. From there, I would find a particularly good beer from a brewery and the try other beers that they make as well. Lo and behold, that led me to have an affair with Stouts. And once you’re into Stouts, it’s just a slippery 3 monts - Baltic Porterslope to Baltic Porters, Barleywines, and  -shiver- Belgian quads. Before you know it, you’re trying, and maybe even liking, anything and everything: what’s that? Dogfish Head just made a beer with wild yeast and thyme? Bring it on!

The key is to experiment. You need to start somewhere and move on from there. For me, I read about a style that I had never tasted before: Imperial Red Ales. The next time I was cruising the isles, looking for something new, I went looking for that style. When you’re in a store picking up beer, much like people who shop for wine have complained about for years, the hundreds of attractive labels confuse more than comfort the shoppers. However, if you look for something particular, that simplifies the choices. And that’s how, with nothing else more than a style of beer, Imperial Red Ale, I came across today’s beer review.

Speakeasy Ales and Lagers: Betrayal, Imperial Red Ale

111Amber ales are the bi-curious beers. This style describes a beer that is of in-between color: not pale, not dark, hoppy but too hoppy, malty but not too malty. The Irish red ales tend to be more sessionable (lower in alcohol), and usually have notes of toffee, which give it a buttery/caramel flavor. American red ales, like most American beers, are generally hoppier and stronger.

newBetrayal poured out a dark copper color with monstrous coffee-colored froth, which rose to a 4-finger height. The lacing stuck to the glass right until the end in that satisfying way that British bitters are apt to do. It looks like a manly beer, made to cling to mustaches. The nose had a hoppy citrus zest and pine scent with light notes of bread and toasted malts. While there is something to be said of striking a harmony, I kind of like the way Speakeasy managed to keep both sides of the spectrum, sweet and bitter, distinct here. It’s crisp on the palate with a medium body that offers-up both the sweet malts and the bitter hops. The alcohol isn’t masked here either. At 8.2% this is a sipper.

1111And so, instead of picking up something familiar, I decided to go with something completely new. If you’re new to the craft beer scene and fear wasting money on these adventures, stick to recognized, well-reputed craft breweries. Do some research on a style of beer that you’ve had and liked or, keep trying randomly until you hit on something. Open your mind and palate to something new.

Then, all that’s left to figure out is what to do what all the leftover bottles that you can’t bring back to the corner store

An article by T.J. Blinn

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