On the art of brewing

Yesterday I had the fortune to attend my friend’s birthday. Since he was one of those hop-heads who spends most of his time drinking at the local craft beer bar, it’s kind-of obvious that he would celebrate his 29th birthday there as well.

To be honest, I don’t really care much for the whole obsession of craft beers. Mind you, I do like craft beers – they taste better and each bottle has it’s own unique twist both in the inside and the outside.

But certainly I don’t like seeing balding guys reaching their 30’s buying a beer, talk a whole lot about the grains used to brew the beer and most of all, I really hate it when they take out their little phones and scan the beer to the apps, which keeps a tally of what kind of beers has the user drunk. It just doesn’t seem proper to spend so much time gazing into the bottle. The beer is supposed to be drunk, not shouted out to the world that I’ve had a cold one!

But there I was, drinking craft beers with my good friend, and was just having a good time in my life. There were many beers and as the night went on, the importance of the craft became much more apparent and I will explain this to you by reviewing two beers in opposite sides.

I’ll start off with the main offender of the night, Port Brewing’s Santa’s Little Helper.

port-brewing-company-santa-s-little-helper-imperial-stout.gif

(Image courtesy of Joe Canal’s)

This bottle represents everything that’s wrong with the craft beer industry. It has a whimsical label, has a trite little story on the side about the spirit of giving and beer and my very own pet peeve: “aged in <whatever> barrels” notice. In this case, it says oak barrels, but the one I had was aged in bourbon barrels.

The flat aroma, the watery taste with an dominating aftertaste of old, stale Jim Beam mixed with left-over coffee grounds. In my opinion, they gave more thought to the label rather than the actual brewing process itself. “Let’s make a stout (because that’s what men drink), add some coffee to it (so it would be darker) and age it in bourbon barrels (since that’s also manly)!” That’s how I imagined they would create such a forgettable beer. There was no soul to it – just cheap marketing tricks to pass as a craft beer.

SpontanBasil

(Image courtesy of allaboutbeer.com)

While this beer had soul. Spontanbasil by Mikkeller & Lindeman’s brewery.

I think this beer was a triumph of brewing. The name hints that there’s some basil somewhere in the beer, and by god, the moment you open the bottle, the whole room was filled with the smell of fresh basil and Mentha montanum. I was having a conversation with another friend and I asked him what thoughts he had.

“You know what, it reminds me of summer adventures I had when I was a kid.”

That is what I mean when a beer has a soul. In this case, the beer just yelled out summer. It was just so fresh, the aroma was pleasing and secure and the taste was perfectly balanced – sour, but not a lemon. Sweet, but not syrupy. Each sip brought back another time of carefree joy from the innermost depths of the brain. Spontanbasil was a beer that inspired. It’s something that you would drink and you wouldn’t just dismissively nod and smack your lips to a tune of “this is nice”, but you would sip and smile as you’re warmed by the images lit up inside your soul.

That’s what a craft beer should be: a perfect beer should awaken the senses rather than dull them. So this is my recommendation to you, dear brewer: think it through! What do you want to give to your customer? How do you want to make them feel?

As for you, the man with a smartphone with some beer app on: put the phone down, pour the drink, smell the brew and then drink it. Enjoy it and then look at the bottle and do whatever the hell you want to log your passage to the altered state of mind. Allow yourself the luxury of enjoyment of the moment, because that’s what will remain tomorrow and every day after.

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