Monthly Archives: February 2011

Snowshoes and Beer

A day in review: Sunday. Going snowshoeing with friends and new acquaintances under the guise of “Veggie Supper Club.” It’s rad. But most of the usuals dropped out, or rather, puked out due to illness, while others were out of town or over-socialized for the weekend. Whatever the reasons, nine people still managed to make it to Gold Lake Snow Park and crunch their way to a “warming” hut (note to y’all: you must make it warm yourself. Otherwise it’s just a hut).

Before departure into wild white yonder, popped a bottle of Harviestoun’s Ola Dubh, 2007 vintage. Ebony in a glass. Kinda snuck it into the ranger station lodge while we were snacking on bleu cheese biscuits and spicy green beans. Drank around a hot wood stove, like black tea made of old whiskey wood and burnt liquified raisins. It aged well,  but gave the sense of loose skin over a once meaty body. Continued to warm after leaving the lodge.

Two miles later around a picnic table under a roof beneath three feet of snow, surrounded by banks of snow and icicles, eating kitchen sink quinoa salad, olive bread, and ginger cookies, a bottle of Cascade Blackberry 2007 (interesting year) gushed from its waxed top into several small plastic glasses labeled “unbreakable.” Sour, tart, acidic, lemony aromas left cold rings around my nostrils and champagne bubbles on my palate. Assessment: opened none too soon, a little too late. Not the best for winter hikes.

Speaking of a little too late, Haand Bryggeriet’s Nissefar, a Norwegian Holiday Ale, should have been opened six months ago! But I’ve opened it this evening. It smells old, but good, like a cedar box with trinkets inside. Spices, probably traditional cinnamon and clove, maybe some juniper or spruce, float on some alcohol notes with a hint of almost-good oxidation. It too has lost some body over the years, but gracefully. A testament to the hardiness of beer and clean brewing.

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Judging with Mind & Body: a Holistic Approach

Here’s an awesome idea: What if, after completing a judge sheet during a competition, the judges stood up, lifted their arms above their heads, and took five minutes to gauge the physiological effects of their beer? Some light calisthenics, a lap around the house, or a lightning game of rock-paper-scissors would probably suffice. Assessments of balance, logic, and physical fatigue could be taken, as well as insight into the more metaphysical effects of certain styles. For example: “Could only complete five squat-thrusts, but creamed the other judges using the all-scissors method.” Or, “This barleywine made me feel like a helium balloon tied to a millstone!”

This section could be linked with the enigmatic “intangibles” checkboxes at the bottom of the current scoresheet, with a range of points to be given for, say, balance: a scale of -2 to +2, -2 being “falling down,” 0 being “wobbly as normal,” and +2 being “walked the line.” Physical exertion could be particularly telling; if, after finishing a Pilsener the judge was winded after one lap, they might remark that “this beer is too exhausting; it would be unacceptable to have a couple during lunch break on a construction job. Best to enter this as a Baltic Porter.”

Mental games such as short math tests or memory puzzles would be perfect assessment tools, and language games, like tongue twisters or anagrams, would not only help the judges analyze the metaphysical aspects of a beer; it might improve the written portion of the scoresheet. For example:

A dearth of grain character and a bouquet redolent of northern Thai durian fruit, coupled with an amalgam of yeast notes that conjures images of torture by wet socks is a clear indicator that this is a  ___ beer.”

In this case the beer was bad enough to turn this working class judge into William Faulkner. Also, one should never make assumptions. Another example:

lst m vwls, srry, br sx.” [lost my vowels, sorry, beer sux [sic].]

Here we get a double dose: something must be horribly wrong for a beer to have a direct impact on the judge’s ability to write. In normal judging circumstances, this malady might not show itself until the subsequent beer has been served.

My suggestion has its obvious theoretical and practical holes; of course we have all had different levels of exposure to the limits of our own senses. Secondly, it treads dangerously close to the realm of categorically different substances, both legal and frowned upon. If this practice was adopted, there would have to be some sort of manifesto drawn up, extensive studies done to weigh points given against classified information on the judge; naturally there would be resistance to this radical method of judging process, and the BJCP test would become much more rigorous than it already is. Also, think of the competition organizers and stewards, who would spend their now extended engagements wrangling giddy judges. Judging would have to become self-officiated, and would inevitably fall into anarchy. Best we scrap this whole thing.

Hive Mentality

Uinta Brewing’s Hive “Honey Stung Ale:” Aroma of plain honey and sulfur with a dash here of sweet malt and a dash there of mellow, possibly unAmerican hops. Very gold with a lasting white head of big bubbles. Dry and lager-like in its clean malt flavors; the honey flavor has fermented out. Very high carbonation and a medium light body. This beer would be a great substitute for a cheap lager in the summer.

Wow, that was boring! Something strange happens to me when faced with a boring (but not undrinkable) beer: it slides right down my throat. Three minutes into this post, two ounces left in the glass. I didn’t even mean to! They could tagline this beer: “If you need calories fast, have a Hive!” (now the glass is empty) I can see scores of “discerning” BYU beer drinkers with cases of Hive in their fridges, playing classy “microbrew pong” and going on about how the hangover’s not as bad as Schaefer. Little yellow-labeled bottles lying next to the coffee table in the morning.

My god, I need to go play football or climb a mountain, something to render null the caloric effects of the last five minutes… that chin-up bar in my bedroom doorframe looks more appealing than ever… is there a sweat lodge nearby? I’ve got a growing skepticism of the small-brewery industry, mostly because I work so closely with the products. I told a friend one day, “I walk along, looking in each door of the cooler, and I feel like I know each beer, just from having handled each bottle. I see one and think, ‘guh, I know what you’ll taste like.'” And he thought he was a skeptic. I’ve already predicted the next economic bubble will be microbreweries, with everybody and their uncle converting their rural garage into 1-7 barrel brewhouses, feeding boozy hopwater to the neighborhood, trying to convince the world their IPA is the best ever.

Next time, we’ll try the Uinta “Wyld” (they’re missing a “d,” no?), an unwild-sounding organic extra pale ale. Why, oh why?