Beers – From the Hip
During recording session of the From the Hip podcast, which isn’t usually directly mentioned in articles on this page, something that should be rectified, we occasionally imbibe a variety of beverages. Beer being one of the favorites amongst all of us, it tends to be the most featured during some of the podcasts. All of us have distinctive likes and dislikes and it’s difficult to find new beers to try that all will like. Here’s a few that I’ve had in the past that I especially enjoy whenever I find them. Some are difficult to find is some areas as they are regional, some are hard to find imports, and some are just not well represented by distributors. Hopheads, you’ll be disappointed in this list and will probably find my tastes bland. That’s okay, not every beer is to everyone’s taste.
Theakston’s Old Peculier
Oh, the blessed Old Peculier, a damned dark ale if there ever was one. Well, it’s not actually a “dark ale”, I just like calling it that because of its color when poured. It’s a beautiful brown in the deeper ranges and the first time I saw it I thought it was one of the darkest beers I’d ever seen that wasn’t a stout or porter. I loved it from the minute I finished my first taste and have never been unhappy with it – when I can find it. From the light caramel notes to the heady malt flavor, it blows me away every time. It dark, it seems like a lighter beer, and it finishes with excellence. From England since the 1800’s, you could win wars with tastes this good.
From the great brewers of Germany, and readily available over a good portion of the US, Spaten’s Optimator walks all over its fellow malty beverages with a smile and a wave. Rich and full-bodied, it can fill you up without the added sauerbraten dinner you might have it with. It’s dark and slightly heavy, but it goes down smooth. Sometimes it’s too smooth – the steins empty too easy and then you start talking German. Regardless, it’s a great beer that could be considered a fine entry-level beverage into a less hoppy world, though some might find it a mite heavier than they prefer. I love it though, and can recommend it easily. Plus, you get to call it a doppelbock, which is just fun to say.
Founders’ Breakfast Stout
The Great Lakes region of the United States has produced some excellent beers since the resurgence of independent breweries, and the Breakfast Stout is the one that put Founders in the minds of many beer lovers. I first had it at a fun little pub in Manhattan called Twins while attending the New York Comic Con and was exceptionally happy when it started arriving in my own area in six packs. The Breakfast Stout is frothy and dark, but has a lighter feel than the Irish monster of stouts, Guinness. It isn’t as filling as most stouts, but if you’re six deep into them, you’re probably not worried about filling. The Breakfast Stout is a great beer when starting a Founders sampler, as they brew some amazing dark beers that make the Breakfast Stout seem like the runt of the litter. A runt it is not – it’s breakfast in a bottle.
John Courage Amber
Drifting away from black beers, the John Courage Amber is by far the strangest of what I’ll put on this recommendation list. It’s akin to many of the other ales you might see, being reddish-brown in color to almost a toasty orange. Beyond that, it’s defies the usual. It’s got heavy caramel overtones when first sipped, but the richness of the malts comes through deeper in. It finishes with a light, briefly nutty taste before leaving you refreshed and wanting more. The best session beer on this list, John Courage was a standard draught in the area for years before vanishing. If there’s one thing the Scots can do, it’s make a great beverage enjoyable for all months, hot or cold. John Courage, when available, should always have a presence in your fridge.
New Glarus Spotted Cow
There isn’t a brewer in the United States that hasn’t heard of New Glarus, and many beyond the US shores are also aware of this uncanny upstart from lower Wisconsin. New Glarus, named for the tiny town it resides in, brewed up Spotted Cow as a tasty replacement for all those drab American beers forced upon the Wisconsin residents as Milwaukee breweries slowly shrank or ate each other in buyouts and mergers. Or, that’s what I like to think. Spotted Cow is a light, refreshing farmhouse style ale, resembling a light lager or headier pilsner. Poured into a pilsner glass, it’s fun to watch as bubbles continuously rise to the top of the yellowish beer, showing the live activity of the drink. Actually, poured in any glass you’ll see it, but it’s more fun in the pilsner. Spotted Cow has a creamy feel to it, as well as a sharp tang to the upper palate that you can’t help but enjoy. Spotted Cow is the preeminent beer of New Glarus, though they have many excellent beers to taste. Not available outside of Wisconsin, I most heartily recommend visiting the brewery and its all-encompassing self-tour. You won’t come away empty handed.
Olde Burnside Dirty Penny
The final tasty beverage on my list of favorites is local. From East Hartford, Connecticut, Dirty Penny is a variation of Olde Burnside’s original beer, Ten Penny. Considered a black-and-tan as it uses Ten Penny to create the surprisingly enticing flavors of Dirty Penny, I cannot get enough of it. It’s as dark as Old Peculiar, as flavorful as John Courage, as rich as Optimator. It has a light taste of both coffee and caramel that ends up mixing at the back in a way that’s nearly indescribable. I’ve been hooked since I first discovered it alongside the first time I saw the Red Hot Chilli Pipers in concert, though they are easily mutually exclusive. Depending on where you are, it may be available, just don’t hope for shipping outside of the state. Connecticut has ridiculous laws when it comes to transporting of the frosty beverages. You’ll just have to come here and get it and enjoy it as much as me.