1. Hello, beer friends! Remember right before Thanksgiving when I hit you with the ridiculous command to buy a $24 bottle of Cisco Cranberry Woods, even though I’d never even tried the stuff? Well, bullet dodged. As you surely all discovered for yourselves, it’s damn good beer, and also pink. But is it worth that kind of dough? Eh, who’s to say? It probably is if you’re wealthy or careless, and maybe even if you’re just a regular person looking to live the fine life for a couple minutes. Now that we’ve got that settled, it’s time to address a few other beer-related importances I’ve been thinking about recently.
2. The Brewers Association recently posted a story headlined “Embracing Diversity in the Beer Biz” that included a happy stat indicating that breweries are far more likely than certain other industries to employ women in executive leadership roles. This is great but also misleading: The other businesses surveyed were described as Fortune 500 companies, finance, healthcare, and information technology — not noted bastions of inclusivity. And the banking and medical industries don’t feature as much mom-and-poppishness as brewing does. I wonder how many of these women beer executives are hired from outside the ownership group? I’m all for women in beer, however they come by their job titles, but if most of these female executives are in companies that employ the “wife, husband, and third guy who knows how to brew” business model, then that takes some of the shine off having a woman serving as executive vice president of Growler Fills. True progress will come when women can get more of these jobs without having to own the goddamn building first.
3. Guys, I have an idea: What if you added an ounce of Tröegs Mad Elf to a mai tai (or really any tiki drink)? Mad Elf is one of the very few beers that I love in small doses. Usually, if I’m into a beer, I can happily commit to at least a couple bottles before the slightest bit of boredom or fatigue sets in. Mad Elf, however, thrills me for about six ounces and then I get overwhelmed. So I’m going to dedicate the back half of my next bottle to making a batch of mai tais in which the syrupy malty-nutty-cherry magic stands in for orgeat. I don’t need six mai tais, though… what are you doing after work Thursday?
4. It’s barrel-aged imperial stout season, so rejoice and beware. I had several duds last year. And I’m not even referring to infections or other quality-control issues, although that’s always a concern— if Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout can get dirty, no beer is safe. That said, you don’t need to fly completely blind. Avoid barrel-aged stouts (or any similarly ambitious beers) from places that struggle to keep their pale ales straight from batch to batch. Those breweries can be great in many ways; for a smaller operation, especially a non-packaging one, there’s nothing wrong with letting Yeast Jesus take the wheel to a greater or lesser extent from time to time. But when you drop double-digit dollars on a bottle of high-test, barrel-aged stout, you should have a reasonable idea of what you’re getting. This isn’t a style that rewards chance or whimsy. If you suspect a brewery lacks the experience or attention to detail that an imperial stout demands, take a pass. You don’t want to get stuck with soy sauce notes from underpowered yeast or any of the other off-flavors that can wreck beers in this weight class.
5. Duvel Moortgat USA veteran Neil Witte is splitting to start a beer quality auditing service, which is great news. Witte is one of only 11 master cicerones walking among us, and lay drinkers are lucky to have such a qualified tongue looking out for our interests. All breweries pay lip service to the idea of quality control, and maybe even brain-service, too. I don’t doubt that the vast majority of them care very deeply. But they may lack the resources — not to mention the expertise — necessary to keep things real out in the field. Now, any brewer who wants to make sure her stuff is holding up on the shelf can simply contract the services of Witte’s Craft Quality Solutions. This might be a bit scary because you’re going to have to pay him, and then get ready for some potentially bad news, but your beer will be stronger for it.
6. New England’s enjoyed Notch Brewing’s session-only beers for over five years, and now there’s an all-imperial counterpoint in Greater Good, which is based in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and brews in Wolcott, Connecticut. I’m not certain I need a 10-percent ABV Imperial Sour Cherry Altbier in my life, but I’m not certain I don’t and I love the idea of an all-huge brewing company. It helps the brewery keep planning, marketing, and packaging on track, and the customer’s always going to know what he’s getting in at least one crucial department. Plus, one assumes quality will be boosted by having such a refined focus.
7. Hungry? Same. Let’s make these kick-ass rauchbier-marinated chicken thighs from Draft.