Wednesday, November 21, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Biere de Garde {w/ Brewery Vivant} ✦ Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale ✦ Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout | New Belgium Brewing | Fort Collins, CO

Americans love a good theme.

Themes allow us lazy thinkers to summarily place caveats cleanly into categories with a very gentle curve that our slow-footed brains can maneuver.  Lately, I've been getting a bit more theme-y with the blog and its because I kind of like the smash-bang infusion of beer culture into society's common rituals with obvious things like what beers to drink on Halloween, or more subtle ones, like how to narrow the spectrum of holiday pumpkin beers so that valuable gastric real estate isn't wasted on hasty, eye-level decisions at the supermarket.

The blatant tenor of this week has been the impending arrival of the Greatest Holiday on Earth, and that is Thanksgiving (for our international visitors from the Russian spam sites).  Indeed this holiday is considered by so many as the anti-Christmas, as it centers around the affable and completely voluntary assembly of friends and family in the name of food and football; void of the dickery of gift-exchanging -- although the public profession of thank-yous across social mediums has become the new immaterial of unwanted stocking stuffers (so, stop that shit before you ruin my holiday). 

Anyway, until recently, the defacto accessory to dinner was inexpensive table wine poured into mismatched stemware, primarily due to the fact that very few people have access to 20 matching Burgundy glasses in a guest room closet somewhere in the house.  So, it was an amusing ritual for the family to pretend to be these big wine apostles, when in fact, drinking dinner wine was a lot like going to church: only on major holidays.  And although great wine has a very respectable spot at the table, the culture behind wine itself, really does not.  Wine is gossipy and exclusive.  And it seems to only really be able to make it as far as the second course before closing up shop at dessert, save for the one, biscuit-arsed, port drinking, effete Times-reader in the group.  But fuck that guy.

The second of the Big 3 of Booze -- craft cocktails -- have almost no shot to overtake wine as the Beverage of Thanks.  I like cocktails very much, but I never quite seem to fall in love with them despite thinking they are excellent.  I think that many just have a difficult time engaging with them at the culinary consumption level.

I was at a competitive cocktail event just the other night, and I was genuinely surprised by the juvenile culture surrounding its ideals: good hair, great sport coats, faux-ethnic tats, and biting criticism of their own.  Cocktail culture might possibly be the exact opposite of Thanksgiving's thesis -- and through my very scientific sample size of one event, seems to have cultivated competitive conflict instead of inclusive fellowship.  These provocateurs use too many adjectives and appear to be invested too personally in their craft so that things like collaboration between equals and celebration of the art itself is solidly rejected.

Therefore, what is left to fill the a very large beverage void left by $10 Australian varietals and the non-starters of Old Fashions and Manhattans, is ... well, beer.

If wine is allegorically the catering of booze, and cocktails the booze world's version of cooking, then brewing is comparatively the baking of the alcoholic triumvirate.  And in every community across the planet, congregation and collaboration is celebrated with bread.

Beyond the general ridicule I have for my fellow beer nerds and the utmost respect for the brewers, the message of beer culture is clearly one of accessibility, comradery, objectivity, and collective goals.  The underbelly of beer culture is in fact a simile for Thanksgiving celebration itself: doughy enthusiasts (and soon-to-be-enthusiasts) hunting and hoarding kills of rare and rare-ish beers, then amassing in a coven to show off their skins, either publicly in what is called a beer-share, or privately, in what is called Instagram. The mutual interests between Thanksgiving dinner and beer culture is a natural fit, and because so, beer must customarily become the liquid feature at America's Feast for the future.  Building bridges and all that shit.

And because New Belgium essentially wrote the doctrine for beer culture, and ultimately has saved Thanksgiving from Trader Joe's infiltration, I present to you three of their beers that should grace your table tomorrow evening.

First Course

Thanksgiving dinner is typically a salt-bomb.  A delicious, delicious salt-bomb.  But typically the first course of the annual feast prepares our sensors with a light, green salad or a mild soup to coach the palate.  A farmhouse biere de garde, specifically this Biere de Garde, which was brewed in conjunction with beer-savants, Brewery Vivant of Grand Rapids, would be the perfect compliment to greenery and muddled goards.  Biere de Garde enriches the flavors of these starters by presenting a subtle citrus profile and yeasty baked bread notes, just before you bomb your guts with gravy.

ABV 9.o%
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? It's a fairly common sight around town, HEB, Spec's, and various shops.
Album Beirut | The Rip Tide (2011)

Main Course 

Something on your plate is gonna have to balance out the savoriness of roasted turkey and mashers, but too often, cranberry sauce and candied yams are neglected by feasters.  Therefore, I would suggest adding your daily intake of fruits and veggies -- not on your plate -- but on your coaster in the form of New Belgium's Raspberry Frambozen.  The tart-y sweetness of the fermented berry beer balances the umami impressed upon the gullet by the bird.

Since we're no longer 14, Mountain Dew is no longer an option, unfortunately -- and because we're not 80, we don't even know where Spec's stocks the Riunite.  A raspberry fermented brown ale does the ploughman's job of tilling your innards in preparation for salty seconds.

ABV 6.5%
Acquired Spec's
Can I Find This in Austin? Every grocery and liquor store in town. Even some corner stores.
Album Polica | Give You The Ghost (2012)

Dessert Course

If you've made it all the way to pecan pie, than obviously you have the capacity to indulge yourself with a dessert beer to complete the finishing touches on shamefulness.  I don't think that New Belgium has even made a stout before -- and if they have, I can't think of it -- but they pull this one off masterfully.  This beer is rich, sweet, and creamy -- mimicking the Euro tradition of dessert coffee -- but since this is mf'in American, we're gonna go down swinging with a big stout.  This version, however, is not as thick in the palate as an imperial stout, leaving just enough room to clear the regurgitation space when Tony Romo leads the Cowboys offense out on the field.

ABV 9.o%
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? More elusive than BdG. Specs and various smaller shops should have it.
Album Other Lives | Tamer Animals (2011)

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