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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Gift That Keeps On Brewing

(For you Super Bowl party hosts, my latest Zolton Does Amazon piece over at ZuG, Practice Makes Party, might be just the bash-planning guide you’re looking for.

Unless you’re afraid to look like a Smurf. Or you don’t like kosher salsa. Or vibrating cocktail weenies.

Oh, come on. You have to go look now. How could you not?)

It’s a month or so belated, but I’d like to publicly thank my old workmates for the thoughtful — and delicious — parting gift they bought me when I left at the end of December. They were kind enough to pitch in together to make me a member of a Beer of the Month Club. Because they know that the way to a man’s heart is, of course, through his liver.

“They’re tough to find, barely known and obscure to all but the most thorough brewficionados.”

(Of course, to get to just about anything in there these days, you’ve got to go through a bit of liver. That shit is everywhere by now. The way to this man’s prostate is probably also through the liver, but we don’t need anyone navigating that particular route on the map.

And thank goodness it didn’t come into play in the gift selection. Or the going-away party. Eep.)

This is not just any Beer of the Month Club, though. Oh, no, Augustus — this is the Rare Been or the Month Club. These are brews that you won’t likely find on your local package store shelf, Liquor Barn sale rack, or watering hole drink menu. They’re tough to find, barely known and obscure to all but the most thorough brewficionados. And why is that?

Because they’re freaking WEIRD.

Now, don’t get me wrong — that’s not a bad thing. For me, in fact, that’s a very good thing. I’m no suds expert. I know what I like, and it’s helpful if a few favorites aren’t that hard to track down on a thirsty Saturday night. Or Friday evening. Or for that matter, lunchtime on a Tuesday.

But those favorites are not the mass-produced muted-flavor brews that you see in your grocery store displays and catchy Super Bowl ads.

(Except Guinness. I make an exception for Guinness. We have… history.)

So I am a bit of a beer snob, I suppose. And these ‘rare’ beers are a snobbyists hopped dream. Love ’em or hate ’em, these bottles were evidently picked to be as crazy-eyed different from ‘regular beer’ as possible. The first shipment came a few days ago, and here’s what was in it:

Bottle #1: A beer made in the south of France — where, like, four people live who aren’t making wine or snooting around the fancy beaches. And one of those people decided to brew his own beer, apparently.

Only, he or she doesn’t actually drink beer, because whoever whipped up this concoction can’t possibly know about the sorts of things that people think pair well with beer, and which don’t. This beer is made with nougat. NOUGAT. Actual, honest to Betsy, in-your-Snickers NOUGAT.

Does it taste like nougat? Oh, yeah. Nougat and beer. The most natural and obvious taste pairing since tuna fish and Pudding Pops. It was right there in front of us the whole time; it just took six hundred years and some floppy French wine flunky to clue us in to the pairing.

The beer tastes approximately like you’d think beer and nougat together in your mouth would taste — only maybe sixty percent better. By the time I could see the bottom of my glass, I was enjoying the sweetness — but also pretty happy they only sent one bottle. I think I prefer my nougat wrapped in chocolate and buried under some indeterminate number of Musketeers.

Grade: B-

Bottle #2: This beer was Belgian, for which it gets full credit. Because let’s face it — what the hell is there to do in Belglandia other than make beer, drink beer, drink more beer and curse the day you met beer in the first place? It’s not like they have a Planet Hollywood or anything.

So an awful lot of beers come from Belgium, and many are quite good. This one was a Christmas beer — apparently Sinterklaas digs him some brewskis — and just the oddest bout of doodad brewing a drunken bunch of near-Frenchmen could come up with.

First, as I mentioned — it’s a Christmas beer. You’d expect something dark and rich, like a porter or stout, to stave off the wintertime cold.

Nope. It’s an IPA.

So maybe you’d guess it’s brewed with traditional Christmas flavors, like candy canes or cinnamon or North Pole frozen elf sweat.

Sort of. Try ‘pine needles’ and ‘ginger’. Because those are two things you’ve probably always wanted to pour down your throat together. I know I have.

Luckily — for me, at least, since none of us is ever likely to see such a beer again — the brewers didn’t go overboard with the yuletide add-ons. They shook the old Christmas wand over the brew no more than twice, leaving only subtle hints of extra flavors. Happily, when I say that this beer was like “Christmas in January”, it’s only because I’m sitting here drinking on a Thursday night, and not because I feel like an evergreen forest full of gingers just got shoved down my gullet.

I don’t like my hops over-sullied. And these folks didn’t. Nice Belgianing, smart people.

Grade: B+

So that’s the first batch of rare ‘n’ weird beers. I got a second boxful last night. Haven’t opened them yet, so I don’t know precisely what sort of crimes against simple Reinheitsgebot brewing they represent. Crabcake ales or squid ink porters or lagers infused with potpourri? No idea.

But one thing’s for sure — they’re not going to be Coors or Bud Light or Old Milwaukee’s Best or another of their ilk. And that? That makes them delicious.

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One Response to “The Gift That Keeps On Brewing”

  1. ema says:

    Awesome, I’ll make sure that the next time we need to give you a present it will something ‘special’ like a Rare Cheese. Also from France, you can get, maybe from the same beer maker, a wheel of nutritious fromage filled with DHA that will foster your brain development. It is made out of milk from women. Not sure if it comes shaped as a bra cup. http://www.whytraveltofrance.com/2007/06/09/human-breast-milk-cheese-made-in-france/

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