Stan blames me - and why not? I have plenty to answer for. Generally. In life. And in beer. You know. I know. But do I care? No. Well, not much. In this case, it's OK as it's the beginning of the fifth year of these sessions and I am happy to take the blame. Stan is the host this month and he states the topic as follows:
Please write about a regular beer...
This is why Stan is my Daddy. What a topic. Sure, he goes on but what a world of wonders his simple statement opens for us all. For me, it goes to the heart of beer. Maltose. Or rather residual maltose. See, the yeast can't handle the malt. They can't handle it. There is always a left over portion of sugar that sits around even in lambics that, even there, gives a tiny round corner to whatever is going on in your beer glass. For me, that is what is regular about beer. A bit of sweet.
Sweetness is a quality that gets little respect these days. Michael Pollen in The Botany of Desire talks about sweet. And tells us why we are no longer there along with it:
...sweetness has lost much of its power and become slightly... well, saccharine. Who now would think of sweetness as a "noble" quality? At some point during the nineteenth century, a hint of insincerity began to trail the word through literature, and in our time it's usually shadowed by either irony or sentimentality. Overuse probably helped to cheapen the word's power on the tongue, but I think the advent of cheap sugar in Europe, and perhaps especially sugar cane produced by slaves, is what did the most to discount sweetness, both as an experience and as a metaphor.
So, is sweetness cheap or have we turned our backs on it? Me, I like sweet. Scots do. My Grampa ate sweets right into the hospital bed where my cousin was instructed to smuggle socks filled with candies to be tossed over to him on his nod during the weeks and days before he died. A northern way to go. A nugget of sunshine. That's what sweet is.
Scotland's Innis & Gunn Rum Cask, a bottle of which might run around four bucks, pours white froth and rim over light cola coloured ale. The nose is malty black rummy goodness. Sweet and powerful at 7.4% but nuanced with the sweet of vanilla, nutmeg and licorice. In the mouth all those are there with cola, lychee, New England brown bread, a hint of thyme and a brown sugar ending. There is an odd salt sea air quality about it, too, for some reason. What is not to like?
Sri Lanka's Sinha Stout moves from there and makes a man of it at 8.8% and under 2 bucks here in Ontario. God bless the residual effects of empire. Dark mahogany ale under a thicker mocha foam. It smells like your favorite old baseball glove infused with a chocolate bar. Dry cocoa, chocolate, a little licorice with a bit of twiggy hop to cut. Not super sweet but sweet like coconut milk or chocolate milk. Drinkable sweetness that you could drink with BBQ or with buttery toast.
Are these "regular" beers? I dunno. The Rum Cask is a beer that everyone I shared it with said they would drink anytime they could get it. The Sinha is one of my private guilty pleasures. I love all Foreign Export Stouts. The finest reward of British imperialism along with Parliamentary democracy and court systems that work.
But that's not regular beer, is it? Utica Club? That's regular. I first met this beer at a gas station in West Canada Creek in central New York for 8 bucks a six pack. I drove up and a pal I knew from cross border discussions was at another pump. Wha Hae! Back slaps a plenty. And we talked, in this green vale of past conflict, about CNY history and eastern Ontario history, the drag of the long haul home and the beauty of the hot summer day. And when I paid for my tank of gas, I bought twelve cans of Utica Club to take on my drive to Maine. Hours later in the backyard, I opened one. Corn. Not cardboard. Not boiled corn. Corn. Fresh sweet corn. Some must maybe from a touch of Mt. Hood hops, maybe a minty note, but other than that full on corn on the cob. It works ice cold. It works warmer and sweet. It's my favorite example of America's session beer and they have already bought in under one brand or another. There's better and there's worse but at the end of the day, there has to be a touch of the good good sweetness of corn. Regular beer? It's sweet.Crap. Apparently, I host next month. Frig. What to do?