“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time. “
-Sir John Lubbock, English entomologist, essayist, and politician
Amen, brother John. Amen.
Now we are under the magnifying glass of a July Texas sun, as insistent as a three-year-old and as hot as extract of ghost chili. However, this summer seems different; the grass is still green enough that you can lie on it without minor lacerations, you can still hear running water in its natural environment, and the evenings have been almost pleasant. In such a time, I find it one of life’s small pleasures to, in the words of Sir John, rest. Sometimes I forget to take it easy — to just be in the middle of vacation and swimming lessons and work and the hurried pace of my life. So in that vein, this week I want to look at a few sipping beers — beers to take your time with, to experience.
Like wine, beers change as you drink them. As their temperatures change and as they are exposed to the air, their flavors can transform and deepen, and often those changes can create an entirely new beer experience. So as evening’s blue haze begins to descend on the hills, let’s crack open a slow one and take our time with it.
When I was given the opportunity to help build the beer section here at our Galleria store, I asked one of my oldest friends for advice. Josh is a home-brewer and a serious beer geek, and I wanted his five Desert Island Drafts. Prominent on that list was Verhaege’s Duchess du Bourgogne, a Flanders red or sour ale (and for more on that, check this month’s BVB) brewed in Flanders. I love the Duchess — she has a sweet-sour complexity with a nose that changes with every sip. Truly one of the great beers in existence, the Duchess is a wonderful introduction to the world of sour ales.
Looking for something a little less sweet? Well, if you like gin, then let me turn you on to the latest edition in Rogue’s John John series of limited beers, the Juniper Pale Ale. Infused with juniper and aged in gin casks, the JPA combines the dry, crisp clarity of a great pale ale with a touch of juniper’s aromatic bite. This beer is available in limited quantities at the Galleria store; come on out and see me to get yours before it’s all gone.
For our last choice, I want to go into the world of wood-aged beers. More and more brewers are starting to age beer in wooden casks — usually ones that have been used already to age spirits or wine. This adds an additional layer of flavor complexity to the beer, and often results in some very pleasant surprises. Try Otter Creek’s Quercus Vitus Humulus, for example — it is a Belgian-style strong ale, blended with French grape juice, fermented with both lager and champagne yeast, and then aged in lightly toasted French oak. When I first tried it, I got buttery, nutty, fruity, and toasty notes — as I drank, the beer revealed more and more layers. Not so much a beer as an experience, I recommend you try this one at least once. Definitely thinking outside the box here.
Until next month, keep your head up, your lace delicate, your malt toasty, and your hops snappy.
July Beer Vocabulary Builder (BVB):
Flanders Red/Sour Ale: Flanders Reds are commonly referred to as the “red” beers of West Flanders. Belgian Red Beers are typically light-bodied brews with reddish-brown colors. They are infamous for their distinct sharp, fruity, sour and tart flavors which are created by special yeast strains. Very complex beers, they are produced under the age old tradition of long-term cask aging in oak, and the blending of young and old beers. (from beeradvocate.com).
Duke’s Take: An astonishingly different take on beer. It takes a bit of a sweet tooth, but an occasional Flanders red is extremely refreshing, especially in the summer heat.