winter light & dark

when it comes to food and drink, as well as films, books, music, art, fashion, bicycles, and almost anything else you can think of - i am no snob. truth be told, i tend to like almost everything, in one way or another. i don't feel that i can rightfully call myself a connoisseur of any of these categories (though i do love them all), and thus give up the right to feign disgust or disinterest in "lower forms" of things.

i can, of course, observe and point out the differences between, say, the 400 blows and the 2000 remake of charlie's angels. sure, both are "movies" in the vaguest sense of the word, but that's about where the similarities end. instead of praising one as true cinema, and panning the other as pure schlock, i'd tend to base their value on context. which am i more likely to watch on an airplane, if i just need to give my brain a rest? on any given day, am i more likely to thumb through a worn copy of anna karenina or a comic book about zombies? in this day and age, with infinite cultural products at our fingertips, it's more important to know what you want and why, than to be a self-proclaimed expert, who dismisses all things "low" just cuz.

and generally speaking, when even the bad stuff is still pretty good, the good stuff is transcendent. that has always been my attitude, especially when it comes to booze & beer. completely without shame, i'll slam a PBR or a schlitz - hell, even some malt liquor - if the occasion calls for it. on other occasions, you'll find me experimenting with liqueurs, fresh fruit juices and herbal simple syrups, creating funny, delicious little cocktails. i've swilled both libations, the 22 oz. high life can & the rosemary grapefruit gimlet, in my very kitchen, just based on my mood. i guess i'm a relativist when it comes to this stuff.

but i DO like good beer, i like it a lot indeed. and sometimes, there is no greater occasion than a very simple meal (juxtaposition of simple and heady is an art unto itself) to pop the tops of some special brews.

lucky for us, there are two excellent craft beer stores, the foodery and hawthorne's, both just a few minutes from our home. and so, while the tomato sauce is simmering, i can call lauren and ask her to grab a 6er on her way home from work. and instead of showing up bearing yuengling or the like, she just come bearing a few thrilling and delightful bottles to pair with dinner.

a few nights ago, two such bottles were from two of my favorite active craft breweries, avery (out of boulder, colorado) and bell's (from kalamazoo, michigan). both beers were decidedly seasonal "winter" brews, but as different as can be:

opposite ends of the spectrum!

the bell's winter white ale (the blondie on the left) is made with american wheat and belgian-style yeast. light and crisp, with just a hint of sweet, this was a delight. i love wheat beers, but sometimes they're too sugary for me. this ale was just right. i'm a bit unclear what makes this a winter beer (for it could be a total life saver on a muggy summer afternoon), but it was nice to know that "winter beer" isn't synonymous with rich and heavy.

the avery old jubilation (brunette on the right) is an english strong ale, that is more along the lines of a classic holiday beer. it was super flavorful but managed to not be cloying or overbearing. especially after sips of the avery winter hefe, you could really taste the hazelnutty, toffee-y notes, and the complex, deep maltiness that characterize this beer. unlike most other christmas ales, this beer doesn't contain any spices, so at no point does it have that mulled wine taste. i like when breweries show some restraint in their recipes! because, though a baking spice mix does signify the season, that aroma is often best left for fresh gingerbread and pretty wreaths on the front door. one more reason to love this beer is that it weighs in at 8%, nice and hefty, so that you can be less self conscious as you belt out your favorite holiday song while doing the dishes.

there is no reason write about mediocre beer (or food) unless to criticize it. so while there is room in my heart and belly for the highs and the lows that the world has to offer, i'm thankful for thoughtfully crafted, well made things that inspire poetry among those who experience them.


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