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71. Happy Almost Post-Subpar-Photos-of-Your-Side-Dishes-on-Instagram Day to Those Who Celebrate
Drinking on Thanksgiving; generational booze preferences; tarot for pondering your future, and more.
It’s the Holidays So Let’s Talk About What We’re Drinking to Get Through Seeing Extended Family
Specifically, let’s talk a bit about Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. I previewed this year’s lineup when it was announced, but now here we are, facing down another Black Friday. So, we won’t be drinking BCS at the Thanksgiving table, but we might be making some pre-orders or other assorted plans for acquisitions, and these acquisitions could come in handy when you need some drinks to look forward to for December’s holiday gatherings. Between previewing the lineup and now, I’ve gotten to participate in another one of the media tastings, and I have some thoughts.
First of all: recommendations. These are based on what you’re likely to be able to access—for example, this year’s Proprietor’s variant is great, but you’re probably only getting it if you’re in Chicago or know someone who is. (If you can arrange getting your hands on a bottle, do. It has banana, coconut, lime, and pineapple, countering its silky richness with bright tropical flavors reminiscent of tiki drinks and wintertime island getaways.) I’d say prioritize the Two-Year Barleywine Reserve, because barleywines are hard to come by these days! This aged iteration is a special one—I know many of us groan when we hear the server describe the dessert as “decadent,” but it’s just too fitting a term here. Expect huge dark, dried fruit flavors alongside sticky toffee pudding. Also: the Coffee Stout. They haven’t done a coffee stout since 2017, and I think it’s a welcome addition to the team, considering it’s got more traditional stout roastiness and coffee bitterness and astringency to counter the other stouts’ sweeter richness. It had high-quality cold brew vibes and I dug it a lot. On the other end of the spectrum, leaning into that sweetness, my favorite was the Biscotti Stout. I’m a sucker for these flavors, so can say you should for sure grab this one if you love marzipan, biscotti, pizzelle cookies, and anise.
Second of all: I have had accessibility and points of entry in regard to the sensory experience of beer on the brain lately, between issues of this newsletter and recent assignments. I’ve had this thought when doing BCS tastings in the past, but this year, it hit home harder than ever, and it’s that these beers are fantastic palate-training tools. I’m not sure if a BCS is the best thing to give your cousin who’s curious about beer but never had anything other than a Bud Light right off the bat, but it’s not far off, and once someone has been eased just a bit into a darker beer like this, I think the fact that there are so many recognizable aromas and flavors that are so clear is a really helpful and accessible gateway into thinking about tasting beer and describing what you’re finding. Like, depending on where you grew up, maybe you never had marzipan or biscotti, but that almond is so apparent, you can pick up on that and think about what things you have smelled or tasted it in before. Same with the anise, and some vanilla and cocoa. There’s less aroma hide-and-seek happening in these beers, which I think can be valuable for seasoned beer drinkers and newbies alike.
Could Grandpa Beers Be the Next Pendulum Swing?
This is just some beer for thought, prompted perhaps by thinking about said extended family, which could for you include having some beers with Gramps. So, we all know that, like many industries and arenas, beverage alcohol moves in swings of the pendulum, often generationally. I’m blanking on where and when I read this article, which is mildly to moderately maddening, but I’ve read someone more articulate than me break down the how’s and why’s of generation skips: drinkers in the late 1970s through the 1980s turning against their parents’ straightforward and often bitter beers and, depending on where they were, amari, for example, in favor of sweeter mixed cocktails, only for their kids to grow up and make things like amari and lager big again.
And even within this, there are micro-swings, or shorter and even more fickle flips and flops between drink preferences. Younger Gen X and older millennials said “no thanks” to those disco drinks and looked to what they felt was more sophisticated, artisanal mixology, as well as craft beer over Big Beer. They fled sweetness for bitterness. Now we’re seeing Gen Z already splinter into different groups not long after hitting drinking age. They ushered in a drop in drinking, preferring weed in its various forms and/or some level of sobriety; when they do drink, they want lighter things and prioritize flavor, so hard seltzer and RTD cocktails over beer; and more recently, we’re seeing a perhaps surprising hard left from Instagrammy-wellness thinking and an overall disinterest in booze toward the hard stuff, like vodka and tequila. Martini culture is back, baby, and the Dimes Square kids are getting blotto by downing them alongside nothing more substantial than oysters—so much for California sober.
Vodka? Three-martini lunches? Are the kids are drinking like the olds? There are more trends pushing in this direction, like “early-bird drinking,” as Dave Infante covered in an issue of Fingers. Shedding weird American Puritanical shame around day-drinking, really, feels like both an older generation thing in one way (early-bird anything, and the idea of choosing a chill beverage earlier and getting into bed earlier over a rager past last call) and a European thing in another (less of the aforementioned shame in favor of a more relaxed and measured alcohol attitude).
What I’m wondering is, could all this lead to a repeat of a micro pendulum swing we saw in the early aughts, which is when the youngest legal drinkers suddenly deemed formerly painfully uncool beers, well, painfully cool? When I was, ahem, 21-ish, I clearly remember it feeling like an overnight shift: one day you wouldn’t be caught dead drinking PBR, the next it was the only thing you’d guzzle. PBR, Genny cream ale, these became quintessential hipster accessories to the point of caricatured stereotypes, even if, when you think about it, it probably just made sense because they were cheap and we were broke, broker than other generations at our age thanks to graduating college in 2008 and wading into a recession with cement blocks of student debt chained to our ankles.
Economically speaking, things are certainly not much better for Gen Z, and if they’re already reaching for martinis and doing so earlier in the day, who’s to say that a preference for old school, not craft but also not Bud, Miller, or Coors, beers isn’t about to swing from unimaginable to totally expected? And what would that mean for craft beer, already an underdog thanks to seltzer and canned cocktails and legal weed—if the Grandpa beer trend even ends up being big enough to register?
Clever Beer Shout-Out
An uncharacteristically pithy little spotlight here, because this is just too perfect for this issue’s vibe: Have you seen Off Color Brewing’s latest add to the “Beer For” series, Beer For Dealing With Your Family? The artwork is chef’s kiss, no notes stuff. It feels like something to please different tastes and personalities in your family, too—it’s “malt liquor” but also a “winter warmer.” It sounds delightful with plum, strawberry, rose petal, subtle booze, sweet grape and cherry, and cracked pepper-sprinkled bread crust tasting notes, and it’s 12% so, yeah, that’ll get the job done, folks. Every now and then I luck out and find Off Color ‘round these parts, so I know I’ll be keeping an eye out.
This week, I pulled the Three of Wands.
I know we’re looking at the back of this dude, but aren’t you getting the feeling this is one of those breathers you take after three straight hours at the dinner table with an “all lives matter” uncle and a “I don’t care if they’re gay but why do they have to get married?” grandmother? Like he’s just gripping a pole and staring off into space and trying to channel deep abyss, because nothingness would be preferable right now?
ANYWAY, Wands is the suit of communication, intuition, and travel, and the Three of Wands speaks to foresight, growth and expansion, and opportunities elsewhere. See, what our bud here is looking out toward is actually the future, a future they’ve been planning from a place of security and stability. Think about your current status and your future plans: What have you been planning, hoping for, driving toward? Are you considering a career change, a big move, some kind of shift that would stir up a long established reality? The Three of Wands nudges you even further into the unfamiliar, suggesting you think about what kinds of changes and goals could really fulfill you. It’s saying that even if something feels scary, there’s a good chance at least giving it the ol’ college try will enrich you and your life in some way. If you’re in a good place right now, sure, you absolutely can stay there if you want, but it also doesn’t have to mean getting complacent. Use being in that safe space to reflect on your future and what you want from it, and don’t be afraid to think big. If something exciting comes to mind that sounds difficult, just take this time to plan how you can tackle the challenge.
Flying Monkeys in Ontario has a beer called Memories of the Future and I like it for this tarot reading largely because of this tagline: “Predilections for the past send premonitions of the future. Aromas of preserved optimism gush from this tart-fruited tantalizer racing to a flashy, memorable finish.” It’s a good fit, and sounds delicious, with cranberry, boysenberry, and red tart cherry purees, dark sweet cherry juice, and kosher salt.
This Week’s Reading Rec
Amid the gut-wrenching news that continues to come out about this past weekend’s shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, amid the absolutely nauseating and infuriating response from so many—largely the Christofascists that scream loudest on the internet, amid missteps and blunders from the press often erasing or minimizing queer identity and queer human beings, amid the very real fear of this country’s breakneck-speed progression into a place that proudly embraces all the hatred and bigotry it was founded on that all of this adds to—there are moments of calm reflection to be found in beautiful writing. Take a beat to be still with thoughts on what an LGBTQIA+ bar, in any of its forms, means to so many, for example, including how their purpose is to be safe spaces. John Paul Brammer is a writer I love, and I highly recommend his honest “meditation on a gay bar,” “A Spot,” for his newsletter.
Different GoFundMe fundraisers can be found here to help the families of victims Derrick Rump, Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance, and Ashley Green Paugh, as well as 18 injured victims.
Ex-BEER-ience of the Week
No real huge ex-beer-iences this week; rather, beer played more of that ideal enhance-the-situation-without-stealing-focus role. I drank an absolutely delicious and satisfying Autumn Harvest IPA from Southern Tier, piney and caramelly, while watching Paul F. Tompkins’s “Varietopia!” show at Bell House and thinking about the common things that drive us, comedians and musicians and actors and artists and beer people and hospitality people, all kind of circus people whose life’s work is putting on some kind of show for people and who are both fulfilled and tortured by that. ANYWAY, also had a delightful smoked lager at Endless Life and a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, woohoo!, at BierWax for my dad’s birthday—lovely.
Until next week, here’s Darby ignoring me at West Kill Brewing a couple weeks ago.