Oh, how we pine for the days when a young Ian Cheesman was running the halls of The Smoking Jacket offices, young and hungry and eager to work his way up from the entry-level janitorial position we hired him from the temp agency to fill. “I want to write about beer!” he said. “Unclog the third stall from the left in the first floor bathroom and quit drinking at work,” we replied.
A few similar incidents and a few thousand bottles of mouthwash emptied out and filled with grain alcohol later, Ian Cheesman overcame the odds and realized his dream of writing a weekly beer column on The Smoking Jacket. And now, for the first time in our still young existence, he’s taking a week off. We know, he’s a lazy bastard, but that stands whether he turns an article in or not. We’re pretty sure he’s been outsourcing all of these articles to India since at least December. That just makes the fact that he’s “on vacation” all the more ludicrous, but whatever, the law says we have to allow it.
So, instead of “blessing you” (his words, not ours) with a new Ian Cheesman insta-classic, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to revisit a time when Ian Cheesman was a hungry young fighter instead of an entitled, overpaid “beerpert” (again, his words, not ours) who thinks he deserves “vacations” and “time off” and “relaxation” and “money for food” and “to not get physically slapped for each typo.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Ian Cheesman’s first ever article for TheSmokingJacket.com. Enjoy it. Ian Cheesman will probably be back next week.
In order to appreciate the good work that the folks at New Belgium do, it helps to understand some fundamentals of beer production. First gather only the finest in malts, hops, water, yeast and baby oxen. If oxen are difficult to come upon, any doe-eyed ungulate will do. The water, malts and hops are boiled in a large kettle, cooled, then filtered into an air-locked basin along with the yeast. Oh shit, did you sterilize everything before you started? If you don’t want to die you’re definitely going to want to do that. Now wait a few days while science somehow transforms your vile oatmeal run-off into awesome.
There are a few things you can do while waiting to guarantee your beer turns out well. Be sure that the beer is resting in an ambient temperature between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius, which I’ve not converted to Fahrenheit because I’m kind of a dick that way. Do not make direct eye contact with the basin, as it will interpret this as a sign of aggression and possibly turn on you. Most importantly, secure the aforementioned oxen to the nearest cement slab and offer its blood sacrifice to Spinkickia and Bicepos, the benevolent beer gods.
Go forth and ferment, friends.
Eric’s Ale (7% ABV)
I rather like the idea of using beer to pay tribute to someone, but it is a risky maneuver. What does it say about the titular person if what you’ve produced is less than stellar? Carrying that thought to its logical conclusion, I’m happy to announce the release of my first beer, Ian Cheesman’s Father’s Ale. It’s flavor profile is best described as sewage run-off since that is technically what I bottled. STILL FEEL OKAY ABOUT MISSING MY DANCE RECITAL NOW, DAD?
As for Eric’s, it’s a pale orange brew with a thin, beady white head. The nose is tart, with hints of lime and apricot. I hope you enjoyed those two sentences, because those are the last objective ones you’ll get in this beer’s review. You see, Eric’s Ale is an American Wild Ale (a.k.a. a “sour”), a style that has really caught on recently despite my protestations. I still pledge to rate this beer relative to its style, but know that it’s under duress.
This sour comes out citrus-guns a’blazin with a sharp blast of lime and lemon tartness. Initially that tartness doesn’t linger too much, but as it warms the flavor accumulates into an unpleasant vinegar-like acidity. I thought for a moment that this medium-bodied brew was going to make a convert of me, but in my seldom humble opinion it took a real nosedive toward the end.
For what it’s worth, Eric probably wouldn’t like me either.
Hoptober (6% ABV)
The curious title of Hoptober comes from a playful brewer’s meme to wedge the word “hop” into the name of their beer. My personal favorites are Hoptimus Prime and Hoptical Illusion. Given the way it was shoehorned into “Hoptober” I think the meme is probably in its death throes, unless someone reinvigorates the trend with something timely and brilliant like this:
I am hoppy (get it?!?!) to report that this beer produces a thick finger of foamy, ivory head. I was less excited by the Hoptober’s dull straw color. It has a pleasant floral and citrusy hop tone to the aroma.
This beer surprised me initially, but not in the pleasant unannounced-pinky-in-your-bunghole-during-sex way. Its flavor profile is a soft, malty sweetness that transitions into a gentle piney and floral finish. It’s a veritable orgy of mild, two things that go together like peanut butter and anaphylaxis from nut allergies. It undercuts itself by using the “hop” prefix, which is ordinarily a transparent threat of bitter annihilation to your tastebuds. It is only after this call to arms that you read the fine print and discover you’re drinking a golden ale, a much milder style that’s actually well represented by the flavors. I may be a paragon of impartiality, but I’m not so virtuous that I won’t dock you some points for being a giant pricktease.
Belgo IPA (8% ABV)
This next entry from New Belgium’s “Lips of Faith” series is a golden-orange hued brew with a thicky, soapy head. The nose has some light floral notes, but has an additional yeasty funk to it that is almost reminiscent of detergent. The best I can describe it is that it smells like a beer-scented fabric softener, a product only needed by lesser men who don’t sweat beer.
As with the Hoptober before, my tongue girded its loins for battle with an IPA and ultimately discovered the loins could have gone completely ungirded. Instead it was presented with some attenuated grassy and piney hop flavors softened by a banana-like sweetness. The flavors were balanced and totally sessionable.
This is a kinder, gentler IPA. It’s the kind of safe, inoffensive IPA you can take home to mom. This IPA would work as an accountant, maintain a stamp collection and softly confess that they “always cry during this part” while watching The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants. It’s a GREAT Belgian pale ale, but kind of a disappointment as an IPA.
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