The Beer List: Looking for Germany, getting lost in Italy, and landing on an Old Man

Ramstein Blonde Wheat

Not great, but points for being from the suburbs of North Jersey.

The week started off with a beer tasting in my apartment. The mission?  To find a delicious Bavarian style wheat beer, brewed in the New York area.  The conclusion?  …inconclusive.  Discouraging, actually.  It wasn’t all bad, but none held a candle – or even tried to, for that matter – to the true hefeweizens of Germany.

On Wednesday, I set my scope a little further south and tried out some Italian beers.  The two could not have possibly been more dissimilar.  The first one I tried – Nuova Mattina (translating to New Morning) – was crisp, dry, and light.  It blossomed as it warmed, with aromas transitioning from sharp black pepper to fragrant honey and ginger.  It was awesome.

Very farm to table.

Now picture La Rossa – a beer the color, demeanor, and aroma of a stabled thoroughbred.  It was big, heavy, and deep dripping barn-door red.  I wouldn’t say it was all bad just as I wouldn’t necessarily describe the smell of a horse as offensive.  It’s pungent, no doubt, but in the right context it could be intriguing – even endearing.  Unfortunately, immediately following the delicate Nuova Mattina was not the right context, and the Rossa just came off as a big, weird animal.  Maybe next time.  

Find and consume.

The last beer worth mentioning is Southern Tier’s Old Man.  It’s the first old ale I’ve ever had, and it definitely made an impression.  The old ale is a generally overlooked style these days, dating back to 18th century British beers that were aged for long periods of time in wooden barrels.  Over the course of a few months, the beers would pick up deep flavors from the wood and acidity from the microorganisms living within.  The result was a stronger, more flavorful, and more complex alternative to the standard mild ales of the time.

Old Man was a great example of the style.  The flavors were big, complex, and very well suited for the colder months.  Like many of the beers I’ve been having lately, it just got better as I drank it, with the warmest, flattest sips being the most enjoyable.

One last thing – I just started reading a fantastic book: Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher.  It’s a history lesson, anatomy course, brewers companion, and style guide all rolled into one easy, entertaining, and engaging read.  Highly recommended.

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This entry was posted in Beer.

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