Monday, January 3, 2011

Arbor Brewing Company Olde Number 22

With my wife and I holding a combined three Big Ten diplomas and me through marriage inheriting Notre Dame football as a way of life, I have developed an ever-growing hatred for the University of Michigan. Needless to say, my last three autumns have been filled with the gleeful and unadulterated enjoyment of the Wolverines’ gridiron failings. Rich Rodriguez, soon to be fired, has gone 6-18 against the Big Ten and 2-11 against Top 25 opponents. Only 12 teams in the entire country allowed more yards per game than Michigan this season, and the once-fearsome Wolverines gave up an unfathomable 448 points in 13 contests. When the sixth-most-potent offensive team in the nation only goes 7-6 and loses a New Year's Day bowl game by 38 points, that’s hardly a laughing matter. Unless, of course, you hate Michigan. Then it’s absolutely hilarious. If I had my way, RichRod would never be fired. He'd be given a lifetime contract and provided police protection 24/7. I’m really starting to enjoy this Penn State beating Michigan thing, and I would have no complaints about it continuing infinitely. And by all means, keep Greg Robinson on as defensive coordinator! Under his guidance, the MU defense has exhibited the sort of charity and generosity that as a good Catholic I can truly admire and only hope to emulate. Go Blue!

Given the depths of my anti-Michigan U zealotry, it was almost painful to purchase a beer made in Ann Arbor. But it’s in no way painful to drink it. Olde Number 22 is marketed as a “drinkable dark ale”, and that’s exactly what it is. I like drinkable, and I like dark ales. This beer couldn't miss, right? Right. Leaving Busch’s supermarket in Plymouth, Michigan with a six-pack of this stuff, I was safely in enemy territory. But still I half-expected to be jumped in the parking lot by Brutus the Buckeye or met with a reproachful stare by a disapproving nun. It would have been worth it. Altbiers are German-style brown ales that are rendered remarkably smooth by a longer-than-usual period of conditioning. Olde Number 22 is a special kind of alt known as a sticke or “secret alt”. Back in the day, when German laws mandated that beers be priced according to their alcoholic content, pubs would brew these richer, maltier stickes for their most loyal customers, who would only be charged the price of a regular alt. Although relatively low in alcohol (5.5 percent ABV), Olde Number 22 is most definitely rich and malty. At just 27 IBUs, there’s very little bitterness to this fine ale. Its richness of flavor comes not from hops but rather its malts – some roasty and some sweet. As ales go, it is pretty sweet - but thankfully not too sweet. Compared to a lot of today’s highly celebrated craft ales, maybe it’s nothing extraordinary. But not every beer needs to be extraordinary. Sometimes a man just needs a solid, drinkable ale that goes down easy and can be consumed in great quantities. With its modest alcoholic content and smooth taste, it’s the ideal session beer. It goes great with food but works just as well on its own. You can be sure I’ll have my fridge stocked with Olde Number 22 the next time Michigan plays The Irish. Next year it’s really going to happen. Notre Dame's going to beat ‘em. I'll even predict the score: 63-54. I may need to drink a few.

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