Friday, May 27, 2011

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale

Wow, that was some season of Celebrity Apprentice! In a day and age when so few things in the world ever live up to expectations, Gary Busey never fails to come through. You hope for crazy, he gives you beyond crazy. You expect a guy living on his own planet, and you get a guy living in his own galaxy. But who knew that freaking Meat Loaf would be even more of a train wreck?! When he wasn’t sobbing like a baby, he was spewing obscenities and threatening to rip people’s heads off. It was pure awesomeness. In no other avenue of life can a man behave in such a manner and have his boss continually respond merely by saying, “He’s got a lot of passion.” I don’t care for the man’s music, but he can be on my reality TV show any day. Yep, I’m planning my own show. It will be called Josh’s Next Favorite Beer. It will be a competition show, of course, and every week I’ll eliminate a different beer until I find my elusive favorite beer. If this doesn’t sound like something that could ever be green-lit by the TV industry, I’ll just take Meat Loaf with me to the pitch meetings and have him scream at the network executives until they relent. Should he become unavailable due to a sudden crying jag, I will have Busey waiting in reserve.

Honestly, it really bothers me that I’ve never found a “favorite” beer. For whatever reason, I just can’t commit. And that is so unlike me! I am not a fence-sitter. I can easily name a favorite color (blue), TV show (Sopranos), and meal (bangers and mash). When I met my wife, I knew right off that no other woman would ever again have a chance with me. I’ve had a favorite band (The Clash) since I was in my mid-20s. I’ve had a favorite writer (Kurt Vonnegut) since high school. When it comes to pro sports, I’ve been a diehard Philly guy all my life. But when it comes to beer, I just haven’t found “the one”. You know what I mean: a year-round, every day go-to brew. A beer I would buy by the case and have in my fridge at all times. A beer that would be my beer. Most of the beers I rate the highest are not serious candidates. Founders Breakfast Stout is purely a winter delight, and even then something I only drink a few times a month. At $70 a case, Victory’s Baltic Thunder is way out of the running. Samuel Adams Boston Lager merits consideration, but is a tad too aggressively hopped to be “my” beer. My primary beer goal, for so long, has been to play the field and sample all the many varieties the brewing world has to offer. But now I need to get serious and find the one. It’s time to stop being superficial and start really getting to know the beers I drink. I don’t want to buy singles all the time. I need to buy more six-packs. I need to buy more cases.

While I haven’t yet identified my beer, I know a thing or two about what it will be like. It will be dark. It will be smooth. It will be balanced, but it will be more malty than hoppy. Once I get my reality show in production, I’ll invite a couple of old standbys like Bell’s Porter and Warsteiner Premium Dunkel into the competition. Then there will be some new contenders, and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale will be one of them for sure. The only thing this astonishingly delicious beer has going against it is that it’s an import. I’ll never have the pleasure of drinking it on draught or getting a bottle fresh off the line (unless I moved to northern England, of course). Otherwise it’s got all the makings of a Josh favorite. It’s smooth and creamy, amber-brown in color, with a flavor that combines sweet malts, a toasted grainy backbone, and a dry hazelnut finish. In the tradition of any fine English ale, the hops are mild but nonetheless provide crucial balance. Brewed in Yorkshire with well water and local yeast, this is a brown ale that flat-out blows away more popular competitors like Newcastle Brown or even American craft variants like Bell’s Best Brown. It’s off-the-charts smooth yet packed with flavor. Could this become my next favorite beer? Well, it is everything I’m looking for in a beer. And I most definitely could drink it all the time. I’m not sure if I could buy it by the case due to inflated import prices and questions of freshness. But I can’t eliminate it from the competition just yet. It’s just too freaking good! I will need to drink more of it and get back to you all in a few months.

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