Everyone thinks that Guinness is like mother’s milk to us Irish but not so. At least it wasn’t when I was entering the drinking age. Instead, we served a palate apprenticeship on ‘easier stuff’ such as Smithwick’s ale. It was a big night when you could go right through on Guinness. You became a man in the eyes of hardened drinkers. I remember the experience well as I tried to impress Dennis Friel, captain of the school football team, and a ten-pint-on-a-week-night man. I waited till he’s left the bar before falling over.
It may sound odd but getting into wine heightened my fondness for ale. Probably because it delivers the same nourishing feeling as red wine, along with as many delightfully confusing styles – and you just never know if it’s going to hit the spot.
English ales used to be tops but most have been commercialized. Of the twenty-some ales I tried over the Holidays my favourite was Liberty from the Anchor Steam brewery in San Francisco. Long-time readers will know of my fondness for this beer and I’m delighted to report that it is as good as ever. Modeled on the English style it could be likened to a really well-made food dish where all the components delight individually and, as a whole. Big time nourishment and contentment – shades of the fireside in the tavern of The Red Lion Hotel in Stockbridge in Mass. Ya know the place.
Beau’s Brewery, outside Ottawa, is producing some of the best local beer I’ve ever tasted. In uber-cool packaging that delivers the all-natural message. Look for the Lagered Ale, 4-bottle- package at your LCBO. As you’d expect it’s a cross between the refreshment of lager, and the nourishment of ale. The wine parallel would be an everyday Chianti – rustic and satisfying.
BEAU’S LAGERED ALE 169334 4 x 600ml/$15.60
LIBERTY ALE, Anchor Steam Brewery, California 580217 650ml/$3.80