The Joy of Beer

Before the Oscars, NPR replayed a Fresh Air from December in which the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman discussed his own alcoholism. "A couple glasses of wine is just not interesting to me at all," he said. "It's not a great pleasure for me to have a couple glasses of wine. That's just kind of annoying. (Laughs) Do you know what I mean?--why aren't you having the whole bottle? That's much more pleasureable."

Last night, I had a couple glasses of beer--the first since my accursed flu struck me down a week ago. We went out to Belmont Station, where I spent a huge premium to get glasses rather than pints. Sally had the Russian River Salvation (a full pour) while I started with Cascade Pas D'Anglais. We were there an hour or more, she stopped at the one while I went on to a second glass, of Ommegang Hennepin.

Unlike Hoffman, the joy of beer for me comes from two sources: the wash of sensory experience of the beer itself, of course. We are experience junkies, and beer delivers a range not available in any other product. The fact that there is alcohol in the beverage is--let's not fool ourselves--a part of the experience. Whether a sensation comes, tickling the base of the skull, loosening the joints, this isn't paramount. But the possibility of it, like waving your hand through a flame, enhances the experience. That's not the reason we drink beer, but like every other element we admire it for its own sake.

The second reason I love beer, and the reason living in Portland is such a joy, is the hunt. It is possible, on any given night in the big city*, to encounter a novel experience. The Russian River Salvation Sally had last night--what a bizarre beer! The aroma was distinctly meaty, like holding your nose over a platter of lamb and mint sauce. The palate, among other things, was bloody, metalic. I have been drinking beer for 20+ years and there were flavors in that beer I've never encountered. I wasn't a huge fan of the Cascade. It was fine, and I could see where the experiment was headed, but I found that the notes were subdued. Ron brews an absolutely astonishing number of beers, and some of his experiments thrill me less than others. But isn't that also the joy of the hunt--you never know. The Hennepin? Ah, Hennepin.

Anyway, good to be back in the saddle again. After our draft pours, I picked up the new Ninkasi, a Southern Oregon pale, and Fallen Friar, so reviews are on the horizon. Cheers--

*Small town.