Foodie In Training

Friday, November 30, 2007

Beer and Me: Natty Light to Christmas Ale

Over the last couple years I have increased my knowledge and appreciation for wine. I would love to go to wine country in California or Europe (or even Chile or Australia) to explore the varieties and learn more about the drink of choice for most foodies. I even enjoy many of the wineries that I have toured and sampled in northern Ohio, the Lake Erie Islands and Canada- but that is for a different post.

I also go on lengthy vodka/martini kicks and whiskey kicks throughout the course of the year.

Sill, my alcoholic beverage of choice is beer. Maybe its because I feel like I was raised on the stuff. My dad used to have a couple beers every night. It was usually Molson or Labatt, maybe Michelob or Heineken. It's not that I ever was allowed to have more than a sip, but more that I just wanted to be like my dad. Now my dad is an all out wine-o, but this a recent development, after my formative years. Later, in high school, I started drinking. Natural Light, aka Nattie, was the beer of choice for me and my friends. "Good beer" was Busch Light or maybe even Bud Light. Then came college. I could actually have a couple beers on a week night, just like my dad. Still, it was all about quantity and not quality. The best value was Beast. Milwaukee's Best Light was really cheap, really prevalent on University of Dayton's Ghetto and dorms, and it went down like water- probably because it was about 95% water. You could drink a ton of it, and we did. Every now and then we'd splurge and get a sixer of something good. Honey Brown, Sierra Nievada, etc.

I studied abroad in Ireland one summer and I started appreciating Irish and English beers and began to understand different styles. Ciders, Stouts, Red Ales, Lagers, it all started making sense to me. Hell, at "tree fif-ty fiive" (As my favorite bar tender said when asking for 3.55 euros), Guiness was cheaper than a Budweiser, the only prevalent American beer in Dublin bars.

After college, I started really getting into good beers. A good friend of mine, Craig, is somewhat of an expert in the area and he would talk to me about the finer points and pointed me to some of his favorites. Being crazy for all things Cleveland, Great Lakes Brewing Co. was a natural start for me. I fell in love with their Commodore Perry IPA and really like Conway's Irish Ale. Their beers are expertly made, and each of their beers stays true to the Great Lakes quality and flavor. As a bonus, they are each named for something in Cleveland lore or history. Also, I encourage you to go through their website as they do a nice job explaining the origins of their different styles, descriptions and listings of the awards they have won for each style, and their impressive environmental commitment.

In addition to Great Lakes' 6 or so year round brews, they also produce some delicious seasonal beers. I am quickly falling in love with all seasonal beers. I love changing seasons and certain beers traditionally or practically fall nicely within different seasons: Bock's in the spring, Oktoberfests in the late summer and early fall, hefeweizen and wheat beers in the summer. My favorite, and, more impressively, one of Craig's favorite seasonal beer, is Great Lakes' Christmas Ale. It is a perfect blend of Christmas spice and honey backed by a strong ale that can stand up to the sweetness and spiciness. I urge anyone to try it regardless of their experience with beer or how much they like it generally. The only problem with it is its limited production. They only make it once a year, in a smaller batch and whenever that runs out, usually in less than the planned 3 months (November through January) you are left waiting until the next season. The Plain Dealer wrote about the supply demand issue with Christmas Ale, which I found pretty interesting.

I still like the cheap stuff (though that means Bud Light now, not Beast or Natty). I enjoy beers of all qualities and usually in large quantities.

Merry Christmas. Celebrate with a good Christmas Ale, Great Lakes, if you can get your hands on it.

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