Bottoms Up

Last week’s election has left me feeling two very strong emotions: both very patriotic and in need of a drink. As a result, it just seemed to make perfect sense to review the finest alcohol there could possibly be anywhere, anytime: American beers. Now, I know what everyone is thinking: “OMG! European imports are, like, so much better! I, like, tried them all when I was abroad, and they, like, were, like so delicious!!” Although I realize that you think your time abroad can make you into some sort of enlightened individual – and maybe it can – but it can do nothing for your taste in beer. For the best beers, all you have to do is look in your backyard, depending of course on where your backyard is. No matter if you live in the most urban of metropolises or the most rural of locales in these United States, you’re never too far off from a brewery. Now that’s what I call the American dream.

Like the people who comprise our nation, our beers are diverse. Some are dark, some are light. Some sweet, some bitter. They also come in all different shapes and sizes, but a few things remain constant across all American ales: they are prepared with the barley of liberty, the hops of justice and are brewed in barrels of freedom. Can any import that? I think not. Anyway, to do the diversity of American beers justice, I have tried to review a diverse cross-section representing different regions and tastes of the country.

We’ll start with an original American brew, the Boston-based Sam Adams – and not just the regular Boston Lager that has made the Boston beer company so famous, but their seasonal pleasure, Octoberfest. Now, I know it’s November
already, but all that means is that I was lucky enough to grab a six-pack before they stopped making it this year. I suggest you go do the same because this beer is a pure delight. Though it is technically a pale lager, Octoberfest is a dark amber. It is also as creamy as my upper-thighs during Winter Study, and just as smooth, shocking you when you realize its subtle and sweet aftertaste. How could this be? The Boston beer company has perfected its specialty craft brew recipe, and they use it nationwide with breweries in Massachusetts, Cincinnati, Portland, North Carolina, New York and most recently at the Old Latrobe Brewery in Pennsylvania – which is coincidentally the original home of the next beer on our list.

Rolling Rock left Western Pennsylvania when it was bought by Anheuser-Busch in May 2006, whose ownership quickly began brewing the classic pale lager at one of its facilities in Newark, New Jersey. (Consequently, the European brand InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch this past Summer, making Rolling Rock technically under European ownership, but the recipe and production of the brew is still 100 percent American. Nevertheless, some hardcore Rolling Rock connoisseurs swear that the beer hasn’t been the same since the move to the Newark facility, but I think these people are just biased against New Jersey. Like President-Elect Obama says, its time for unity; let’s stop the hate.) Rolling Rock calls itself
extra-pale, and it lives up to its claim, tasting both light and smooth. It’s easy to drink and is great during football games. This beer was a favorite of two late, great Americans: Tim Russert and Kurt Cobain. Get yourself some “pony bottles” next time you’re at the Spirit Shoppe.

However, if you want to taste something with a little more flavor, you can always try the last beer on this week’s review, Chico – California’s Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – which is the second best-selling craft brew in America (Sam Adams Boston Lager is number one). Pale Ale is all-natural, made with “no additives only the finest malt barley, whole hops, brewer’s yeast and crystal clear water,” as it reads on the bottle. Normally, I would be suspicious of such California hogwash, but one taste of this delicious brew made completely disregard its ingredients in my enjoyment of the beer. Pale Ale tastes distinct; it is both pleasantly bitter and bitterly pleasant. The strong taste of hops overwhelms the taste buds, which are then calmed by a faint caramel aftertaste, and are left wanting infinitely more. Like a fat kid on Halloween in a ninja costume eating candy, one can mindlessly finish too much Pale Ale without realizing it, so pace yourself. It is definitely a beer to drink while relaxing, and should be savored, not chugged.

Even reviewing these select brews, it is clear to me that American beers are by far the best. We didn’t invent beer, but, like most other things in the world, we’ve found ways to perfect it, or at least we have perfected its marketing –