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A Toast to Tradition

Picture me. On a roof top. Drinking a porter. Arms hugging my ears. A toast to tradition. So that was a terrible attempt at making a reference, but how American of me. My fellow cohorts and I are studying for the Cicerone exam, which we will take in a few weeks. This has lead me back through the classic styles, and examples, yet again. Revisiting these beers just gets better and better.

Tonight brings me to Garret Oliver’s Brewmaster’s Table. A fine book, indeed. I was reading through the sections on English Porters and Stouts, and could not resist the temptation to drink one of our calibration beers for tomorrow’s study group: Samuel Smith Taddy Porter. I made my way through the Samuel Smith Lineup when I was 21, simply because they were something different to try, and I think I got distracted, or simply took them for granted.

This beer is smooth and rich and light on the palate, yet offers a complexity of lingering character in the finished, which is marked by nutty, sugar-plum, caramel, and a just-perfectly-browned toast. In addition, I detect a slight brininess that helps me understand why this would be a great choice with oysters, or other sweet seafoods, such as shrimp or lobster. The aforementioned dark flavors would snuggle with a medium rare steak, or roasted lamb like it was nobody’s business. But this is all old news.

The "author's" cluttered desk. "Photo" taken by "author."
The “author’s” cluttered desk. “Photo” taken by “author.”

I think the true meaning of this post, is that there are still countless pleasures to be had in reviewing the classics that have brought us to where we are today. I love these visits to the past, because they remind me that the point of making beer is to brew a concoction that accompanies our daily existence, and food is an integral part of that. The classics tend to do a better job at this, and I think it is because they have the clear vision of hindsight. They did not invent the wheel, they simply respect it for what it is. In other words: they were founded on the traditions of their place and time. In America, our tradition is to constantly reinvent and make new, which is beautiful. But let’s not forget our number one goal as brewers ought to be to make a delicious beverage that will accompany our daily lives of friendship, hardship, family, work, and love. The consumer deserves a beer that is complex and subtle as their every inner-thought.

Reading between the lines: I’m rarely impressed by the hard-to-find rare beers. Rarely. Maybe that’s where the word stems from… as in rarely truly that innovative, rarely subtle, rarely a match to my lifestyle, rarely as good as this Samuel Smith Taddy Porter. Shout out to Bine and Vine for supplying my beer learning beverages since before they were in uptown.

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