Friday, February 8, 2013

Blizzard Drinking!

"Even a broken watch is right twice a day" - Official Weather Network motto

If you're anything like me, living in the Great Lakes corridor, your driveway looks something like this today:

This shitty shoveling half-job took me an hour.  An hour.  Fuck...
Unless you happen to have a snowblower.  In which case: fuck you for not helping with my driveway.  Seriously, I need you all to know that deep down, I hate the very thought of you, sitting at home, smug with the knowledge that your day's "labour" is complete while the rest of us are outside bitching and praying for death.  If we're ever to fix this broken country of ours, the first step will be to initiate a government program in which people with snowblowers receive tax-credits and exemptions from work on snow days in exchange for being neighborly and plowing the damned sidewalks.  It's an idea.

Alright, I guess I'm somewhat bitter.  Well, bitterer than usual.  Seems as though everyone got the day off today, which doesn't apply to me because I don't happen to work today.  I already had the damned day off and everyone else gets a snow day; in many cases, they got paid to sit around at home and play video games.   At least I know the solution to a bitter old snow day.  How about beer?  Better yet, how about a bitter? It's in the Bible - look it up.

Beer: Wellington Arkell Best Bitter
Brewery: Wellington Brewery (Guelph, Ontario)
Type: English Best Bitter
ABV: 4%

Haven't had this brew in a while, and I had a few kicking around.  Seems appropriate for the day.  Notice the low ABV, a paltry 4%.  Bitters are ideal session brews because they have some flavour and won't get you completely blasted for the rest of the day. We have this on tap at our regular and it is one of our standard pitcher purchases: it appeals to most, and allows us to keep drinking for hours on end.  The classic pub ale. An important thing to keep in mind: not every beer needs to be a high-octane overly hopped ale.  Sometimes something milder is what will really hit the spot.  I'll take this as my lawnmower/snow-shovelin' brew any day.

A word about "best" in the "best bitter" moniker.  Rarely will you ever find a brew that is classified as simply being a 'bitter'; almost always the brew will be either "ordinary" "best", "special" or "extra special bitter (ESB)."  So what does it all mean?  Simply put - it means how strong the beer is; oddly enough, it has nothing to do with quality.  While there isn't an absolute rule behind this, my man Randy Mosher explains the reasoning behind the terminology:

           "A brewery will usually produce a light bitter of about 3.5 percent, sometimes referred to as
            'ordinary.'  A somewhat more substantial 'best bitter' will usually display a bit more hop and
            weigh in at about 4 percent.  From here, a 'special bitter', often somewhat darker and slightly
            sweeter, will approach 5 percent, followed perhaps by an 'extra-special bitter,' snappy and
            full-bodied, at about 5.5 percent.  Anything stronger than this is generally considered to be
            something other than bitter, perhaps an old ale or strong ale." - Tasting Beer (pp. 108-109)

So there you go - Welly seems to have followed this rule perfectly, with its 4% strength.  It must be difficult for breweries to resist the temptation to go with the stronger name; after all, doesn't an "extra-special bitter" sound preferable to a "special", or - god forbid - an "ordinary" one?  For folks in the know, however, the name convention can help you decide on what the beer will be like, and whether it would be appropriate for the evening.  I like to think of this being similar to the Greek symposion - a gathering of drinking friends who would consume the evening's wine based on a particular ratio, depending on the host's preferences.  The stronger the wine, the sillier the evening, while a more diluted offering would be ideal for serious philosophical conversation.  If you want a silly evening, grab a pint of ESB; while a more contemplative individual might prefer a milder ordinary bitter.  This brew happens to be on the lower end of the spectrum, so that gives us some idea about what to expect.

Poured into a Welly 25 glass.  Dark caramel amber, about a half inch of sticky lace.  Recedes into a thick ring, with some lacing.  Looks like your standard English bitter; no complaints from me.

Nose is malt-forward, with notes of caramel, earth, toast and mild citrus hops - probably Fuggles or Goldings. Emphasis on the mild.

Tastes very sessionable.  Not much here, but it goes down incredibly well.  Malty, with hints of bread and caramel, before finishing with a mild earthy-citric hop.  Like many an English ale, I find the taste improves greatly with a bit of warmth.  It tastes exactly its weight, which is probably for the best.  Light bodied, mild carbonation.

A decent sessionable beer, that suited its purpose - recharging my humours after a lengthy shovelling session.  Is it the most flavorful brew? No, though that is not necessarily its goal, though I know for a fact that there are better best bitters (three times fast?) out there.  Still, it's nice to have this one around the area on a day such as this.

Might need to go through the whole six pack today - the snow is still coming down, erasing all my previous work.  Hawaii's starting to look pretty good right now...

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