My favorite sport, college basketball, began this week which means it’s time for me to start drinking shitty beers. I never mean to, but it always occurs. Now I’m not exactly avoiding bars like Carrie Nation during the off-season, but once college hoops begins, it seems like I’m living in watering holes. And, while in the off-season I’m a fixture at fine establishments such as Rattle ‘n’ Hum and Blind Tiger, drinking cask IPAs, quads, and imperial stouts, I’m forced to move to more, ahem, hoi polloi drinking establishments to watch games. Good beer bars simply don’t excel at having good, if any, TVs to watch big games on (though Rattle ‘n’ Hum is passable) and I am fine with that.
Thus, I move to indistinguishable bars in the East and Greenwich Village that do have great TVs, all the obscure sports packages, but don’t have great beers. Sure, this is Manhattan, and even the absolute most pathetic bars usually have Brooklyn and Sam Adams Lager on tap, a comically overpriced Chimay even on the bottle menu, but it’s impossible to avoid the $5 pitchers of Bud when you’re hunkering down for the next twelve hours to watch hoops.
And, you know, that used to trouble me. The more refined my palate gets–I can’t believe I just said that–the less I’m able to even chug down a macro for pure drunken sustenance. I used to think, the only thing that would make watching the great Syracuse Orange crush Georgetown yet again, would be if I was sipping a glorious beer while I watched the game, as opposed to the Miller Lite I held in my hand. But now, I’ve come to realize, that I no longer believe that. In fact, I know that’s patently false. For you see, I think I maybe have become one of those douchebags that actually enjoys contemplating his fine beers. Shit, I can’t have a TV blaring a silly game between a group of pituitary cases trying to stuff a ball through a hoop interrupt my beer enjoyment! Thus, I think I am now thankful for shitty beer. Thankful I can have something to do–like Jerry Tarkanian biting on his towel, Leo Mazzone rocking in his dugout seat, Jim Leyland smoking–to keep me occupied and keep my nerves at bay as I watch my favorite team in another nail-biter. A pint of some obscure Belgian lambic simply wouldn’t do the trick.
However, when I’m not drinking shitty beer on game days, I’m gonna have to be tippling the shit out of the good stuff. Like last week, when I was able to put together a pretty nice beer tasting leading up to game 6 of the World Series courtesy of friends DW (Beatification) and Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive (Temptation).
Temptation (BATCH #4)
7.25% ABV from a 750 mL corked-and-caged
Temptation, currently the 30th ranked beer in the world, is a blonde ale aged for nine to fifteen months in French oak chardonnay barrels. A goldenrod color with a bubbly head. Flavors of sour apples, white wine, oak and, of course, Brett, all nicely balanced together. I didn’t find it to be that mindblowingly complex, but it’s nevertheless flawless for what it is. Perfect for fans of wild ales that are smoother and less mouth-puckering.
Beatification (BATCH #2)
6% ABV from a 375 mL corked-and-caged
A wordsmith, of course I love a beer that teaches me a new vocab word–“a state of supreme happiness”–as well as how to pronounce it–it’s bee-AT-uh-fi-key-shuhn not BEAT-uh-fi-key-shuhn as I dumbly thought–right there on the back of the label. Currently the 85th ranked beer in the world, Beatification ages in the absolute oldest barrels Russian River has that no longer have any wine flavor or oak flavor left in them. Russian River notes, however, that “a cocktail of ‘bugs and critters’ (Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus & other wild yeast & bacteria) remains in the barrel.” This is easily the most tart Russian River beer I’ve ever had, making Temptation seem soft in comparison. Citrusy and earthy, I personally enjoyed this a tad more than Temptation, but, for you, it will all depend on how much you personally enjoy physically interacting with your adult beverages as this one will keep you puckered and wincing til the last drop.
As it now stands, I’ve had four of the five Russian River -tion wild ales on the Beer Advocate top 100–Santification is all I’m missing, any one got a bottle to spare?–and perhaps I should be embarrassed, though I’m not embarrassed, that I have given them all unequivocal A pluses. They are all that fine. It’s amazing how unique each one is. Russian River isn’t just pumping out the same wild ales and making different labels for them, no sir. These are carefully crafted beers, each rather easy to different from one another, all worth going to the trouble to locate (and pay out the ass for!) Russian River brings it ever single time, clearly in the argument for finest brewery in America.
And, just for the hell of it, my rankings at this second in time for their wild ales:
For anyone who has had 3, 4, or, lucky bastard, all 5 of the major Russian River wild ales, what are your rankings?