No, despite some people’s attempt to claim it as fact, beer is not an American enterprise in the way that baseball, July 4th, and the word “dude” are absolutely defined entities of the U.S. Like it or not, the brewing process traveled the high seas from Europe to the Jersey shore. While America is certainly defining beer for the 21st century, craft beer-makers here in Colorado spend a lot of time considering, adapting and reinventing Old World styles, honoring their ancestors everyday.
Though my attendance at the Crafty Ladies Holiday Beer Event is no longer news worthy, the “Old World/New World” theme presented at the dinner by Merchant du Vin and our very own Avery Brewing Company, got me thinking, and paying even more attention to the roots of the styles I enjoy everyday.
Beer surrounds us with a living history: a cultural, scholarly, artistic, scientific exchange taking place across oceans. Engage in this dialogue while surrounded by good friends at Highland Tap and Burger dining on HTB’s always tasty food and beer pairings, and it’s a damn fine time to raise a glass in celebration of being a craft beer fan.
If I’m still waxing all too esoterically, let’s get down to the beer and look at the welcoming pair at the dinner as an example of this Old World/New World conversation. Merhcant du Vin is a specialty beer importer bringing an incredible range of beer (that’s not made in the U.S.) to the Rocky Mountains. They happen to supply our state with Samuel Smith, a favorite brewery of mine since college. So what better way is there to kick-off a winter beer affair than with the Samuel Smith Winter Welcome?
As an English Strong Ale, the Winter Welcome is rich in color and in flavor, especially with chewy malt notes. It represents a style that, yes indeed, is brewed specifically for the cold winter months. There is a very low hop profile to offer a “balance” (in-line with the traditional approach) to the beer, and while that might be a little bit off to some of our overly-indulged hop palettes, Samuel Smith makes this ale true to its style.
Avery also approaches the Winter Strong Ale with a similar love for malts. Using five different types of malt, their Avery Old Jubilation has a diverse and complex malt character. Tasting notes for this beer always remark on the roasty toffee flavors in addition to breadiness, fig, and chocolate. But it’s in the final moments of the Jubilation sip where the tell-tale American touch appears: a little extra bitterness from Bullion hops give this a crisp “New World” finish.
To be even clearer about the conversation, track down a Samuel Smith India Ale and then an Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA this weekend. While I appreciate the subtle differences between the Old World/New World approaches to a Winter Ale, there’s nothing that distinguishes the existence of the Old/New conversation more than tasting a traditional IPA from England and a hop-forward IPA from Colorado.
Interested in a few more Old World/New World examples? I’ll post some other matches from the dinner on our Facebook page during the next couple days. Check them out. And more importantly, go exploring the New World for echoes of the Old.