Sun 29 Nov 2009
One night last week, LL said, “Do we have a beer that’s not dark?” I understood her question. Sometimes one wants a beer that doesn’t partake of the full-bodied, lushly expressive, brusquely bitter character of a dark ale but something lighter, more immediately engaging; one want a lager.
I had purchased a couple of beers at Whole Foods from the Samuel Smith’s line, including the Organic Lager. Samuel Smith’s, founded in 1758 in the ancient market town of Tadcaster, is the oldest brewery in Yorkshire. Based on our experience with these examples of their craft, we’ll try more of Sam’s products.
I don’t remember what we drank the Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager with, but the beer was delicious. The color was a radiant light gold-amber, and it smelled cleanly and mildly of toasted oats (or barley, I suppose) and faintly of mint and roasted apples. This lager was beautifully fresh and clean in the mouth, a little earthy, and of course it finished with a bite of bracing, invigorating bitterness. It came in an 18.7-ounce bottle, which was perfect for two to share.
On Thanksgiving day, while we were cooking and cleaning, I said, “Let’s take a little lunch break.” I laid out a board with good British cheddar cheese, brown bread and some slices of salami and opened one of those big bottles of Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale, 2009-2010. Ah, what a reminder of simple pleasures and their ability to bring satisfaction to our lives, and with an ale that I would happily consume year-round. The color is medium-burnished amber, and after pouring, the head leaves a nice filigree around the rim of the glass. Properly robust and full-bodied, this ale partakes of a yeasty earthy wheaty/barley effect, with a touch of nutty spice cake and orange rind halfway through the mouth. The bitterness is deep and smooth and inviting. Yes, we liked this one, but as a brew neophyte, am I being too lenient? Myriad bloggers and posters to blogs are not so impressed.
LL made an interesting point, which she usually does in these matters.
When we think of the earthly effect and extent of wine, metaphorically speaking, we tend to visualize the depth of the vineyard, the soil, the subsoil, the reaching of roots underground toward rock-strewn strata. With beer and ale (and also with scotch) one thinks of surface extent, of vast fields, of wind and rain. Perhaps one could say that wine is a product of geology, while beer and ale are products of geography. Anyway, it all feels like that. As the late Levi-Strauss would say, “It tastes good to think that way.”
Samuel Smith’s products are imported by Merchant du Vin, Tukmila, Wash.