Volunteer to Share Beers for the Holidays

This issue of Motif is spotlighting volunteerism and holiday theater, so let’s stretch a bit and suggest that proffer to make a show of your beer geek love this holiday season. (Hey, we said it was a stretch!)

The question is heard at every family gathering: “What crazy beer are you drinking now?!” You know how it is: Any beer that isn’t Bud/Coors Light or Miller Lite qualifies as crazy. But with the steady spread of craft beer love and lore, that question isn’t asked so much these days. And since your guests probably know that you’re a bit of a beer geek (it’s ok – really), chances are the curiosity factor about those crazy beers will be a little higher this year.

So you should prepare a mini-sampling session as part of your holiday gathering – share the craft beer love and lore. Mix a dozen or so just-a-little-crazy beers that will open eyes and wake up palates that have become accustomed to the taste of “wet air,” in William Least Heat Moon’s memorable phrase. (From “A Glass of Handmade,” his landmark 1987 piece for The Atlantic – Google it! – here’s Moon on tasting a Redhook in 1987: “The beer rolled and jumped in my mouth, my head; it made me drink with palate, tongue, cheeks, nose, throat, and – according to the fellow next to me … with my eyes.”)

Make a show of it: Line up the small glasses you’ve collected from various beer fests, talk a bit about the abundance of local breweries and share their stories (people like stories). Start with a cream ale, a lager offshoot that is slightly sweet, very smooth and low in ABV. There’s a local standout: Grey Sail’s Flagship Ale (which won yet another gold medal at the Great International Beer & Cider Competition two weeks ago); Sixpoint’s Sweet Action is another must-try. (You can also make a detour to California and share one of the pioneering craft beers: Anchor Steam, a distinctive lager offshoot.)

The velvety cream ale will open the door to Hefeweizens (aka wheat beers). You should pour Weihenstephaner’s Hefeweissbier, the standard-bearer from the oldest brewery in the world – established in 1040! The cloudy yellow liquid with the towering head bursts with an array of flavors: banana, clove and, yes, bubblegum. It’ll get tongues wagging!

Now step up to delightful German- and Czech-style pilsners, made with prominent herbal (but not bracingly bitter) hops; the beer is well-balanced, finishes clean and is ultra-satisfying. Two of the best takes are easy to find: Victory’s superb Prima Pils and Lagunitas Pils.

If things are going well – and they should be after pouring those brews – dare to edge into hoppier fare. Head to our stellar local breweries before your festive occasion, grab a growler (or four) of fresh pale ale and/or IPA, then regale your guests with the long and winding tale of the state’s recently bettered beer laws whilst savoring the splendor of the contents of those brown jugs.

For dessert, bust out the stouts and brewed-with-coffee beers (say, Newport Storm’s hot cocoa-inspired Annual Release ’16, Narragansett’s Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout, Revival’s Juliett Imperial Stout or FoundersBreakfast Stout).

Your generous display will likely make a few converts to the better beer world. But don’t be a beer snob: Have some comfort brews in the fridge for the macro diehards. Some people will never warm up to those crazy beers.

Update: Two issues ago, we noted that Efren Hidalgo is launching the Providence Brewing Company. On November 1, the Town of North Providence approved an amendment to Ordinance 16-011Z, greenlighting the city’s first microbrewery. Fingers are crossed for a March 17 opening  at 1920 Mineral Spring Ave – a few miles down the road from Crooked Current Brewery (which often has a stout or two, vis-à-vis your sampling event). Check pvdbc.com for updates.

For more beer news, check Lou’s blog, bottlescansclaphands.wordpress.com, or follow @BottlesCansRI.

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