I am going to veer off the cocktail course to talk a bit about beer. This past weekend I was introduced to beer.  Sure I have had it before, but on Saturday night I tasted things that made me say “I had no idea beer could taste that good.”  I did not stumble upon these amazing libations by chance. I was guided by Jim, Cory and Pete—guys who take their beer as seriously as I take my cocktails (they have been known to fly overseas to acquire beer).  I had to respect their passion. I put myself in their able, knowledgeable hands, drank amazingly delicious stuff and realized that I really like beer.


My beer sherpas-- Pete, Jim and Cory

I guess the best place to start is with the #1 ranked beer in the world by the users of Beer Advocate—Trappist Westvleteren 12.  In addition to celebrating the holidays we were celebrating Holly and Jim’s engagement, what better occasion to drink the #1 beer in the world?  This yummy sweet beer is brewed by the monks at St. Sixtus Abbey in Belgium; the abbey has a special beer phone number for reservations to make purchases!  The bottle we drank was purchased by Jim in Amsterdam in 2008.  Apparently a strong and dark beer like this ages well, making it even better over time.  Figs and raisins add fabulous flavor making it perfect for a winter evening.

Did you know beer could be sour? And that sour beer is absolutely delicious?  We had two sour beers, Russian River’s Consecration and Temptation; my favorite beer of the evening was one of them—Russian River Consecration. As Jim put it, “Russian River is a brewery stuck in wine country.  They are most famous for their double IPA called Pliny the Elder.  However, their Belgian style beers are also world class.”  During the aging process, a secondary fermentation occurs using a yeast strain called Brettanomyces (“yeast from the air”).  The Brett is what makes the beer sour.  This yeast is hated by many brewers and winemakers—making Russian River not so popular with some its Sonoma neighbors.  Sure, it could destroy vintages, but I love what it does for beer.  This was what made me say, “Wow, that’s beer?” The flavor was so interesting—layered and complex, yet light and drinkable. My taste buds thought perhaps they were drinking some new kind of cocktail.  It is sweet and sour, a bit funky tasting and has a nice amount of booziness at the end. Really wonderful stuff.

3 Floyds Dark Lord was something else.  It is a pretty special beer that is brewed in limited quantities in Munster, Indiana.  It is released on the 3rd Saturday every April, and the only way to get it is to go to the brewery.  Cory made the trek to Chicago and subsequent ride to the brewery for Dark Lord Day, and he was generous enough to share a bottle with us.  Brewed with coffee, vanilla, and molasses, the flavors are familiar but hard to describe.  It is smokey and smooth and chocolately and just really delicious.  And its pretty boozy at 15% ABV. Check out the artwork on the bottle—another distinguishing feature—kind of reminds me of some hardcore 1980s metal band.

I think I need to give Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (it’s the 4th ranked beer in the world) another chance.  This double stout is brewed with coffee, chocolate, vanilla and aged in bourbon barrels for over a year—how could I not have liked this? I love all these flavors. I blame it on the fact that it was the end of the evening and my palate was so overwhelmed with all the deliciousness that had come before it just couldn’t take anymore.  I need to give this another try sometime.

Yes, I still have a lot to learn, but this cocktail-loving gal can now add beer to her preferred beverages.  Although not just any beer– I’ve had #1, obviously I have standards.  Cheers!