Monday, January 12, 2015

On Lunch And Doubts (and Podcasts)

This one is from a few months ago on BeerGraphs:

The upcoming episode of the Drinking With Shirt podcast, hopefully out next week (it came out back in September), will feature an epic Beersport between two American Pale Ales brewed by Maine Beer Company – Mo and Peeper Ale. The labels on a Maine Beer Company's bottle of beer have next to nothing on them beyond the name, which is fine, calling Mo a pale ale and Peeper and American ale. So beyond half a percentage of ABV%, what's the difference between the two?

Currently, according to Style+, Mo is the better of the two. But better how? Better why? These are the questions T-Bone and I try to answer. And I might be using the word try rather loosely. 

Another question worth answering might be “What is Maine Beer Company's best beer?” Per our Leaderboards, it's Lunch, their American IPA. In fact, ranked by Beers Above Replacement, Lunch comes in as the third best in the style, behind only Alpine's Nelson and Ballast Point's Sculpin (or Scalpin for the faithful podcast listeners).

What follows will focus on this wonderful beer, an American IPA, known simply as Lunch. But again, I may be using the word focus rather loosely...

As I sit here with my glass of Lunch, admiring its golden appearance and bright aroma, anticipating its amazing flavors, Wife is but a room away – in the kitchen, preparing tomorrow's lunches (I am 100% in charge of dinners, I'll have you know). So still sitting here, about to take a sip from a half-full tulip of a fresh IPA, with Wife making my delicious sandwich for the upcoming workday and packing the Child's lunch for preschool, it seems thing couldn't get much better.

But could they? Could things get better? After a sip of Lunch, and then another and all of its perfect citrus and clean pine, its tropical notes – wait, what was the question? Oh right – could it get any better? It is a question that Wife and I have asked each other an endless number of times over the past few years, a refrain of our conversations since the Child became a part of our lives.

Obviously, from a certain perspective, things could definitely get better. We could have more money and live in a bigger house. I could have rock hard abs and an unlimited supply of this delicious IPA and somehow it would not impact my ability to maintain those rock hard abs. I would like to be able to jump higher. That would be better.

But really, what Wife and I are talking about when ask each other the question is our family and the dynamic, or the energy, it has with our one lovely sunbeam of a daughter. With only one child, our family seems predisposed to maximize joy while minimizing stress. Things are generally calm and relaxed and Wife and I have done a nice job of maintaining certain freedoms in our lives that, overall, helps to keep that stress level down. A delicious beer every now and again, in particular, this delicious beer, also seems to help in that regard. So when we ask one another if things could possibly get any better, what we are really asking, without ever really saying it, is should we have another child?

Until recently, I was adamant in my answer, “Things could not get any better.” Until recently, I said things like, “If it ain't broke, why fix it.” All the while completely acknowledging that my reasons were 100% selfish. I worried that this dream of a family might fall into chaos if we threw caution to the wind and poked the proverbial tiger until it was pregnant one more time. I worried we would lose the ability to do the things we wanted to do – as individuals and as a family. I worried I wouldn’t be able to handle the added stress, that I would succumb to the added pressures, and that I might lose my hair.

Frankly, I worried for my sanity. Perhaps, personally, I already had all I could handle. I pictured my mind as a camel and wondered if it could handle another piece of straw. I had serious doubts.

Of course now, moving on to my second bottle of Lunch, those doubts seem like distant memories. I smirk at the idea of waking up in the middle of the night, drenched in the sweat of all my fears and doubts as they come flooding back to me. It's no big deal. It's just the humidity. And damn this beer is delicious – forget doubts, this beer is reminding me of my favorite characteristics from some of my favorite IPAs. I pause to look up the hops in Lunch – Warrior, Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe – and can't help to be wowed a bit by the malt as well – American 2-row, CaraPils, Caramel, Munich, and Red Wheat.

Lately, as in the past week or two not like since I opened these beers, a new doubt has crept into the maze of my neurosis. Specifically, what if I'm wrong? Now, I fully suspect that this thought does not emanate from within, but rather was expertly planted there by some sinister doctor hired by my “but I was so good at being pregnant” Wife. But regardless of how it got there – it is there – and what if I am wrong?

What if my family could get better? What if I am way wrong and the energy of my household could grow exponentially, with joy bursting through the roof and stress holding steady? I highly doubt such an existence is possible, but what if I'm wrong. And maybe I can handle it. Maybe I'm selling myself short. Maybe, just maybe, my weak grip on sanity will remain just that – a weak grip. We will definitely be broke if we have more children, but I might remain sane.

The thing is – I won't know unless I try it. So I guess I should try. And frankly, it could be said that if I'm going to try, being of an age closer to 40 than 30, I should try sooner than later. Full disclosure: I, or We, already tried a few times this past weekend. Obviously the results aren't in yet, but I feel good about the process.

And while drinking these glasses of Maine Beer's Lunch didn't necessarily spur my decision to enter into an agreement to procreate with Wife, it certainly provided me with an idea that is not totally unrelated. Perhaps before I entered into this agreement, I should have bartered a bit more for my end of the contract for services rendered. If I am in fact worried about the fast erosion of the final grains of my sanity, it seems only fitting that I bargain to have certain things in place and/or guaranteed in the event that Wife and I are successful in producing a second child.

Without further ado, I present, for the first time to the world and to Wife, my list of demands in the event we successfully produce, via coitus, either on purpose or by accident, another human.

Demand #1: I have full naming rights of the child. The only name I have excluded at this point is Zeus. However, in the event that I see lightning during the birthing process, the child shall be named Zeus. Only one name. No last name. And I mean lightning as part of the birthing process, like lightning in the birth canal. Not just any old lightning from a cloud in the sky.

Demand #2: If, like last pregnancy, your water breaks in my car, then said car will officially become your car and I will get a new car. Something with bells and whistles. As we spiral further into debt, you will become responsible for the large payment associated with a car that has bells and whistles.

Demand #3: At no point from this point forward, barring an actual emergency, will you yell for me to get out of the shower. A man needs to recharge his batteries. My batteries run on scalding hot water.

Demand #4: See Demand #3, but replace “out of the shower” with “off of the toilet.” And remove the recharging batteries stuff and replace it with “where else am I supposed to get any reading done.”

Demand #5: You promise to work on chewing quieter. And you actually work on it.

Demand #6: I will comb my hair any way I damn well please.

Demand #7: You are are no longer allowed to be “tired of American cinema.”

Demand #8: While pregnant, you will drive me places and I will drink more than I should. Not really a demand, more of a foreshadowing.

Demand #9: After you drive me places and I drink more than I should and then you drive me home, you are not, I repeat not, allowed to take pictures of me as I descend from consciousness to unconsciousness. I learned my lesson during the first pregnancy.

Demand #10: At no point are you allowed to abandon, for any reason, your lunch-making duties. A family without lunch is, well, you get the idea – please keep making our lunch.

Lunch, Maine Beer Compnay (111.11 BAR, 130 Style+)
Appearance = 5/5

A hazy orange that seems to glow in the light of my office that will maybe someday soon be an office no more. The beer poured with a finger of head, retained a thin layer the whole way down the glass, and had real pretty lacing.

Smell = 4.5/5

A clean and sweet pine, with some bright citrus and tropical fruit notes. Maybe just a hint of grass.

Taste = 5/5

The pine is a bit more bitter and resinous than the nose revealed. Also a dry quality, like rind, as the bitterness makes it way over the back of the tongue. Not that the beer is too bitter – it is actually pretty smooth flavor wise – nice citrus and tropical fruit flavors start and finish each sip. Certain flavors remind me of a cross between a Two-Hearted and maybe a Racer 5, but with something just a bit more. Really enjoyable, drinkable, and delicious.

Feel = 4.5/5

Smooth feel. Medium to light bodied. Typically, I find Maine Beers to have a lighter feel across the board for the flavors they deliver and I think that is part of the charm that sets their beers apart. Obviously, it a characteristic that I enjoy about them, and while this Lunch doesn't come across as thin in feel as some other Maine Beers, it still manages to convey that lighter, smooth feel, especially for the amount of flavor that is coming across. Wow, do I like how this drinks.

Overall = 5/5

This is by far the best beer I've had by Maine Beer Co. and I am a fan of the other things I've had. But this is just delicious.

J. R. Shirt also hosts the Drinking With Shirt podcast found at BeerGraphs and on iTunes. Feel free to recommend a Beersport match-up for future episodes. Follow J. R. on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt.