Craig Gravina, chief at drinkdrank, hosts this month’s session. The topic is one that might very well be impossible for me to answer in the demanded manner, but I’ll do my best. He asks us to envision our perfect beer; the one beer to rule them all. Oh dear…
At the outset, the proposed question seems absurd. Certainly one of beer’s most attractive qualities is its many types, appearances, aromas, flavors, textures and nuances that give each family of beer its distinction. Somehow tossing your favorite bits in a pot and emerging with the Highlander of beers seems unrealistic.
But I’ll try.
My perfect beer is unpretentious, I know that. Not that beer is in itself pretentious, but some lean more in that category than others do. I know mine wouldn’t be. It would be proud of what it is, wearing its malt bill and hop profile on its sleeve, but would never feel the need to explain why it’s so wonderful. It just knows it’s wonderful, without having to provide supplementary fluff.
It would be balanced. Beers that are malt-forward, hop-forward, acid-forward, sweet-forward, what have you, are all lovely. But they succeed by defying balance, which is a tasty thing sometimes. All the time, though? I would tire of it too quickly. No perfect beer of mine can defy balance if it plans on keeping my palate happy for the foreseeable future.
It couldn’t be too strong. I would say 7% is my threshold. If this is my perfect beer, I’ll want to drink a lot of it. More specifically, I’ll want to drink a lot of it without falling off the stool. I would like a little punch in terms of alcohol, but more of a swift jab than an uppercut to the chin.
Malt would be my workhorse. Binding the beer together, treated as the useful beer-building tool it is instead of the neglected blue-collar castaway.
I’d like the hops to be a mix of herbal and citrus, and they would appear in the beer at the perfect time. Biscuity, toasty, bready malt would comprise a hearty center, with hops interspersed between it, brightening the flavors appropriately while not throwing the beer out of balance. Then they would assert themselves in the finish, which would dry out brilliantly. The yeast would provide its own fruitiness from a warm fermentation.
I guess my perfect beer is basically Extra Special Bitter.