Beers that yell

In his biography ‘A Life Uncorked’, the great UK writer, Hugh Johnson, made a comment that applies as well to beer as it does to wine, “It depends on whether you see wine primarily as a drink or as a recreational substance. In a drink you look for something refreshing and satisfying without too loud a voice, not too intrusive on your food or your thoughts each time you take a sip…”.

In the ever-growing world of specialty beers there are brews that have more than a loud voice – they yell, demanding your attention. In-your-face exotica like chocolate porter, lambic gueze, chilli beer, smoked beer, triple bock and over-the-top hoppy creations like American pale ale, are just a few examples.

In small quantities they can be terrific, especially regional specialties, like Bamberg’s smoked beer (Rauchbier), consumed on location with the local food. But these loud-voice style are never ‘just a drink’.

Not surprisingly, the big-volume beers, like VB slip down easily without intruding on our thoughts. That’s what they’re designed for and that’s what they do well.

But there are complex, specialty beers that slip down unobtrusively but also have complexity and individuality if you happen to be paying attention. The Sunner Kölsch reviewed on this site is a stunning example.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009