Friday, November 7, 2008

The Session #21: Can we really choose a favorite beer?

The SessionToday marks a return to The Session, a blog carnival activity that pits beer bloggers up against a common topic and collectively respond to a central location, which for this month is being hosted by A World of Brews. This is my second offering into The Session. I've been lax to date and felt it was time again to get back into the community and participate.

This month's theme may look like a fairly simple one but in reality is one of the most difficult questions a beer blogger will ever face in their lifetime. The question is: "What is your favorite Beer and Why?". Think about it. How can a simple question like this cause a beer blogger like me to ponder and stumble and nearly draw a blank?

Trying to come up with a single and straight forward answer to that question is like being faced with a moral dilemma. It's like being a kid with $10 in his pocket standing in the middle of a candy store and being told that you can only buy 1 kind of candy. It's like having the entire collection of Playboy magazines ever published and having to pick which woman is the most beautiful in all of them. It's like having a barrel full of pennies and being asked which penny is the shiniest?

Bottom line, it is not an easy decision. In fact, a beer that I may like today may not be the one I reach for the next day. Picking a favorite is subject to many factors: mood, flavors, cost, environment, friends, stress, health, availability, freshness, time of day, etc.

Ever since I began my quest to explore the world of craft beer, I told myself that whenever I had an opportunity to try a new beer that I would. In fact over the last year, I must have tried well over 200 different beers and the only time I'd drink the same beer again was if I had purchased that beer in a 6-pack or 12-pack and was trying to finish that up.

I normally like buying beers in 22 oz bomber bottles. When that bottle is done, I reach for a different brand of beer. But on the occasion that I buy in bulk it is because that was my only choice. If I wanted to try a beer and there were only 6-packs available then I'd buy it in that. But outside of that choice I haven't really gone back and purchased the same beer twice in the whole last year. So can I really say that I have a favorite beer?

Certainly when I was much younger and went out for a beer I'd probably stick to a few different macro brands, but that was before I had discovered what craft beer was like. And once that door opened up I've been on a crusade to explore as many different brands and styles as possible.

Now I'll admit having some partiality to particular styles of beer that I come back to over and over again. In the cooler months (September through April) I'll prefer darker beers over lighter colored ones. I go for porters, stouts, dark ambers, doppelbocks and the imperial dark brews. In the warmer months, I'll open up to wheats, lighter Belgians, pilsners, Kolsch and IPA's.

But the question still begs to be answered, "What is your favorite beer and why?". Sigh. I'm trying to pull my own teeth here. I just don't want to do it but still being requested to be forthcoming and honest. Grrr. I'm certainly not up to the caliber of a BJCP and to judge a favorite beer is a difficult task.

I suppose I could be a smart ass and say "my favorite beer is the next beer I try" but that would be a cop out. Or the pat response of "the beer that I'm currently drinking" but that would be a lie as I've had some beers that I just didn't appreciate as much as others.

I've tried some truly magnificent worldly beers recently, many from Belgium, England, Germany and Norway. I can probably say that some of those beers really stood out from the crowd, but suddenly a domestic or local craft beer will come along and just blow me away with it's uniqueness and flavor.

So rather than tell you all what my favorite beer (singular) is, I'll tell you what beers have impressed me recently that I know I'll eventually come back to. Here's a short list.

- Great Divide - Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
- Dogfish Head - 90 Minute IPA
- The Lost Abbey - Red Poppy
- Maui Brewing - Black Pearl CoCoNuT Rum Porter
- New Belgium - La Folie
- North Coast - Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
- Avery Brewing - Salvation
- Brouwerij St. Bernardus - St. Bernardus Abt 12
- Chimay - Grande Reserve
- Jolly Pumpkin - La Roja
- HaandBryggeriet - Haandbaak
- Breckenridge - Vanilla Porter

There. That's at least a dirty dozen. Please don't ask me to choose one of the above over the other. Like I said, which one I'm partial do at the moment depends on those factors listed above. So while I regret having to list my absolute favorites, I rejoice in the fact that there are still thousands of beers out there that I have yet to try and I still have many many years left to try to find new favorites.

The list above will probably be totally different next year. But again, that's next year. So can you really have a favorite beer? If you said "yes" then I have to ask you, "Would you be willing to try something new?".

Please visit A World of Brews to read other responses to The Session #21.

Related articles:
- The Session #15.

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