I imagine a craft beer loving Joan Crawford coming into my apartment. For some reason she is in her house coat, her face whitened by an exfoliating cream. I’m taking a nap on the couch. She looks at me sleeping there and smiles sweetly before going into the kitchen. She straightens the appliances, puts away a dish or two, opens the fridge, and then the freezer. She stops. Her expression falls. She reaches out and pulls a frosted pint glass from the freezer door:
FROZEN PIIIINT GLAAAAASES! I told you! NO! FROOOOZEN! PINT GLASSES! EVAHR! I buy you beautiful beers and you treat them like they’re dishwater! A five, six dollar beer in a frozen pint glass! Frozen pint glasses… Frozen pint glasses… Why? Whhhyyyyy!!!???
Wide awake now, I watch in horror as she throws the glasses to the kitchen floor, ranting and raving. Eventually she finds the Barman’s Friend powdered cleaner and, well, when Joan gets a hold of the Barman’s Friend you best just start scrubbing.
That’s the scene that was going through my mind last night before I cranked open the top on the Ninkasi Radiant summer ale. You see, I’d been discussing with Lisa Morrison how I’d had a bottle of the Full Sail LTD 3 and completely fucked everything up. I blamed the complete lack of flavor I experienced in the beer on the meal I’d eaten before pouring. Turns out, that probably wasn’t what was happening. What made the beer so watery and lifeless at the beginning of the pint and so full and open in the last third? I’d poured the cold beer into a frozen pint glass.
Let’s take a walk back through all the chemistry classes I took when I was studying to be a nurse. If I recall, higher temperatures lead to more vigorous chemical reactions. A really cold beer, while generally refreshing, will be molecularly sluggish. The volatile chemicals in the beer, responsible for aroma and flavor, will not be reacting as quickly with each other or with the oxygen they’ve been exposed to. No aroma? No flavor!
The reason the beer began to open up towards the end is because the glass warmed, as did the beer itself. It never reached room temperature, but it did warm enough for the molecules to start jostling around more fervently, releasing aroma and flavor.
I imagine Joan Crawford rolling her eyes and hissing, “Of course, you moron!”
How did this trend start? Morrison has a theory it has something to do with poor quality domestic lagers. You do not necessarily want to taste those babies. Think of that color changing mountain on the label of your Coors Light bottle more like a radiation badge. If it’s blue, go ahead and drink. If it’s not blue, you’re in for some shitty times.
Funny. We’ve heaped scorn on warm English beer for so long because the only way we can palate our crappy corporate brew is to serve it ice cold. Hmm.
So, I’ve removed my pint glasses from the freezer and put them in the bar with all of the other “refined” glassware. No more will I kill these lovely Oregon craft beers.
I was excited to pour Ninkasi’s Radiant (the beer that arts editor Alison Hallett calls her “new summer jam”) into my room temperature pint glass. Holding it to the light, it revealed beautiful amber color. There was a slight citrusy hit from hops in the aroma at first whiff, but as the glass warmed in my hands I could smell strawberry and kiwi, with just a touch of banana. It reminded me of a tropical fruit salad. Very juicy.
On the palate I tasted more of that strawberry and a bit of malt. It was like a very fresh strawberry jam on an ethereal biscuit (someone please adopt “ethereal biscuit” as the name for their jam band). The finish was light with just enough hops bitterness for me. I’m beginning to find that I enjoy beers in this range of IBU (40 here, a well balanced 60 for their Believer, which I also enjoyed). At the very tail end I got a hint of pepper, but I might have had that stuck in my teeth from lunch. Who’s to say?
The hops used in this beer is noble hops, a classification that encompasses four hop varieties.
Nobel Noble hops are known for high aroma and low bitterness, which would explain why I had that first hit of citrus on the nose, but had to chase the bitterness a bit on my palate.
I’d love to put this beer back to back with other noble hops beers. Any suggestions?
As always, I welcome your comments! A discussion is so much more enjoyable than one man’s mad rantings about beer and Joan Crawford. Had Ninkasi’s Radiant? Oh, do dish!