Smuttynose Brewing Co.

White Birch Hooksett Ale

White Birch Hooksett AleBeer No. 67 – White Birch Hooksett Ale

Sometimes life just gives you lemonade. And it’s hard to accept when you spend too much time in your own head, selfishly believe others are evil or stupid and simply have few friends to show for it. But there’s no other way to put it, except maybe as, “Sometimes life just gives you friends – and beer.”

Smuttynose Gravitation, a Belgian Style Quad. White Birch Rusalka, a Milk Stout. Moat Mountain Oktoberfest, Shipyard Blue Fin Stout and Allagash Interlude, a Farmhouse Ale aged in red wine barrels. These and seven more, including this Belgian IPA with a pineapple nose.

At 54.5 degrees it’s perfect. Muddy grass, kumquats, with a very light and nice peppercorn finish.

But this isn’t as much about a malty and well-bodied brew as it is about a budding friendship and a generous act that’s opened my mind, and heart.

A few weeks back at our national sales meeting we invited a handful of vendors to discuss their views on the marketplace for used equipment. These presentations are about what you imagine, ranging from yawn to “please tell me more about rising prices where supply is low.” And then something curious happened. I checked my cynicism at the door and quietly laughed when a linebacker-sized bald dude from Portsmouth, New Hampshire started his presentation with questions.

I can’t be more clear about this: Laughing in this moment means something in me circumnavigated every defense mechanism I’ve worked hard to cultivate over the last 33 years. I was supposed to think this guy is a try-hard, maybe even an asshole. I was supposed to think he likes network comedies and Miller Lite. But no. He seemed decent even if I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I sort of sat there for the rest of the day wondering what had gone so horribly wrong.

Now apparently Portsmouth, New Hampshire is right next to Boston and has a killer craft scene. Smuttynose, White Birch, Allagash and more. I know this because Andy knows this. And I know that he knows this, not because I’m telling this story Fight Club style, but because I tried something new this day and struck up a conversation with a near-complete stranger at the bar, even opening with the mildly pathetic but straightforward “I liked the way you started your presentation today.”

So we get to talking and – surprise – he’s a beer geek with a shared “disdain” for fruit beers. Slumming it at the post-meeting restaurant bar, where the selection varied from Light Lager to Euro Pale Lager, this was a revelation. If we couldn’t drink good beer, we were damn well going to talk about good beer.

Allagash Tripel (Beeradvocate 93, ratebeer 99) was his chief recommendation, and I knew then that we were on to something. A few months back during our babymoon I had my first Allagash at Gramercy Tavern in NYC. The Curieux (Beeradvocate 95, ratebeer 99) was divine. A proper Tripel, sweet and malty and even orange peel, it was disappointing to find out they didn’t distribute to lowly Cincinnati.

At least not directly.

For whatever reason – maybe the openness of an evening fueled not by sticky nine percenters but by a charitable mindset – Andy offered to personally send the Tripel, the Curieux, the “other ones I want you to try.” Keep in mind this is exactly the kind of thing you expect someone to say who has no intention of following though. Because that’s the way people are: lazy, poor communicators, desperate for immediate approval. In other words, like me on a regular day.

But that day. That day was different. And I swear on anything and everything that I nearly slipped on my own tears when a few days later not one, not two, but twelve big bottles of Tripels, Imperial Stouts and other personal favorites arrived at my front door, packed carefully in several boxes and layers of popcorn to protect the sweet, sweet goodness that Andy, the linebacker-sized near-complete stranger, wants me to try.

It’s not easy to put in context, mostly because I’m the type of person who itemizes each old t-shirt in the Goodwill bag to maximize my tax deduction. A sort of me-first charity. Understanding what it is to take a real interest in someone else, that’s still pretty new to me. It would be ironic, and wrong, to say beer is the lubricant that brought twelve fine brews to my house. No, it was something else. And even though I don’t have it all figured out – and might not ever – I’m pretty sure there’s much to be said for making, and keeping, new friends. Andy, can you send me your address?

Beeradvocate Rating: 87

ratebeer Rating: 69

Hayward Abbey Rating: 89

Smuttynose Winter Ale

Beer No. 53 – Smuttynose Winter Ale

The big boys want to lump – at the bottom mind you – this brew with the Abbey Dubbels. I’m going to make my own call here. It’s a seasonal brew with the marketing to match. Plus the spice bite, delicate sweetness, and semi-robust ABV just aren’t there.

STYLE: Winter Warmer

ABV: 5.8%

LOOK: The body really isn’t there either. A rich, oaky brown carries the load. Soft head, softer lacing and retention.

NOSE: Whoppers, raisins, cherries.

MOUTH: Fizz deep in the back of my throat – that’s my first impression. Not the staid malt, not the toffee dash. Odd because I remember liking it more on Xmas Eve and even thinking it better than what it replaced, my local Xmas Ale, Christkindl. Jammy toast and small purple fruits let you know what could be. But overall a little too balanced for this style.

Beeradvocate Rating: 84

ratebeer Rating: 81

Hayward Abbey Rating: 77

Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale

Beer No. 10 – Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale

STYLE: American Pale Ale

ABV: 5.4%

LOOK: Fire hydrant brown, rich copper, hearty. The head dissolves quickly but the lacing lets you know there’s some there there.

NOSE: Untoasted wheat bread, lemongrass, light floral.

MOUTH: Malty, bawdy, lemon, essence of grapefruit with a crispy finish. Almost pucker. Untapped potential.

Beeradvocate Rating: 87

Hayward Abbey Rating: 82