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Going in blind

A chance encounter

Last week I stopped in during retail. (What? I’m not allowed to buy my own beer?) A man sat at the counter, open bottle of beer next to him.

Greg introduced us: he had taken Best in Show at AWOG recently, and as such we would be brewing the winning beer soon. As he poured me a sample I asked, “What style is it?” Then, quickly: “Wait, don’t tell me.”

I’m not going to say I was wildly wrong, but only if you consider “a style commonly associated with continental Europe” to be somewhat hitting the mark. And yes, I’m being purposefully vague. Myst’ree, friends. Myst’ree.

A search for redemption

I’ve written in the past about how I wish I had more blind tastings. We did a semi-blind tasting during a night of Risk. Last night I went to ABV, and asked a friend what he had ordered for his second beer. “La Fin Du Monde”, he said, to which I replied “I love that beer! But… I never order it.” There’s always something I haven’t had, or which catches my eye more. And so a beer I really like goes undrunk.

In which a plan is concocted

I wanted a pure blind tasting. I didn’t want to know what the beer was, what brewery made it. I didn’t want to know the style or even the color. Give me a glass and I’ll drink it.

I went to the Village Beer Merchant and walked up to the cooler of single bottles. I looked away, never having seen what was inside, and reached in. I brought it up to the counter and, looking up so as to not look at the bottle, asked the cashier to put it in a bag so I couldn’t see it.

Sometimes I worry I’m a bit of a handful.

WHAT'S IN THE BOX??

WHAT’S IN THE BOX??

In which a plan is enacted

I interrupted my wife’s watching of The Voice (I don’t much care for the kid in the hat but they’re all very talented) to tell her she had to pour a beer for me. And I would be closing my eyes so if she could put it in my outstretched hand that would be great.

Nah, not a handful at all.

The initial impression

The aroma: hops. I think I have a pale ale. (My wife thought it smelled of peaches, and then hops) I took a sip: yes, hops, so many hops. Is this… Centennial? I think I’ve had this before, or at least I’ve tasted something very similar. Stone Ruinination, perhaps (Ruination 2.0?). I like it, though I’d have to be in the mood for such a palate wrecker. Because damn, this is a bitter beer. Almost verging on unpleasantly so, actually, though not quite.

The verdict

I’m going to say this is classified as an IPA. It’s way too bitter to be a pale ale, though that’s me saying how I think the brewery classifies it: if it was labeled as a pale ale I wouldn’t hem and haw. I’m no longer thinking the primary hop is centennial: thanks to Frank I know how it tastes, and it isn’t like this. There’s a hint of juicy fruit from a citra or galaxy before the pacific northwest construction vehicle comes tearing through the forest like a scene in Ferngully.

Doesn't everybody drink beer with their eyes closed?

Doesn’t everybody drink beer with their eyes closed?

Adding in sight

I took a selfie, because of course I did, and as I put the glass down I saw it was pale. I take a look: it has chunks in it! Oh. Perhaps it was on lees. No matter: yeast has b vitamins.

I realize I haven’t given any thought to the yeast strain. American, I’d say, because if I taste any Belgian spiciness it’s very, very well hidden. That plus the hop bitterness says this was bottled from the tear ducts of a bald eagle.

The reveal

I had chosen Backseat Berner from Otter Creek, and was immediately delighted. It was the essence of what I wanted: a good beer from a good brewery, but one which I might otherwise have passed over in lieu of a Belgian or a sour or a double something. One quibble: the bottle collar references “juicy hops”, but I stand by my blind assessment of “some juice but then all resin, all bitter.”

This. This is what was in the box.

This. This is what was in the box.

Going forward

Another way I had thought of doing this was to walk into a bar and order “a beer.” That’s all: just a beer. Surprise me. Everything on tap will be good, or possibly good enough, because I really get paralyzed by the paradox of choice and the fear of missing out. I like that beer, but I know I like it! I am part of The Problem.

My next beer? It’ll be blind.