Beer and Society: My Beer Story

This post is my final project for an excellent class I took at Central New Mexico (CNM) Community College called Beer and Society.  For the people in the class who have to read this post (sorry!), you can skip past this next part and rejoin after I describe the class for anyone else.  For those not in the class, read on!

  Class peeps, feel free to skip to END DETOUR below!

The name Beer and Society hints to exactly what the curriculum is.  Each class is a series of two-pronged lessons where we first learn from history professor Dr. Brandon Morgan about the origin of a beer, its birthplace, which local ingredients were used and why those ingredients were chosen, as well as any social or political ramifications that helped shape why that beer was made at the time and place it was.  Great stuff!

Then we taste!

(sorry for the amateurish vertical video)

The Advanced Cicerone, Dr. Asa Stone, then takes the helm and works with us to understand what we should be looking for in the beer we’re sampling, from its appearance to aroma, taste and mouthfeel, all the while looking for hints of the ingredients and backstory that we just learned about from Dr. Morgan.

Did I mention there are culturally appropriate food pairings?  Cause there are.

German schnitzel and a dynamite red cabbage sauerkraut!

Week 2 was a schnitzel (prepared by a CNM chef) that was paired with an array of German and Czech beers as the class explored the Early Modern Era and a handful of styles including the German Pils, the Festbier, the Dopplebock, Weissbier and others.

Needless to say, the Beer and Society class is super cool and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone in the Albuquerque area.

And the end of my little CNM advertisement 🙂

Back to the matter at hand, my beer story.  The previous week’s class, I think, was my favorite out of all the great classes, specifically the discussion on food and beer pairing that followed a scrumptious plate of Beef Wellington (which was accompanied by tasters of Stone IPA and New Belgium Fat Tire).  Someone in class mentioned they would have paired the IPA with a green chile cheeseburger and it took me back to the 2018 New Mexico IPA Challenge, where I contemplated why New Mexicans love hop-forward IPAs so much, and pondered the synergistic intensites of New Mexico green chile and aggressive New Mexico IPAs. 

I’m taking a kind of circuitous route to get to my point, but after thinking about spending the last few NMIPA challenges with friends, my brother and my girlfriend, I realized that my beer story is this:  beer is no longer just a thing I drink while doing other things.  It’s become, in many cases, the central focus for a lot of events I plan my life around.

It went from being just a lamp on a table at a party to the host of the damn thing.

Beer as a character in my life has grown in importance the more I got to appreciate it, same as my heart has grown fuller for people I’ve come to know more closely.  Conversely, some lesser characters fade away in life, same as those (dirt cheap) 12-packs of  Shaefer in college, but beer as a character in my life has gradually been basking under a larger and brighter spotlight.

For example, while we’ve all gone out to fill a growler, a friend and I turned a simple growler run into a capital “G”, capital “R”, Growler Run, a yearly motorcycle trip that’s taken us countless thousands of miles across 20 states in the US, up to and across Canada and down to the tip of Baja, Mexico in search of a local growler fill to take back to our campsite.  The motorcycle trips would have happened regardless, but they’re built and centered around a thing we love in our lives – beer – but with a desire to experience a slightly different version of it made by different hands in a different place altogether.

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Aside from running to another country with one of my best friends to fill a growler, my brother, Dan, and our good friend and neighbor, Jeff, have graduated from having beers while hanging out, to hanging out while trying to make our own beers.  We’ve only finished three different batches to date, but as our appreciation for beer has increased over the years, so, too, has our desire to understand it (and make it taste a little better, while we’re at it). 

It’s like I casually swiped right on beer years ago, and now realize beer has a toothbrush in the glass on the bathroom sink.  

So what then, now that I’m shacking up with beer for good, it seems?

Well, beer school, naturally.

I bounced around a good many colleges after high school, getting (part of) an education so I could play some baseball, but I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Now, I’m 44, a Unix engineer for a massive telecom company, and I still don’t necessarily know what I want to be when I grow up.  But instead of taking classes in this scripting language or that cloud computing technology, I’m taking classes at CNM to learn how to make freaking beer.

Alas, the thing I did at college has become thing I now go to college for.

~~~

For those not familiar or wanting more info, the Brewing and Beverage Management program at CNM offers industry certifications as well as an associates degree program.  Info can be found here.

ALSO! If you’d like to write for Barley Prose, send an email to Ceetar at admin@barleyprose.com.

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“I’ll take a beer and some coins for the jukebox, please.”

As the sun fades this evening, I sit here drinking the remarkable winter edition Project Dank by La Cumbre while listening to the boygenius EP, a superb six-song collaboration by Julien Baker, Pheobe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.  The beer and EP pair surprisingly well, as they’re both phenomenal creations and neither are really a regular thing. The Dank is a rotating experiment, and even though the recipe changes with each release, the quality of each differing batch is as wonderfully reliable as any of the solo records released upon the world by the three women who comprise boygenius.  In short, excellent.

Kinda similar to La Cumbre’s gold-medal winning core lineup of beers, the aforementioned artists have pretty firmly established themselves in the indie circles of the music biz as solo powerhouses.  Baker’s Turn out the Lights was on the New York TimesBest Albums of 2017.   AV Club called Phoebe Bridger’s haunting Stranger in the Alps one of 2017’s best debut records, and Lucy Dacus’ Historian was only Paste magazine’s numero uno album of this whole year.  All these talented elements that stand so well on their own somehow swirled together magickally, and like a comet, we get boygenius (and Project Dank winter edition!) hurtling through our universe for this short, sublime window of time before the women all go back to gigging solo and we return to drinking La Cumbre’s flagship Elevated IPA.  No losers here, to be clear.  The staples are fantastic but the experiments can be rewarding in different ways, too.

On the wider topic of beer and music and how perfectly they go together…

I do very much like to drink an alcoholic beverage, be it beer, bourbon or wine (the Holy Trinity is really all there is for me), but I like the booze even more when there is great music to taste along with it. To that end, I’ve created “The Barley Prose Companion” playlist on Spotify for you to shuffle on your hi-fi while you enjoy that adult bevvy.  It varies from the overt (Tom T. Hall’s “I Like Beer”) to the subtle (Tom Waits’ perfect “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You”), where the hero is stuck with a last-call stout when the girl he’s been eyeing all night has snuck out of the bar at closing time.  Man, what a song.

While this playlist is still a work in progress, I invite you (yes, YOU!) to contribute.  It’s a collaborative playlist, so anyone can add anything they like (I will only delete the decidedly crappy additions). I’ve skipped some obvious choices (“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”) and some annoying ones (“Beer for My Horses” – adore Willie, but Toby Keith ruins anything).  Needless to say, I’m sure there are kegs full of wondrous drinking songs I haven’t yet added. If you’d like to, please do:

The Barley Prose Companion playlist on Spotify

Cheers, y’all.

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Pair at the Fair

This blogger thought, on a recent trip to the Great New York State Fair, that each beer and drink consumed was worthy of a pairing.  Not necessarily pairing beers with the exact right culinary treat, but, rather, all of the various things that a drink might be paired with at the fair.

Note: These were taken over the course of many hours, by a trained professional beer blogger.

Beer 1:  The Adirondack Bear Naked Ale, served up courtesy of the Shamrock Pub adjacent to the Midway.  A fine, refreshing American amber ale.  Lighting below is due to the author hiding in the shade of a vendor tent on a very bright and summery August day.

Naked bear

Pair with: a Reuben Egg Roll — corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese, wrapped in a jumbo sized egg roll wrapper, deep fried and served with Thousand Islands’ dressing for dipping.  I would punch my momma in the ear to eat one of these.

Reuben egg roll? What a country!

Beer 2:  Empire East Coast Amber.  To be truthful, I thought the first beer was going to be an American Pale Ale, not an amber, but also didn’t mind having a second one of that type.  I’ve been on an amber ale kick of late, having enjoyed the Session Amber at Buried Acorn most recently.

East Coast representin’

Pair with: A visit to the Sand Sculpture, normally backed by a beautiful large slide show of various New York landscapes and parks to visit.  Well, for most of the day, anyway…

Gave the IT guy some giggles

Beer 3: Lake Placid Ubu Ale, an English Ale (7.0% ABV) named after a dog, one of the many beers I first enjoyed from the Wegmans’ “Craft Your Own Six Pack” aisle.

Sit, Ubu, sit! Good dog.

Pair with: Naturally, a beer named after a dog is best paired with a watching of the New York State Police K-9 units that serve so intelligently and proudly.

Good dog! Have a beer shaped chew toy.

Beer 4:  Buried Acorn Hot Whip IPA, another one I had enjoyed at the Buried Acorn tap room and knew just what I was getting.

Orange whip? Three orange whips.

Pair with:  Chicken, in a waffle, on a stick, served with a side of maple syrup.  The innovator who came up with this deserves every penny he or she makes.  What else can we jam conveniently inside of waffles?   The possibilities are endless, when you think about it.  I’m even thinking of replacing my wallet with a waffle stuffed full of credit cards and cash.

Genius!

Beer 5: Galaxy Andromeda IPA, because, five beers in, I am seeing stars.  Due to the buzz, naturally.

Galaxy quest

Pair with: Stars, my friends!   The New York State Fair brings in quality musical entertainment, and multiple free concerts every day from established new and classic musical acts.  This year included Smokey Robinson, Live, Collective Soul, and a bunch of country/pop acts I wouldn’t recognize if you had a gun to my head.   How about a free concert from ZZ Freakin Top?  There’s your stars, sir/madam.

They rocked in 99 ways, one for each year of life they had each lived, or some quantity akin to it

Beer 6: Not a beer at all, but, rather, a hard cider flavored wine slushie.  I generally don’t drink a lot of the slush because of the brain freeze, but this is like a jacked up cup full of applesauce.  It’s what fairs are all about.  The black and white straw accents it nicely, I find.

Lush slush

Pair with:  A big fan, pushing misty cool relief at a guy who’s had several drinks over the course of the day.

Ah, sweet relief

Also, while not pictured, this wine slush and the subsequent second one “for the road” pair, sadly, with a wipe out on the author’s bike ride home, causing a bent chain, skinned knee, chin, and a bruised hand and wrist.  All in the name of a good time.  This is the price we pay, kids.

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