After finishing my last column over Winter Break, I received some of the worst news a beer reviewer can get. For years I have avoided seafood with the assumption that I have a food allergy, based on a bad experience when I was young. Looking back, I should have tested this allergy a little more, but it just became easy to avoid seafood in general. Finally, however, after years of vegetable sushi and steak at the lobster bake, I decided to get tested and find out if my avoidances were necessary.
After more than a week of eager anticipation after my allergy test, but I finally got a fateful text from my mom one night while I was out with a friend. We got your test results, it said, and they're interesting. What could that mean, I pondered?
The answer was a classic good news, bad news quandary. It turns out that I am totally fine to eat seafood of all kinds, but there were other allergies found in the test I never expected—the most prominent of which is wheat. Thus, in a twisted turn of events, the beer reviewer found out he is allergic to most beers.
Upon informing my friends of this unfortunate revelation, many of them instantly realized this same predicament, and asked me what I planned to do. Would I cancel my column, or pass it on to a more gluten-gifted individual? Would I stop drinking beer altogether? There is just no way that is happening. I don't care if Taco Bell is 38 percent meat (I heard it's not, don't sue me TB!), and I don't care if beer isn't the ideal beverage for me. I'm going to keep tasting beers and downing chalupas like it's my job.
Will I have to make changes? Absolutely. The extent to which I "sample" the beers will have to be greatly reduced, and recreational beer drinking is pretty much over with, but I will continue to write this column.
Lucky for me, in all the turmoil following my discovery that beer's place in my life was going to have to change, a review pretty much dropped into my lap. A friend of mine (what up Emily Liao '11) has apparently been working some PR for an up-and-coming brewing company out of Portland called Rising Tide. She told me to give one of their brews a taste for my column, and after finding it at Bootleggers I decided, why not? A simple label featuring a man rowing a boat on placid waters adorned the large, 22-ounce bottle. Yep, definitely a product of Maine.
Founded by Mainer Nathan Sanborn in 2010, after years of home-brewing experimentation, Rising Tide Brewing Company is a small craft brewery that produces what one might label "artisanal" offerings, made in small batches. The beer I tasted, their American Copper Ale Ishmael, is apparently made in batches of only 90 gallons, featuring "continental Munich malt, American-grown hop, and a clean-fermenting ale yeast" that is unfiltered. Said to be an interpretation of the "altbiers" of Düsseldorf (pre-lager brews using warm fermenting yeast), the beer poured fairly dark, with a slightly tan head and a nice yeasty, earthy aroma.
The overall taste and finish was fairly clean, and very pleasant. You certainly notice this is an unfiltered beer, but the bread-like taste is not overpowering, and gives way to some more nutty and roasted flavors. The beer's promised hops are definitely delivered at the end, but the aftertaste is not overly bitter and is complemented by the smoothness.
It seems ironic, then, that my first review after finding out I essentially have a beer allergy highlights one of the most drinkable beers I have tasted thus far—and I mean drinkable as a compliment to the flavor and feel, not in the same way that other beer companies use the word drinkable (read: innocuous enough that you can get plastered).
I really do think almost anyone could find something to like in Ishmael, and I can't imagine anyone being offended by any element, given the balance of the ale. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give Rising Tide Brewing Company is that the only thing that stopped me from finishing the whole bottle was a doctor's note.