Tapped out: An immense amount of fate, and beer, bring us down to earth
Alas, dear reader, this week’s beer was never supposed to happen. Indeed, as Nick’s car sat in the Dudley Coe Lot destined not for Uncle Tom’s but for Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment, we feared that all was lost. True to our spontaneous form and following our shout-out in “Bottom of the Barrel,” we had agreed to compare and contrast Will Schweller’s homebrew with one of Nick’s all-time favorite Canadian lagers: Labatt Blue. But as we trudged back to Columbia Street, Nick reading seemingly endless VIN numbers into the phone, we were lost.
Stepping-up: the beer of the hour (and the beer of our week)—21st Amendment Brewery’s Down To Earth. Surprisingly relevant name aside, this was the only beer in Nick’s fridge. Having reserved this six-pack as the hidden “good beer” amongst the Rolling Rocks and Old Milwaukees of last Friday’s rockin’ jazz party, it had well and truly come to the rescue now. And it came to the rescue in more ways than one: what a beer it was and just what Nick’s quack doctor had ordered after an afternoon of “please hold” elevator music.
This session IPA is true to its description as a smashable beer. An IPA will never go down like a watery American lager, granted, but this brew can go the distance. It’s refreshing, it’s delicious and it’s not too complex to enjoy multiple cans. Even before you open this beer up, the art—a strangely-happy-spacesuit-clad monkey chilling in a hammock by the ocean—is worth a brief marvel. And once it’s cracked, it only gets better.
Upon being poured, the can releases a creamy and plentiful head, sitting atop a mellowed-orange beer. There is very little smell, with brief hoppy notes here and there—nothing to offend even the most malt-inclined of drinkers (Nick included). And the taste itself is not in the least layered but is nonetheless delicious all the way through. This is about as light as an IPA can come, but it’s still full of the citrus and floral notes expected of pale ale. There really is not much else to say: it’s crisp, it’s refreshing, it’s not too bitter and it’s full of simple, straightforward flavor. Down to Earth’s mouthfeel also has an easy lightness that belies gravity; it is at the perfect level of carbonation, a rarity from a beer that’s not on draft.
Coming in at $8.99 for a six-pack, this beer is ridiculously well priced for its quality—one of the best value buys that either of us has seen. And at only 4.4 percent ABV, you could drink that whole six without hitting the floor. This beer is a must-have in your fridge. And what’s that? Yes, this beer is available at Bootleggers. Look, we love Tom’s, but if you happen to find yourself in Leggers’ hood, get yourself a case or two of these beauties. We must go now, as we continue to discuss Mongolian yurts and question the perceived perfection of Denmark, but we shall see you soon, dear reader.
Tonight’s Toast: “Here’s to the great artistic genius, Pablo Picasso. His last words were “Drink to me.” Who am I to question genius?” Go out and get drunk with a good friend this week—we love you, Pablo.
Tonight's Soundtrack: The sound of sizzling dumplings, courtesy of Sun’s Oriental Market, alongside “Deep in the Iris,” the third studio album by Canadian art rock band Braids (in a nod to LaBatt and what could have been).
Conclusions on Down to Earth:
Tapped out: Midas Touch offers a tipsier insight into ancient Greek history
“I’d dump any girl who cared about Valentine’s day,” quoth Nick, as we festively sat drinking beer and grumbling about our English papers on a fine Tuesday evening aka Valentine’s day aka the evening before our beer article is due. But do not fear, dear Reader, that our Tuesday was lackluster, for our beer was pretty out of the ordinary—and educational to boot.
Just like last week, we headed over to Uncle Tom’s for some inspiration, where Dan, the owner, told us a fascinating story about an “ancient ale” called Midas Touch. Pro tip: ask Dan about beer—he knows his whole stock and gives stellar recommendations.
As we checked out, he told us, “This one has a history behind it—when they did an excavation of King Midas’s tomb [Midas being the greedy guy in Greek mythology who got his wish fulfilled, which was that everything he touched would turn to gold—he didn’t meet a happy end], they found the broken remains of what looked like a wine urn. They micro-analyzed the pottery pieces and found the ingredients of the urn’s contents.”
Voila, that was the recipe for our beer of the night. @BowdoinClassicsDepartment, please take note of our dedication to the ancients. As we sat down, both of us were immediately aware (and truth be told, scared) of the sediment floating around in the beer. The beer is advertised as containing “Muscat grapes, honey, and saffron,” so perhaps there were grape fragments still in there—nevertheless, it was intimidatingly chunky. Only Midas knows. When poured into a glass, the beer’s color was bright orange, like plastic Halloween pumpkins, with zero head on top. The sediment surprisingly cleared out when poured and neither of us were bothered by it while drinking. The smell was a combination of normal toasty wheat and sweetness that was pleasant but not particularly noteworthy.
Then we got around to tasting the beer. True to his mathematical roots, Nick drew a graph of the taste scale, which Jae-Yeon tried her best to represent in words: the first split-second tastes of nothing before a deep hoppy bitterness kicks in briefly. There is fleeting acidity as the taste transitions into honey sweetness; the sweetness increases exponentially with every second that passes, making for a very interesting and very extended finish. This is not your usual saccharine sweetness that comes from high fructose corn syrup or its equivalent but something tangier and more unusual. The mouthfeel was rather flat, without much carbonation, and the strong taste definitely prevented this beer from being one to “smash.” And yet, at 9% ABV, it was remarkably light. With its unique flavoring and light body, Midas Touch would make a great starter beer for anyone looking to step outside of the Lager/IPA comfort zone. It was like the love child between a traditional honey mead and a lager; the more we drank, the more we felt the honey seep through all else. And for a beer with such a rich and ancient history, it was surprisingly modern.
Even if you do not end up liking this historic beer (although we did), at $3.55 it’s cheaper than going to a museum, and it will get you tipsy. Concluding remark? Worth it—after all, we Bowdoin students are wont to pursue academic knowledge purely for the love of learning, inside and outside the classroom.
Tapped out: Tapped Out: Abbey Ale, a smashing Belgian dubbel semester starter
Alas, dear reader, Jae-Yeon is back from her adventures in the Siberian wilderness (read: Moscow), and she has decided to take the senior trash out in style. In steps Nick, always happy to oblige. After all, what is better than one semi-clueless beer lover? Answer: two semi-clueless beer lovers. We’ll let this column be a beacon of light to those who have ever doubted Nick—his extra-curricular life is not lost, for he is now a distinguished journalist in the nation’s oldest continuously published college weekly. Does he get buzzed in the process? Answer: irrelevant.
But let’s get to the beer. This week we moseyed down to Uncle Tom’s in search of something, anything, better than the dregs of Nick’s end-of-semester PBR-exclusive rager. After all, how could Wisconsin’s finest ever compliment a meal of frozen dumplings and poorly cooked noodles? The foodies would be at our throats. Knowing that a College House basement favorite could not be our muse, we, at last, after great deliberation, settled on a classic, a household name for anybody who frequents a mock Belgian dubbel: Brewery Ommegang’s Abbey Ale.
The beer is hefty—definitely not for beer pong consumption—but it does not sit heavy in the stomach. It is also not offensive in the least despite its full body: the Abbey offers a beautiful balance between richness and drinkability. There was some disagreement over the beer’s smashability, with Nick thoroughly in the “could binge” category, but two or three glasses’ worth of this beer will not leave you with a rock in your gut (pardon the vulgarity).
The beer, upon pouring, released a very full, creamy, tan-colored head of about one inch: PBR, eat your heart out. The color at first seemed light brown, but when held up to the light, a deep ruby was revealed. This is no Smithwick’s, but this beer is, at least in color, an amber ale. The smell of the beer was heavily citrusy—we are confident that it single handedly cleansed our sinuses (#overexaggeration )—and there was a late roasted aroma.
The beer tasted damn good. It started fruity and finished sweet, sitting in the back of the throat for an extended period of time. We could immediately taste both the citrus notes and the licorice root and were both left dreaming of this beer’s potential in front of a fancy cheeseboard. We were inspired to pull some moldy cheddar out of the fridge only to concede that our house was not wont to provide such amenities (not even a mid-range cheeseboard could be salvaged, sadly). But we soldiered on, conquering the 750 mL bottle comfortably. Coming in at $8.60 from Uncle Tom’s, this beer is also, for a drink of this quality, a true bargain. For any aspiring connoisseurs on a budget, this is your beer.
In conclusion, this is a damn fine beer. Even if it’s not to your liking, you won’t be calling for the bucket. It’s not a session beer, but it’s not a double-chocolate and coffee triple stout. This beer will not make you long for Rolling Rock fresh out of the keg—it would not be out of place at one of those beer-tasting tents that pops up twice a year when alums come to town. We enjoyed it from the first sip to the last, and we would recommend it to anyone looking to expand their horizons without having to throw the sink.
Messi vs Ronaldo: a classic FIFA debate
Have we not all been faced, at one point or another, with the unbearable question, “how can you like this game?” There comes a point at which a connection is so intense and so pure that it simply cannot be explained to a non-player. Should we even try? If, after a time, one still cannot understand why I play this game for eight hours without breaking for water, then an explanation may be nothing short of impossible. Would I be lying if I said that a FIFA marathon has ended with me on a drip in the ER? Maybe. But make no mistake; The FIFA Diaries is an extended love letter to the great game of virtual football (or soccer, if you so wish). I am no poet on the page: my lyrical voice flutters most seamlessly across the joysticks.
This is, therefore, a letter for anyone who has ever been questioned for playing the game that they love. This is a letter for anyone who has ever been asked, “why don’t you just actually watch a game?” (Note: the two are not mutually exclusive). This is a letter for anyone who has ever been told, “I think it’s time to stop for a while.” And to those who have been pushed rudely aside for a Division One clinching online match, I have but one thing to say: just know that it’s not you, it’s the FIFA.
This week, in The FIFA Diaries’ inaugural column, I will tackle the age-old question: Real Madrid or Barcelona? Of course, Messi versus Ronaldo is just one facet of this debate, but it is nonetheless a fine starting point. In previous years, Ronaldo has almost undeniably been the pick. Messi’s dribbling has always outstripped Ronaldo’s, but it is Cristiano’s pace and power, arguably the two most important stats in attacking play, that have made him consistently the most deadly player in the game. However, FIFA 16 has been effective in narrowing this gap.
Ronaldo’s pace is less dominant in the game than in previous years —possibly because pace in general is not as effective as it was in, say, FIFA 12—and Messi, particularly cutting in from the right onto his left and releasing a finesse shot into the top corner, is at times almost unstoppable. This year, these two players are, in my journalistic opinion, neck and neck.
Where Real and Barca really separate is, therefore, in the other twenty players on the pitch. Historically, as a counter-attacking player, I have always chosen Madrid without giving the Catalonians the time of day. But this year is different. And while this might be painfully obvious, for me, the difference is Messi, Suarez, Neymar. These three up front, even in older incarnations of the game, would have been lethal, and FIFA 16’s seeming desire to move away from pace and towards passing, finishing and skill makes this trio even more desirable. Playing Iniesta in the CAM pocket, with Suarez as the spearhead, and Messi and Neymar on the right and left respectively, easily beats any permutation or combination of this year’s Real Madrid team.
You can nod to Bale and Ronaldo out wide with Benzema up top and say, “what is the difference?” But even if one argues that these three are equivalent to MSN, Real Madrid’s team simply does not lend itself to such a wide formation—these players would be forced too narrow, especially considering Real Madrid’s current lack of quality FIFA defenders. Where Barcelona have a good balance between proper central defenders (Pique, Matthieu) and balanced wingbacks (Alba, Alves), Real Madrid’s defenders, with the exception of Pepe (and possibly Varane) are all what I would deem to be “attacking-minded.” So if you are to play Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema up front together, you will end up with a team pushed too narrow and too far up the pitch–perfect for exploitation by Barcelona’s deadly and immaculately balanced team.
Having said all of this, splitting hairs between two fine teams can only get you so far. If you leave it all out on the pitch, team selection is in my opinion one of the least important decisions to be made at the start of a game. Certain playing styles are undoubtedly suited to certain teams, but a good FIFA player should be able to adapt to what they are given.
Nick Benson is a member of the class of 2017.