Are you in the mood for a beer? Is your beer in the right mood for you? Sometimes we drink beer mindlessly, swallow it without a second thought. Which is fine if you are content in the hunt for easy refreshment or looking for a beer that will not leave an imprint on your soul. On the other hand, given that we live in exciting beer drinking times, maybe there is a need to approach beer with a little more thought, be mindful of the liquid in the glass, think about a beer whose mood will match your mood.
Not all beer moods are created equally. If you’re in the pub where the clink of glasses and umami of conversation is the soundtrack, then this is the place for a gold-hued Pilsner, bubbling and vivacious, crisp and sociable in the way it refreshes the discourse between you and your friends. An imperial stout, an emperor of the beer world, would be out of place in such a gathering, but a Pilsner, a boisterous babbling brook of an IPA or pale ale or a sleek, rapier-sharp witbier would fit right in.
These, after all are social beers, beers to share with likeminded souls. Take Birra del Borgo’s ReAle for instance. During my last visit to Bologna, this was a beer that I drank every night in the same bar, becoming so familiar in my choice that the barmaid would shout ‘REALE!’ as I approached the bar. This 6.4% IPA is the ideal beer with which to charm friends and acquaintances, being Borgo’s big-hearted take on the English IPA. The nose is all citrus and peppery hop, while the palate has more citrus, a crisp mouth feel before the lingering bitter dry finish, which encourages you to take another swig. That’s the other thing about a social beer, it’s for swigging and slurping, rather than demolishing sip by sip. That’s its social nature.
Of course sometimes, the kind of mood we are in can take us further afield, can take us out into the countryside. We might want a beer that conjures up visions of green fields, quiet clumps of woodland and farms that throng with workers during harvest time but are as quiet as an isolated church for the rest of the year. We are in a bucolic mood and we need a beer to match this mood. Thankfully, the continuing success of saisons throws us the kind of beer that would match and contrast this mood.
Saisons are the beers whose hearts belong to the Wallonian countryside, beers that were once brewed by farmers for harvest, that were not too strong and were nutritious, refreshing, tasty, and could last for at least a year in the cellar. You might not need to toil in the fields to gain a modern saison, but drinking this beer style is a connection with the countryside even if you’re sitting in a bar outside which Amsterdam’s legions of cyclists rattle and whistle by. Saison Dupont is the classic ur-saison, but let’s stay in the Venice of the North and open a bottle of Bruut’s Saison. This is the colour of corn, settling beneath a snow-white head of foam; there is a lean citrus quality, herbal notes, a mid-palate bittersweetness with a creamy mouth feel and a dryness in the finish.
Can beer be metaphysical, can it be musical, can it be poetic? Of course it can, we all know of beers that charm the soul, that chatter softly in the glass, that match those moments when we are in the embrace of a poetic mood. These are rhapsodic beers, graceful and harmonious, a rhyme of malt, hops, yeast and water. The sound and sight of water is very much part and parcel of Brewery Noordt’s existence, as it sits alongside a Rotterdam waterway. Consider its Tripel. There’s a golden glow in the glass, the colour of the sun arching across the city perhaps? There’s fresh citrus and light banana-like notes on the nose, there’s a lightness of more citrus and a hint of honey on the palate, the carbonation is spritzy and the finish clean and bittersweet.
Are you now in the mood for a beer?