If you thought that #menswear culture was rarefied and nerdy, spend ten minutes talking to a beer aficionado. As someone who both works in the liquor industry and enjoys a wide variety of interesting beers, I'm practically drowning in it.
The resurgence of a real beer culture in America has been a great thing to see. I'm just old enough to have started drinking just before it happened, and I can remember when no bar had anything more than Bud, Coors,and maybe Heineken (if you were feeling "fancy") on tap. Given the British roots that still have lingering remnants here in Boston, it's been gratifying to see what is really a return to the variety of well made beers we had before the "macro brewers" edged everyone else out of the market in the 1960s. These days the number of places offering a huge selection of all manner of things is a problem only in that its become difficult to decide what to order.
But as with anything of an artistic nature, with the flood of options came a sea of questionable choices.For a number of years, we saw the IPA craze offer us increasingly bitter, boozy, "hoppy" beers to lust after and brag about. For a time, it seemed like American brewers were locked in a contest to offer beers that were more intensely bitter than the next, pouring a tanks worth of hops into every glass. The result were many beers that were overly high in alcohol, unbalanced, and bitter to the point of being undrinkable, and yet, people were not only drinking them, but waxing poetic at great length about their beauty. It's not unlike the way in which Starbucks has convinced so many people that their coffee is "rich, complex, and flavorful" when in fact its burnt and overcooked, bitter and acidic to the point of being undrinkable. The upside of all this is that IPA exhaustion led me to rediscover the clean and direct perfection of German beer, a tradition grossly ignored in the craft beer resurgence.
However, in Winter I tend to gravitate toward the British tradition in brewing, rich malty beers with low carbonation served not quite cold. Despite the British provenance of IPA as a style, it can be hard to find a proper one. Enter Wigglesworth India Wharf Pale Ale, from Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, Mass. Mystic is an up and coming local brewery known for its Belgian style ales. Wigglesworth is a series of English beers they've rolled out in the last year or so. I can't remember the last time I really enjoyed an IPA, until now. The difference is that Wigglesworth isn't afraid to be subtle. Hoppy only just to the point where one might rightly use the word, it's got a good dose of sweet malt character to balance it's bitter side. I suspect it's more like what IPA tasted like in the nineteenth century than anything else in stores today, outside of Britain itself. Bonus points for naming after India Wharf, a nod to both the city of Boston itself and the British culture that birthed it. Just the thing to wash down a home made shepherds pie on a cold New England night.
If you live in the Boston area, seek it out. If you're visiting, take some home with you.
p.s. Lots of great new items in the Shop this week.