Monday, September 2, 2013


Beer has never appealed to me, whether the lowest swill or the finest imported brew. The problem with it is that it tastes like beer. Every decade or so I visit a fine brewpub and try one of their offerings, so exquisitely and tenderly described on the menu, to see if beer still tastes like beer. It always does.

When I first visited England, I was cajoled into trying cider, the apple-based drink with the same alcoholic content as beer, that's so common there (and quite different from anything by that name to be found over here, unless imported from there). I found I liked it, and that's been my sole alcoholic drink of choice ever since. Wine choices are more complicated than I can understand, and anything with hard liquor, whether neat or mixed, is right out as far as my tastes go, though I don't mind it used as flavoring in food.

The one question that nagged at me for a long time, though, was, what about ale? Another term rarely seen west of the pond, ale seemed to be considered in England something different from beer, and there were all these connoisseurs conducting a Campaign for Real Ale. I was comfortable in a strange country with my cider, though, which was always reliable, and I was rarely sure if I was in a pub that served Real Ale or not, so I never tried any.

Eventually I found an imported bottle in a liquor store near home. It reeked of authenticity, starting with the bottle itself, which was a replica of an 18th-century model, and the name, which was English Ale. The brewery was a converted medieval hall deep in the East Anglian countryside, and it used organically certified hops and barley, yadda yadda.

So I bought it, took it home, tried a few sips. It tasted like beer. I thought of throwing it away, but I have a chili recipe I occasionally make that calls for an optional half-cup of beer. So I put it in the fridge and, over the last few years, have been using it up. Yesterday I finally finished it, so perhaps I'll buy another one.

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