So … how’s everyone doing?
No, I’m not going to go too deep into the election. We have — and likely still will have — plenty of column inches dedicated in the Times to the future of a deadlocked Congress and the presidential election which (as I write this) has yet to be decided.
But despite the fact that I spent election night stuffing myself with pizza (long a newsroom tradition), chased, — post-deadline, I promise — with copious amounts of alcoholic coping mechanisms while reflexively refreshing the New York Times and WaPo electoral maps, I found myself thinking this week about the democratic process itself ... the singular thing that truly makes America great.
Every year, we decide elections, both national and local, and there’s something sacred about that responsibility — despite some recent efforts to limit participation and disenfranchise voters. Well that fills me, a deeply cynical person not prone to romantic notions tied to this particular or any other plot of land, with a deep measure of pride in this country.
And that got me thinking about American beer ... particularly a distinctly American kind of beer.
The American Pale Ale.
Now APAs don’t have that broad cultural footprint of their often burlier cousin, the IPA, but if you’re going to watch the Giants bumble away another win in the fourth quarter, or if you’re going to watch John King talk to his election board all night while pacing your living room, you can do a lot worse than chasing your sorrows with a sixer of a good, smooth APA.
And this month, as we — slowly and while chewing our nails to nubs — watch democracy in action, what better way to do so than by soothing our worries with a distinctly American pint or three.
The style has its roots out west with some of the first and most iconic American craft breweries, beginning in the mid-1970s with Anchor Brewing’s Liberty Ale (5.9 %, 47 IBU), out of San Francisco, inspired by the richer brews in England. It’s a style that first gained a big commercial foothold with that old standard, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6%, 38 IBU). Compared to IPAs, you’re mostly dealing with a bit of a smoother taste, and they don’t tend to run wild with the alcohol content the way an IPA can, typically running below 6%.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a belt of something strong.
But in the United States in 2020, with the economy, the pandemic, the election ... hell, Tom freaking Seaver died. The year is not even over yet, and we have no idea if next year will be worse. So we’re going to want to pace ourselves.
A good APA will help us do that.
I mean, Liberty Ale and Sierra Pale Ale are two old favorites of mine. I haven’t really seen Liberty in any of the area bottle shops around here (the closest I’ve seen it is at Wegman’s in Syracuse), but Sierra is as omnipresent as a macro. It’s my version of comfort food. If I’m not sure what to get, or if I freeze looking at a menu, it’s the first thing my eyes will settle on.
I always think of an APA as something light enough that people used to drinking a Bud Light won’t turn their noses up at it too much.
And the great thing is that I’ve had some pretty good New York APAs, so you can honor America while also repping the Empire State as you wait maybe all month for Nevada to turn red or blue.
I spent most of my post-work election night working on a 4-pack of Ultra Modern American, by Common Roots Brewing Company in Glens Falls. Ultra Modern (5.8%), is a double dry-hopped pale, and it’s slightly bigger but has a big, juicy front and a bit of a spicy finish.
It helped the troubles of the night kind of melt away for a few minutes. I’ve never been out to Common Roots, and to my detriment, I’d never even heard of it. I don’t get out that way often enough, I guess.
But, while I don’t know how likely I am to commute to Glens Falls as the area’s COVID numbers rise, I’m going to keep my eyes open in the area bottle shops to see if I can find any more of their stuff kicking around.
One of my favorite beers I’ve had lately is the Hint of Strawberry Pale Ale (5.3%) from Flashback Brewing Company on State Street in Watertown. It’s kind of subtly hoppy, which kind of tamps down the strawberry a bit to keep it from being sweet like a fruit beer. So it’s not syrupy or anything like that. It’s light, refreshing ... and has bits of actual New York strawberries in it, which is pretty neat.
Wood Boat in Clayton has the lovely Pardon Me Pale Ale (5%), which is is kind of light but malty and has a hint of caramel in the finish to make it a little sweet at the end. I could kill a whole afternoon on the deck out there at Wood Boat drinking these if I wasn’t afraid of being around anyone other than Christina and the boys these days, but one of our last warmish afternoons before the north country winter out there with a few of these sounds kind of worth it.
And if we’re going to celebrate America, we might as well honor our veterans this week on Nov. 11 ... or, you know, on other days, with a pint or four of Battle Buddy (6.1%) from Boots Brewing Company on Public Square in Watertown. Heavy focus on the citrus, it’s piney and a little stronger than an APA typically will be. And that’s not a bad thing at all. Another one where, even I’m not much for going to bars these days, a take out crowler or two of this would make John King and co. a little less stressful.
So keep an eye out for these and other APAs this month, and as for everything else that’s going on, well, I need a drink.