DRAFT PICKS: No snobbish words, just a pure love of all things beer

As I pen this latest beer column, I’m still pondering a comment made last week with regard to my literary relationship to beer.

A reader pointed out: “All you’re doing is wineifying beer.”

The insinuation (as I understood it) was that beer snobs are ruining the beer experience by turning it into “a wine thing.”

All the flowery descriptives and searching for hidden tastes and aromas — it’s all more suitable to wine than it is for beer. Or so they say!

Well, Dear Reader, I disagree with the critique. I’m not “wineifying” beer at all.

First off, I’m not a “beer snob.”

Secondly, I don’t write about wine because A) I don’t like it as much as beer, and B) I haven’t studied the topic nearly as much as I have studied beer.

Frankly, I find beer, the production of beer, the science behind the brewing of beer, and the history of beer pretty dang interesting. Fascinating.

Then too ... I simply love a cold beer on a hot day. (Lord knows there has been no dearth of hot days lately!)

I love being introduced to a new lager or ale. That isn’t hard to do since there are literally thousands of brews being conjured up around this country on a pretty regular basis. Thousands!

I love thinking about the brewmeister who first examines a new ale as it comes out of the barrel. How excited they must be.

I love the colors during pouring. How the drink “forms” in your glass.

I breathe deep and try to get all of my senses involved, and indeed invested in this purchase. I try to get past the obvious and to sniff out the brewing secrets hidden in underlying scents and mysteriously coy aromas.

I love that first wash and the second more measured sip during which I try to uncover what exactly the brewer had in mind and what they used to make this sample so special.

And then, when my searching is over, I love to just sit back and enjoy a cold brew.

And that folks is what it is really all about — sitting back with good friends and sipping a well-crafted beer.

There’s nothing snobbish in that at all.

In fact, as opposed to my written reviews, my conversations over a glass of new beer usually go something like this:

“Wow! This is good stuff.”

To which the appropriate response is:

“Yep.”

I don’t believe I’ll ever “wineify” beer.

Still, I know there is a lot of serious thought by some really serious people that goes into turning out a really good brew. I appreciate and respect their efforts and will continue to give each and every brew I drink my fullest attention.

There are some absolutely wonderful craft beers and micro-breweries around the country.

I love trying something new and find each and every bottle a fresh experience — even the crappy stuff!

Wineifying beer? I doubt it.

Frankly ... never the twain shall meet.

***

Now, if you want to try a whole bunch of new beers in a really great setting that is relatively close to home, start planning to attend the Fourth Annual Suds On The Shore Festival in Ludington.

Suds On The Shore will take place from 1 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 18 at the Ludington City Park.

The festivities will include craft beer tasting, Michigan wine tasting, and live music.

As usual, YOU MUST BE 21 to get into the celebration.

“This is going to be a fun festival,” reported organizing team chair Curt VanderWall. “We had 400 people attend our first festival in 2009. The event has certainly grown. We are expecting 1,500 this year.

“It is a great fundraiser for the United Way.”

Last year, Suds On the Shore raised over $23,000 for the United Way.

Ludington is becoming quite the “destination” for beer lovers. The Suds On The Shore Festival is a natural event for a place that is home to the Jamesport Brewing Company and such amazing pubs as The Mitten, which serves only Michigan beer, wine and liquor.

Ludington also is home to a vibrant group of homebrewers who meet and exchange notes on a regular basis — which bodes well for the future.

The brewing club puts on home brewing demonstrations throughout the Suds On The Shore event.

“We expect to have 35 to 40 breweries in attendance at this event,” continued VanderWall.

“There are a lot of very unique offerings at this festival, and some breweries take this opportunity to introduce new product.

“There is a lot of professional mingling going on, and everyone from experienced brewers to new tasters seem to really enjoy this outing.”

More on Suds On The Shore as the date nears.

But, before you head over to Ludington, you might want to try a couple of new brews that are available for purchase here in the neighborhood.

THIS WEEK’S DRAFT PICKS

Cable Car Amber Ale

Brewed by Genesee Brewing Company for World Brews

Novato, Calif.

I picked up a six-pack of this ale off a mountain of Cable Car stacked at Whole Foods in Ann Arbor. I paid a little over $5 for the six-pack.

See. I can drink cheap beer just as well as the next guy!

Despite reading some disappointing reviews, I found this to be a decent, albeit pretty simple and uncomplicated ale.

Cable Car Amber pours a dark, inviting gold color and creates a thin head. It is very attractive and in a sweating schooner this brew looks promising.

A little more promise than actual taste!

There is a sweet, malty aroma that is picked up well as the head dissipates, but continues with a healthy swirl of the glass.

There is some mild hoppiness. There also is a touch of fruitiness. Still, the malts carry the day. (Because of the abundance of malts, some may pick up a back scent of sweet bread.)

At first wash, this is quite a caramely ale leaning toward the sweet side of things. It needs to be well chilled.

If this was a less carbonated drink, I would think the sweetness would be much more pronounced. Carbonation helps mitigate both sweetness and bitterness in many brews.

There is a shadow of hops. Not overwhelming. Still, wash it around a little and you will certainly uncover a hint of the floral bitterness.

I read one review that noted this was an “absolute disaster of a beer.”

I disagree. It’s not a disaster.

Cable Car will never make my top 10 list of ambers or ales, but it is not a bad starter for folks edging away from the “standards” and getting more adventurous in the world of brewing. (You can totally ignore the “small batch” number on the bottle. It’s a bluff!)

Cable Car Amber is OK when chilled. Actually quite refreshing when it’s 100 degrees outside — like last week.

Not bad. Not great, but certainly not bad.

I wouldn’t suggest this with a carefully considered meal menu, but it certainly can wash down any burger or dog you have sizzling on the grill.

Cutthroat Porter

O’Dell Brewing Company

Fort Collins, Colo.

A friend recently returned from a trip out west and brought me samplings of some fine brews he had bumped into along the way.

God bless good friends!

First in line for exploration was Cutthroat Porter. Cutthroat pours a deep, deep brown giving early hints of its maltiness. This is, after all, a well defined porter.

There is little head despite an encouraging pour. What there is was very dark beige and hurried away.

This porter is what many aficionados would call “malt forward” - or leading with maltiness, and allowing everything else to follow at a respectable distance.

Cutthroat tosses up definite maltiness with each sniff. Breathe in deep and a lot of coffee and chocolate tones burst out loud. Nobody tried to be too subtle while whipping up this recipe!

There is virtually no reason to waffle around searching for florals or fruits. This is a porter from the get-go, with all the aroma that accompanies serious roasted grains.

Cutthroat is mildly bubbly which releases the sweetish malty blend in a cascade of flavor.

Hearty, sturdy. This is a brew fit for ... porters. Packed with full-bodies flavor.

I’ve never heard of O’Dell, but it’s obvious these folks are dedicated to the craft.

This is a very, very highly recommended porter and would go well with any hearty meal but not with food with cream or tomato sauces. A beefy stew, homemade pasties, or a hefty roast beef sandwich and a glass of this porter would be a little bit of heaven.