Like most of you, I find it nearly impossible to pick out a new beer. You’ll see people shopping and they freeze up with all the options as they go into “cooler shock.” There’s just too many different breweries, styles and categories these days to make a clear decision. Breweries are popping up everywhere and some have no business being in business. Let’s be clear, many craft breweries rely on cool artwork to draw in their consumers and fill their bottles with below average product. Or sometimes they make a gimmick brew and use non-beer ingredients like a kid’s cereal to make Fruity Pebble Ale to merely get hits on social media.
The option I’m about to present to you is not.
For you, fine people and true craft beer lovers, I offer this: Ascension’s Fifth Stop Hazy Pale Ale. This is a New England style IPA coming in at a very manageable 6% ABV. It is a double dry-hopped, full-bodied ale using all citra hops. This is a hop-lover’s beer. If you’ve been turned away by the many unsavory overly-bitter IPA’s that have flooded the market, may this be the one that calls you back home. It did for me. Pouring into a glass it reveals itself and opens up a beautiful aroma. You’ll notice right away that it is absolutely opaque, which is perfectly fine for this style of ale. It looks heavy but it is not. It pours a beautiful head and gives gorgeous lacing as you consume each sip. The aroma is hop heaven described as tangerine with a punch of passion fruit and for me utterly inviting. Upon my first sniff I said to myself, “Thank God.” I, like many others, can get downright frustrated with the IPA category, as some are gorgeous and others are relegated straight to my kitchen sink. The flavor is rather sweet, which balances well with the mild bitter hops. Brewers note: the longer you boil hops the more bitterness you extract. Beer absolutely needs bitterness to balance the natural sweetness of finished beer, but many brewers have gone overboard disrupting balance. You need Ying and Yang to be one… my young grasshopper. The brewers at Ascension nailed it. It’s the kind of beer as soon as you sip it and try to set it down, it finds itself right back in your hands. It has a very creamy mouthfeel and I suspect the brewer uses a boatload of wheat and rolled oats in their malt bill to achieve this desired effect. Look, I have tried so many New England IPA’s. It is a very popular style. Big breweries will have difficulty pulling these brands off. It’s a touchy process that can wreak havoc on your equipment dealing with so many hops (it’s beer okay not soup) so getting it done right is a very delicate process. Brewers who care about quality not quantity can skin this cat. The flavor is there, the nose is spot on, the turbid appearance and foam retention suggest excellence.
Lastly, some people just want a cool-looking can to bring to a party…I’m guilty of this myself. While at my buddy’s place I was grabbing some photos of this can and noticed that the artwork would actually change colors depending on the sunlight that lit it. When you look cool, you feel cool (it’s scientific law).
Now, this beer would pair amazingly well with Zingerman’s buttery Manchester cheese. Its mouthfeel is creamy, and that cream line will extend as it ages, a mild tang and denser cut in its infancy. The signature mold we incorporate Geotrichum Candidum, produces a wrinkled rind and unmistakable but mild aroma. A perfect match for this beer.
What I love about our cheesemaking processes is that it is done with cheese quality placed firstly. On my first day I was scoping out my new digs and was relieved to see that we use old-world European style processes and equipment. Just a simple pump to move milk and a gentle in-tank pasteurizer is the full extent of our tech. The rest is done on tables by hand, or hip-height level open vats where delicate cuts and precise measurements can be made. Most pasteurizers are engineered to process milk fast, at damaging heat and speed. Our pasteurizer slowly raises temperatures, gently achieving standards at a much lower temp which ultimately preserves delicate proteins and keep optimal curd formation intact. Big factories don’t care about developing a beautiful curd…speed, savings and efficiencies are their fight song. Whoever designed Zingerman’s Creamery obviously cared about the final product over the final line. Be confident when selecting our cheese, we aren’t using any preservatives to extend a shelf life we only rely on age old handcrafted techniques. More on how we make cheese in upcoming months.
For now, grab a fresh baguette, cut into 1 inch slices, toast with light butter, smear on our Manchester soft-ripened cheese, top with heavy sea salt and course black pepper. Crack that cold can of Ascension’s Hazy Pale Ale. Jubilate. Simple works just fine when your incorporating real food from manufacturers who care about true artisan practices and methods.
Thank you for allowing me to introduce myself. In the coming months I’ll reveal more personal recommendations and more insight into these historically important foods and how they are made.
Have a beautiful day.