AS A REPORTER, I’m the one asking the questions. This week, I’m giving the readers a chance.
Q: I read your article about the hard-to-find Pliny the Younger. Please recommend something of a similar taste that one may be able to get hold of – just so I can have an idea what people think is the best beer in the world.
A: One of the reasons PTY is rated so high, I think, is its rarity. California’s Russian River brews the intensely hoppy imperial India pale ale only once a year and distributes it sparingly.
There are plenty of other, easier-to-find, high-octane double IPAs. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA leaps to mind; but its cortex-rattling 18 percent alcohol by volume is a whole ‘nother thing.
Two of the closest rivals come from Michigan: Bell’s Hopslam Ale, which is a bit more citrusy without Pliny’s malt notes, and Founders Devil Dancer, which is malty like Pliny but with a boozier bang in the finish.
Lately, I’ve been digging Hop’solutely from the Brew Works. The Allentown, Pa., brewpub is now distributing both kegs and large bottles of this sticky, sweet, earthy charmer in the east.
Are any the equal of the famous Pliny? That’s up to you to decide.
Q: I want to get your recommendation on a top-of-the-line beer glass that can be used to enjoy every style of beer. Are there ones that you prefer over others? I read your column on the Sam Adams beer glass, and it did not sound like you were that impressed with it.
A: My gripe with the Sam Adams glass is that it looks just plain weird. It does a great job of holding the foam and delivering the aroma and flavor of a creamy lager, but it looks like something out of my high school chemistry class.
For an all-purpose glass, I’d choose a British imperial pint, one with a bulb near the top to contain the bubbles. Either that or a plain goblet, like the famous Chimay chalice, which holds a nice collar of foam with plenty of pillow space to release the aroma.
Neither glass, however, will properly handle a pilsner or wheat beer. Those styles require tall glasses to either show off the color (in the case of a pilsner) or contain the foam of a billowing hefeweizen.
Q: I’ve developed a taste for hoppy beers lately, but – after surprising myself with how buzzed I got – I noticed the high alcohol content. Are there any hoppy beers I can drink several of and not get tanked?
A: I checked one list of double IPAs (considered to be among the hoppiest ales) and found the lowest alcohol, widely distributed bottle is Lagunitas Maximus, at 7.5 percent abv. That’s not exactly “low alcohol. “
The reason is basic brewing: Hops and malt work together to create a balanced flavor. Typically, more hops equals more malt equals more alcohol.
The lowest alcohol hop bomb I know of is Nanny State, from Scotland’s BrewDog. The double IPA was intended as an extended middle digit aimed at the anti-booze ninnies who’d protested BrewDog’s earlier high-alcohol releases, including the 32 percent abv Nuclear Penguin.
Nanny State is made with enough hops to scour the enamel from your teeth – but with just 1.5 percent alcohol by volume.
For something more readily available, try a dry-hopped pale or amber ale instead. The styles are extremely aromatic, yet they can be relatively low in alcohol. Look for St. Rogue Red (5.1 percent abv), Boulder Hazed & Infused (4.9), River Horse Hop Hazard (5.5) or Flying Dog Doggie Style (5.5).