7 June 2019
Comfort Beer - You can go home again.
The pursuit of the new and novel is the hallmark of most craft beer drinkers. We love to find different styles or variations of such and of course, pursue the elusive whales of our dreams. These flights of beer fancy are fun and leave us looking whenever we stop at the Liquor, grocery or Beer stores or the breweries themselves for something we haven't seen before. This is the reason so many of us got into craft beer in the first place, the constant and changing landscape of innovations and ideas drives the need to keep searching for the next thing.
While this is what we do most often, we also lean back sometimes to the beers that took us from there to here and enjoy them quietly and in a deep appreciation for what they have brought to our lives. Whether you've been a consumer of craft beer for decades or are just dipping your taste buds in slowly right now, we all have those beers that bring us joy and ones we return to again and again without fanfare but with much love. Some people call these "Go-To" or regular rotation beers but I like to think of them as "Comfort Beers" and with good reason, they give me just that.
A Comfort beer is trustworthy, never wavering from the original intent and always reliable. It delivers what you remember and what you enjoy with equal aplomb and even if it's been a while and your palate has changed or improved, it still gets you smiling when you take that first sip. You find yourself buying a few cans of this beer every so often just because and it can surprise you when you haven't had it in a while because it continues to be a consistently beautifully crafted ale. It isn't flashy or trendy and for some of them, even well known, it can seem like they have been missing from your life for far too long. You know them and you love them for exactly what they are.
While each of us has our own version of a Comfort Beer, the hallmarks of consistency, quality, reliability, availability and trust play huge factors as often times new beers can miss the mark or leave us wanting as brewers change and challenge the notion of what a certain style of beer should be. For me, a true Comfort Beer is as close to the style points as possible and delivers them in balance between all flavours and aromas. It also has to be readily available all year long as a one off or seasonal release may not be there when the notion hits you and you crave the familiar. Although having said that, I do count on a few releases every year to join me as I roll along through life like long distance love.
What hits the mark for one person will not for another but here are a few pints that you should pick up again or maybe for the first time to enjoy and reflect.
Nickel Brook Brewing Headstock IPA - The OG of West Coast style IPAs for me. Big citrus pith and pine with a toasted malt body that is all about balance.
Wellington Brewery Imperial Russian Stout - The only year round Imperial stout in Ontario. As a slow sipper at the beginning of the day or the last pint of the night, it is perfect.
Amsterdam Brewing Boneshaker IPA - The beer that taught me citrus pith and pine are good things. It's big brother Fracture is a yearly Comfort beer that never disappoints.
Steamwhistle Pilsner - Legendary quality. The original crossover beer for so many of us and a ubiquitous part of our craft beer life that appears again and again, especially in summer.
Great Lakes Brewery Canuck Pale Ale - That most Canadian of Pale Ales. Available fresh and with an unmatched consistency of taste.
Clifford Porter - One of a handful of beers that sets the benchmark for any that come after it.
Collective Arts Ransack the Universe IPA - My first love. A tweak has developed it once again into a must have on a regular basis.
Side Launch Wheat - My favourite straight up wheat ale. Perfect in every way.
Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA - A cottage take on the classic West Coast IPA. It hits different hop notes than most classic IPAs and that brings me joy. Twice as Mad Tom is delightful too.
Sawdust City Brewing Lone Pine IPA - A brilliance of balance. Pine, resin, grapefruit and more citrus check all the boxes. Twin Pines...oh baby.
While I am sure I could list a dozen more and that your own personal list of Comfort Beers may contain a completely different set of beers, the intention is the same. Identifying the beers you trust and know will always deliver what you ask of them, Finding your way back home after an adventure and enveloping yourself in the love and spark of what you know and love is a fabulous feeling.
Enjoy your summer and remember it's okay to just drink a beer because you know it and enjoy just drinking it. Life is all about chasing the dream, but sometimes you just need a break and a Comfort beer should be exactly that.