So this is the New Year
And I don’t feel any different
The clanking of crystal
Explosions off in the distance
_”The New Year,” Death Cab For Cutie
It’s 11:59 pm on December 31, and the champagne bottles are ready. The countdown begins, the ball drops, and the corks are popped. You may not feel any different when 2015 arrives, but you can add a great wrinkle to the celebration by popping by opening up a big bottle of beer sealed with a cork!
Here’s a bit of history on the tradition of the champagne toast from City Winery’s blog: “Champagne was not originally associated with holiday seasons or celebration, but instead marked privilege and excess. It was the drink of gentlemen and royalty. However, the Houses of Champagne desired an appeal to the lady folk, and launched a marketing campaign [in the 1940s] to attract women to the bubbly elixir. The brilliant marketing focused upon beautiful labeling and scenes of celebration and events important to women, including weddings, romantic dates, and christenings. Thus, the enchantment of Champagne was ever attached to occasions of import, especially ushering in the New Year.”
Sparkling wine still has its place, but there is a wide and wonderful range of beers topped with a cork and a muselet [the wire cage that secures the cork] that will make the first few minutes of 2015 unique. We perused the shelves at I.M. Gan [380 Warwick Ave near the Warwick/Cranston line] to serve up suggestions for your untraditional toasting; most of the bottles cost between $10 and $20.
• St. Bernardus’s Abt 12 is a world-class Quadrupel [10% ABV] from the celebrated Belgium brewery. The dark brown beauty is sweet and smooth, with layers of banana, fruits, and a hint of chocolate. [Other corked St. Bernardus brews include Prior 8, a Dubbel, and Tripel, both 8%].
• Chimay has more superb Belgian options. The Trappist brewery’s Grande Réserve, a Strong Dark Ale [9%] and Première, a Dubbel [7%], are rightfully revered and highly rewarding.
• Allagash of Portland, Maine offers some accomplished and alluring Belgian-inspired choices, including Interlude [9.5%], a Saison/Farmhouse ale; Victor [9%], a Strong Pale Ale; Dubbel [7%] and Tripel Ale [9%]; and Black [7.5%], a Strong Dark Ale.
• Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY, also specializes in Belgian-style brews. Their flagship Abbey Ale, an 8.2% Dubbel is an affordable standout, as are Hennepin, a Saison/Farmhouse Ale [7.7%] and Gnomegang, a Strong Pale Ale [9.5%].
• Uinta of Salt Lake City produces big beers in its Crooked Line series. There are three terrific treats on the shelves: Labyrinth Black Ale, which is classified as an Imperial Stout [13.2%, aged in rye barrels]; Cockeyed Cooper, an American Barleywine [11.1%]; and Sea Legs, a Baltic Porter [8%].
• Uncork an explosion of hops with Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe [9%]. The formidable Imperial IPA from the Easton, PA brewery bursts with piney hops and welcome bitterness.
• Sierra Nevada has two current corked options: Barrel-Aged Narwhal, an Imperial Stout [12.9%] and Terra Incognita, an Imperial Brown Ale [9.8%] aged in wine and bourbon barrels; it was made in collaboration with Kansas City, MO’s Boulevard Brewing.
• You can jumpstart the liquid-fueled giddiness of the New Year with Delirium Tremens, a Strong Pale Ale [8.5%] [which is celebrating its 25th anniversary] from Belgium’s Brewery Huyghe. Nocturnum, a Strong Dark Ale [8.5%], is another wonderful option for cork-popping.
• The cynics among you will want to reach for Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde — yep, that’s French for “the end of the world.” But after a few sips of the Belgian-style Tripel [9%] from the renowned Quebec brewery, you may be feeling better about 2015 and hope to make it through another month or two.
Cheers to the New Year!