Reporter's Notebook

Cavalcade of Beers
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Quasi-monthly celebrations, by James Fallows and friends and cronies, of beers worth noticing.

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The Heady Topper of the Antipodes

What to look for on your next trip to Sydney.

Heady Topper is a beer from Vermont with three distinctive attributes. It is extremely good; it comes in large-sized cans; and it is available only in a very limited area around its brewing site, in Waterbury. You can read all about it starting here.

I’ve found the Australian counterpart. It’s from a brewery called Modus Operandi (which I have not yet visited), in the northern Sydney suburb of Mona Vale, and it is called “Former Tenant” Red IPA.

When I was in the very well-stocked Oak Barrel beer-and-wine store in Sydney last week, I asked one of the staffers for the best, canned, Aussie, IPA he could point me toward. Best for obvious reasons; canned so I could easily bring it back in a suitcase; Aussie as part of a buy-local, see-the-world policy; and IPA because that’s what I like.

“Well, it’s probably this one,” he said, pointing to “Former Tenant.” It is indeed excellent, and the harsh truth I have to convey is that you just aren’t going to find it any place other than greater Sydney. At least for now. Another reason to visit! Among many.

Where you can buy Former Tenant from Modus Operandi, if you happen to be in Sydney.

The can even looks like Heady Topper’s. If you have a chance, check it out.

If you could read the other side of this red marquee, you’d see it saying “Craft Beer on the Fly”

Here’s something I hadn’t come across before: Not simply good local craft beer inside an airport, which is becoming more common (and which I first noticed a few years ago, with Heady Topper on tap at the excellent-in-all-ways BTV BVT airport in Burlington, Vermont). In this case the local supplier in question is Yazoo Brewing, of Nashville, and the airport is BNA, of Nashville.

(I wrote about Yazoo last summer, when I was in Nashville to interview Al Gore for this story. Alas, I couldn’t talk Gore into visiting the brewhouse with me, so I was there on my own.)

The news for me was craft beer to go inside the Nashville airport. Or beer “on the fly,” as the Yazoo banners put it. You can buy a pint from the Yazoo kiosk in Concourse C (as I did today) and then take it anyplace inside the “secured” (post-TSA) part of the airport, excepting only (a) into other bars and (b) actually onto the plane when you board.

Why does this matter? Obviously in any cosmic way it doesn’t,  but it’s one more little ergonomic improvement. You don’t have to jam into one of the bars, elbowing for a seat and wondering if you’re already late for the plane. You can stroll with your plastic cup of craft brew to the gate, and then endure all the other minuses of airline travel with this slight positive counter-force.

The line up at the Yazoo kiosk in Concourse C of the Nashville airport.

Background on the policy behind “beer on the fly” here and here. Well done BNA and Yazoo. That is all.

CraftBeer.com

I had somehow missed the fact that we are already four days into American Craft Beer Week! Fortunately it runs all the way through Sunday evening. In its honor, these updates:

1) Best Beer Gardens. Via Foursquare, an interactive map of the most highly rated beer gardens around the country. What you see below is a screen shot. More info at the site.

America’s Best Beer Gardens

I don’t know when it happened, but I’m actually glad that it did. Within the past ten days, four different citrus-infused IPAs, from four well-regarded breweries, have made their way into my awareness. You see them above, starting at the left:

I say that I “actually” enjoyed these beers, because I start out being highly skeptical of any beer you could classify as fruity. But these, which are different but all worthwhile from my POV, make vivid something I’d heard a million times but not really reflected on: that hops themselves, a powerful element of the IPA taste, bring a varying range of citrus flavors and smells to a brew.

And so I find in an authoritative piece on Citrus IPAs (which lists a number of other entries) on CraftBeer.com:

Cascade hops, of course, are redolent of grapefruit pith, and stylish Citra hops live up to their tangy namesake. Increasingly, brewers embellish these already citrusy IPAs with actual zest, peel or juice from grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and/or limes to create complementary flavor profiles ideal for both hopheads and lovers of fruit beer.

Worth checking out. Larger theme: America already becoming great again.

Grapefruit Sculpin, from Ballast Point: a carton of cans

In the previous post I mentioned that the new-to-me wave of citrus-flavored IPAs, which I’d looked on askance on the assumption that they were novelty brews, actually includes some great offerings.

After that appeared, I received a slew of recommendations that I try the one shown above: Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, from Ballast Point in San Diego. I had known and liked BP’s famed regular, non-grapefruit Sculpin, but I found the pink-striped grapefruit version in a local Kwik-E-Mart and checked it out, as you see above.

This is worth trying too; I like it. I can see that formulating beers like this must be tricky, because if they were any heavier on the citrus flavor they might drift into Orangina territory. In its own setting Orangina is just right, but it’s not what I’m looking for in a beer. Fortunately Grapefruit Sculpin (and the others) stay on the right side of the line.

Update Jeff Alworth, author of The Beer Bible, puts these IPA trends into perspective in a good item at AllAboutBeer. He also boldly predicts what the Next Big Thing will be: Trump IPA! No, not really, but he has an interesting other candidate.