Even though some people like to assume that I’ve sampled every good beer on this green earth, I can still be pleasantly surprised by a brew.
Just the other day, a distributor brought by Chris Knight, a representative of New Zealand’s MOA Brewing Company. I hadn’t heard a lot about MOA, but am always curious to try different things so we sampled a couple of their beers. The first one we tried was MOA’s Pale Ale, which uses New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops along with that stalwart of American Pale Ales and IPAs, Cascade.
With MOAs bottle conditioning bringing a focused carbonation, both of the hop varietals show their best aspects with floral, tropical, and earthy notes. It was a good start and I enjoyed it a lot, but it was the next of their beers that caught me off-guard. St. Josephs is a Belgian-style Tripel that uses good amounts of Belgian yeast and candi sugar to somehow create something that had the smoothness of a classic Belgian with shockingly intense cherry and eucalyptus notes.
For all of the power of the Belgian yeast in St. Josephs it doesn’t cross the line into cloying territory. I don’t get blown away by a beer often, but St. Josephs did it mostly because that was the last thing I was expecting it to do. Look for MOA beers to be available in the area soon.
People like to assume that because you work in a field, or have an interest in something, that you know everything there is to know about it. I personally can’t even keep track of how many times during the average week I hear something like “I don’t know, I’m sure you’ve tried every beer out there” in conversation with someone at the shop.
While I’ve been at this for some time and have been fortunate to try many different beers and wines, this certainly doesn’t mean I’ve tried everything or even a fraction of everything. I often find myself saying “It’s a big world out there” when chats swing in this direction, and that’s true. Part of what I love about my job is that the next beer you haven’t tried before is always around the corner; it’s part of what I think makes beer great.
There is an aspect of perpetually discovering new things that I don’t get to talk about a lot, and it’s more subtle than simply losing interest. I’m talking about leaving yourself open to being surprised; keeping yourself from allowing years of accumulated tastings and knowledge to create a mindset that says there is nothing new under the sun.
As we get older, our palates change — to decide on a favorite style or specific beer as a young person to the exclusion of everything else is not only narrow-minded, but ignores the breadth of options in the world. We all have lifelong favorite, and I’m not encouraging abandoning them; what I’m saying is that if there are really no more surprises, no chance of being struck out-of-the-blue by a beer, then why bother?
Every new beer we try is an opportunity to find a new favorite. Keep yourself open to possibilities and you’ll find those unexpected treats out there. What was the last beer you had that took you by surprise? Let’s hear about it in the comments. Until next time.