No Man Ever Steps Foot In The Same River Twice September 17 2014, 0 Comments
I was reading a collection of essays about wine this morning that are collected in the book "The Juice: Vinous Veritas" by wine writer Jay McInerney. He was arguing that drinking the same wine (and I believe we can swap in beer here) twice would be a different experience each time. He uses the famous quote from Greek philosopher Heraclitus, simplified down to "no man ever steps foot in the same river twice", to prove his point. The concept that when recrossing a river, either the river will have changed, or the person stepping in it. This got my brain spinning off in a million directions, but a recent experience came back to me.
Recently I sat down with a bottle of Orval, a Trappist beer brewed by Cistercian monks within the walls of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval in the Gaume region of Belgium. Orval was the first beer I ever drank that (intentionally) contained brettanomyces. Brettanomyces has been classified, I would argue wrongly, as a "wild yeast". The beauty of Orval is that it is constantly changing, as the beer is dry hopped and bottled with a dose of Brettanomyces. When young, the brett hardly expresses itself, and you get a beautiful dry hop character. As time goes on that balance shifts as they dry hop goes away and the brettanomyces comes on stronger. This is why most Orval fans have a certain age they prefer the beer as different flavor profiles will exist throughout the aging process.
But Orval is only one example of how tasting experiences change. I have found that going back to a beer, something as straightforward and timeless as Schneider Weiss, a classic German wheat beer, my palate has shifted each time. With seasons, with age, with differences in the age or storage conditions of the beer itself, a beer flavor profile we take for granted can be radically altered. Taste buds are constantly regenerating and changing, new experiences in food and drink can shift our preferences so don't take the beers that aren't the new kids on block for granted. Vinnie Cilurzo, brewer/owner of Russian River, argued that people undergo "Lupulin Threshold Shift", or basically as you drink more bitter beers, your tolerance for bitterness shifts. So while Sierra Nevada Pale Ale may seem incredibly bitter to a Bud Light drinker, to someone who drinks Double IPA's all day, SNPA can seem pretty benign.
This is a long winded way to say, in a rapidly growing industry, where new beers and breweries appear seemingly every day, it is worth going back to those old favorites, or even beers you didn't like the first time, now and again. They may have changed, you may have changed, and your new favorite beer may be an old favorite, or even a beer you didn't appreciate the first time around.