Tomorrow the VOR and I leave for a London mini vacation, making this beer related post is very appropriate. Last night was also the 2010 debut of the Surly Brewing Company's seasonal ale, Surly Mild. In a wonderful bit of luck, the debut was at Grumpy's Bar, my home away from home, and on top of that it was my 'birthday eve'.
Surly Mild is what is known as a 'session beer'. Dark and flavorful, yet relatively low in alcohol, a number of pints can be consumed in a pub session before the beer lover is forced to call a cab and come back to retrieve the car the next morning. To many people the connotation 'mild' is a bit off putting, perhaps not macho enough. Surly's other beers, Furious, Darkness, and Bender, all seem to have macho and aggressive enough names so maybe the mild is appropriate in this case. I like to think of it as a dark 'lite' beer. True lite beer fans, people who don't really like beer much in my opinion, would hate it however, because its bursting in wonderful beer flavor. Noted food critic, the BessemerConvivialist, does not like the finish of the Surly Mild but after testing several pints last night I was unable to agree with her assessment. The other star of the bar last night at Grumpys was an unexpected cask ale, complete with a 'beer engine' (see image below)to draw the cask conditioned ale from its keg atop the bar. There is no CO2 used to push the beer, its carbonated in the keg, which makes for smaller bubbles, less carbonation, and more intense flavor. In a prisoner exchange of sorts, Surly had sent a keg of their famous Darkness to the brewers at Three Floyds in Indiana and they had returned the keg full. The beer in the cask was Robert the Bruce Scotch Ale and beer fans were awarded with a nip glass with every pint of Surly that was ordered. Ten of my kayaking and skiing cronies, the 'usual suspects' as we say, showed up to help celebrate. It was pretty much the perfect evening with good friends,good beer, and much smart talk.
The cask ale whetted my appetitie for the wide range of real ales in England. We plan to sight see, take in a museum and church or two, and generally relax. This will be greatly aided by the knowledge that wherever we are in London, we are no more than a couple blocks from an array of beer engine tap handles like you see in the image above. That is indeed a beautiful thing.