Receiving emails from readers is something I look forward to. Every now and then I get to help people out with suggestions about breweries or beers. It’s one of the best parts of this job and I relish it. Recently, I was contacted by someone who was seeking assistance for a most unique, beer-centric mission and, as I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s the chance to help her out that I find myself thankful for.
The email came in a couple of months ago from a woman named Elizabeth. She explained how she and her husband, Cartwright, had lived in San Diego in 2013 and very much enjoyed the local beer culture, until both deployed — he to the Middle East with the Marine Corps, and she to Haiti to work at an orphanage. After seven months, Elizabeth moved back to San Diego to find a new place for her and Cartwright to live. She was eager to see her husband again and wanted to welcome him to their home with what she termed the “12 Beers of Remembrance,” a dozen beers to enjoy, one each month over the course of their first year back in San Diego. But with so many breweries and beers to choose from, she was having a bit of trouble. That’s where I came in.
Elizabeth told me their favorite style was India pale ale and their least favorite category was sours. But since these beers would be drunk at different times throughout the year and she wanted to have as many as possible procured by the time he came home, I couldn’t just load them up with IPAs. So, choosing beers that would not only hold up to multiple months of aging, but hopefully get better over that span, was something I tried to focus on. The key there was going for brews that were higher in alcohol-by-volume, less hoppy, or inoculated with Brettanomyces, a type of wild yeast that brings on a variety of interesting flavors as a beer ages in the bottle. After a little back-and-forth (and lots of shopping on Elizabeth’s part), this is what we came up with:
OCT: Stone Enjoy By 10.31.14 IPA (22-ounce bottle)
NOV: Alpine Nelson IPA (22-ounce bottle)
DEC: Societe The Pupil IPA (growler)
JAN: Pizza Port Chronic Amber Ale (16-ounce can)
FEB: New English Brewer’s Special Brown Ale (22-ounce bottle)
MAR: The Lost Abbey Inferno Ale (375-millilitre bottle)
APR: Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout (22-ounce bottle)
MAY: Iron Fist Dubbel Fisted Ale (750-millilitre bottle)
JUN: Rip Current Lupulin Lust IPA (growler)
JUL: Green Flash Le Freak (22-ounce bottle)
AUG: Ballast Point Victory At Sea Coffee and Vanilla Imperial Porter (22-ounce bottle)
SEP: AleSmith Speedway Stout (750-millilitre bottle)
OCT: Stone Enjoy After 10.31.15 Brett IPA (750-millilitre bottle)
As fortune had it, the day Elizabeth contacted me, Stone Brewing Co. was a day away from releasing the first batch of its Brettanomyces-laced Stone Enjoy After IPA, a beer designed to be drunk a year from the drink-by date on its extremely hoppy counterpart, Stone Enjoy By IPA, giving me the opportunity to provide interesting bookends to their year of imbibing. And by recommending a few IPAs that are only available via growler fills, I was able to squeeze some more lupulin into the mix, even though High Tide IPA, a wet-hop beer from Port Brewing Co. had to be scratched due to unavailability.
In other happy scheduling coincidences, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits was about to release its delicious and great-for-aging coffee- and vanilla-infused imperial porter, Victory At Sea. Sadly, the timing for a horchata imperial stout from Belching Beaver Brewery and a barrel-aged saison brewed with plums from Green Flash Brewing Company was just a bit off, but I found decent if not optimal replacements from those same breweries. At the end of the day, it’s a list of beers I would enjoy (many of which later made it into The San Diego Reader’s Beer Issue) and very much hoped they would, too.
Recently, I received an email from Elizabeth with photos of her and Cartwright, including one of her greeting him upon his camouflage-clad homecoming. She also included a video with footage of her time in Haiti followed by getting their new home ready. Lastly, she attached two photos — one of the 12 Beers of Remembrance lined up in a row, and one of the first beer emptied into two glasses, ready to be enjoyed by two people I’ve never met, but am very happy for. It’s rare that something so emotionally fulfilling can come out of something like beer writing, but when it does, it’s a gift to be grateful for, and I am truly thankful for this opportunity.