Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday Beer Review: Two-Hearted Ale

(Note: For reasons that will soon become apparent, The Common Man eschews all responsibility for any typos, grammatical mistakes, or blatantly untrue statements contained in this post. Purple monkey, dishwasher.)

The Common Man was invited (with his wife and son, of course) to the neighbors' house for a pre-Labor Day blowout today. The Uncommon Wife and The Boy checked out early, but because The Common Man was ensconced in discussion with other writerly types, she told him to feel free to continue hanging out. That was at about 3:30. It's currently 6:30, and The Common Man is just getting home. Ahem. There was beer. And adult conversation (often in short supply when you have short people). And the combination may have caused The Common Man to inadvertently leave The Uncommon Wife at home, alone, with The Boy for 3 hours on a Saturday.

And so, even though The Common Man was set to just review the one beer today, an intriguing ale sure to appeal to friend of the blog, Rainster, The Common Man figured he would supplement it with another review tomorrow. After all, he was conspicuously absent last Saturday, and feels like he owes you. And owes his wife. There will be dishes done tonight and garages cleaned out tomorrow, let The Common Man tell you.

Anyway, first and foremost, The Common Man was ecstatic this week to find, in his local grocer's aisle, Two Hearted Ale. If you don't get the reference, and thus why The Common Man was so excited, don't worry. It's a little obscure. The Common Man will explain.

The manliest writer in all of mandom, for better and for worse, was and is Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway epitomized manhood in a time when manliness was highly valued. His stories and novels of fishing, boxing, bullfighting, loving, and fighting enthralled generations of Americans and have ultimately been added to the canon of great literature.

His style of short, choppy sentences epitomized manly restraint as he vowed not to waste a single sentence in any of his works. And, unlike so many men today, Hemingway lived what he preached. He was an avid boxer, fisher, hunter, story-teller (ok, so some of them probably weren't true), and lover. He drank a pint of whiskey as he wrote and beer when he was done. He was a man's man, and the officially endorsed author of The Common Man.

Anyway, during his senior year of high school and his freshman year of college, The Common Man became increasingly aware of and interested in Hemingway and his work (particularly when taught by The Professor, The Common Man's college advisor/drinking buddy/role model). Intrigued by the manly world he talked about, The Common Man would lose himself in In Our Time, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea. He internalized the message that, even though the world may beat you down again and again, leaving you no chance to escape, a real man presses on. In the face of overwhelming and discouraging odds, he fights on. Even when the world takes all that you love, the real man endures until he is destroyed.

In his debut collection of short stories, In Our Time (1925), Hemingway concluded his work with "Big Two-Hearted River," parts 1 and 2. In it, Nick Adams, Hemingway's semi-autobiographical everyman, makes his way through a burnt-out forest on the way to a local fishing hole. There, he makes camp and, the next day, fishes for trout. It is a story of psychological trauma and healing, of a man confronting the challenges he knows he must face in order to continue existing, and choosing to endure the pains that will not get better. It is a moving, sad, and mesmerizing story that, frankly, every man should read.

And so, when The Common Man saw the sixer of Two-Hearted Ale on sale at the local supermarket, he knew he had to have it. Made by Bell's Brewery, in Kalamazoo, MI, TH Ale seems to be the flagship of the brewery. The brewer bills it as "India Pale Ale style well suited for Hemingway-esque trips to the Upper Peninsula. American malts and enormous hop additions give this beer a crisp finish and incredible floral hop aroma."

It presents with a deep gold color and extremely high carbonation, and has a generous alcohol content (7.0%). The carbonation makes it feel as though you're drinking a beery soda, and distracts from the overall beer. The hops, as the brewer indicates, dominate the flavor of the beer, making it extremely bitter and difficult to drink. Coupled with the carbonation, it's not a brew that The Common Man would recommend drinking in quantity. Instead, it's the kind of beer that should be savored with a group of manly friends. Even better, have one at a time (since men are, ultimately, alone), and spread them out over six nights. Have it with fish or at the end of a long day. Or watching the sunset on your deck. Whatever you do, don't talk while you drink it.

Instead, imbibe it when you have time to contemplate. Contemplate yourself, and what you've accomplished. Who you've been and who you want to be. Think about the examples Hemingway provides us (rather than the rather troubling example he was) and try to live up to them.

But, above all, endure it. Endure its bubbles. Endure its hops. Endure its bitterness. Just endure. In the end, you'll feel better. And when you're done, shut the door and turn off the light. Don't say good-bye, because it will be like saying good-bye to a brown, empty glass statue. Go out and leave and walk back to your house. Preferably in the rain.


Rainster said...

I MUST FIND THIS BEER! Perhaps over Thanksgiving, when I will be in Michigan visiting my niece. (It is entirely appropriate to take a one-year-old on a road trip to tear apart an entire state for a consumable literary reference...)

Michael said...

Nicely (and well-) written. You've done first what no one will do better and I say that only because I'm planning to include Papa in my review of this beer as well, but I don't count on doing it so well as you, friend.

It runs over $11 a six pack here in the Desert Southwest. I've only managed to snag a single to sample but I'm guessing I'll pony up the money and buy a full carton eventually.

Nice work.