The First Sip
The most important moment for any beer
What's the greatest scourge of the modern age? Top of the heap of first-world-problems? Surely, it would have to be this; unskippable adverts on catch-up TV. There you are, reclining in the velour armchair with a snifter of Cocoa Psycho, ready to stream the latest Scandiwegian crime drama everyone's been raving about. Yet as you nudge the app into life with a fist full of dry-roasted peanuts, instead of the inevitable opening scene of a body being pulled from a river, you have to sit through ninety seconds of adverts. You can't fast-forward. There's no escape. Aaaaah!
And yet, is it really that long since there were only four channels on television? No internet, no second chances. Forget your favourite programme, and you had to wait a week to watch the next episode; the one you missed remaining forever lost. As a result, seven days later, you'd end up asking yourself things like 'Why has he got a beard?' or 'Who's that woman? How come she's married to Derek?' Yet, right now, in 2014, it's more than you can bear to sit through NINETY SECONDS of commercials. The time it took you to read that paragraph. Crazy, isn't it?
Everything these days is immediate. Instant gratification has become the norm. Want a turkey sub with chilli fries at 2am? No problem! Have a sudden urge to ride a unicycle? Sure, there's a training school in town! Everything, everywhere, is up in your grills, 24/7; there's no escape. Of course, this isn't necessarily a bad thing – we all get peckish in the middle of the night, after all. We all want to wobble down the street whilst total strangers will us to fall over. Having things at your fingertips, answers to problems, getting things when you want – it's useful. It's fun.
Take beer. If you watch any of the commercials for mainstream macro-lager (whilst waiting for your programme to start streaming, for instance), what's one of the things they all have in common? Ice. Frost. Shots of glittering cold water being sluiced from one side of the screen to another, as if somebody has spotted a randy dog, just out of shot. It's all about refreshment. Gratification, again – that instant, thirst-slaking, quenching ripper of a first sip. All macro lagers have been advertised this way (although, they are hardly likely to pitch up on flavour, let's face it).
Hold on to your hats, but we're about to agree with them. Yes, they are fundamentally going about it the wrong way, but that first sip of beer can be wonderful; it's one of the most rewarding wow-moments you can think of. But these macro-lagers may as well be a bucket of water; refreshing, but ultimately brief of experience, leaving you standing there nonplussed, teeth chattering. For a beer to be truly rewarding when it comes to that first hurried pull on the glass, it has to have something none of those beers can ever hope to have. Flavour.
Take Hardcore IPA, for instance. Try that for a first sip, next time you've done a hard shift at the keyboard-face, and need a refreshing belt around the senses. Snap-firing the body awake is about so much more than mere serving temperature. The combination of Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe, for instance, winging their way across that short distance from tongue to brain. Silver bullet? Try a hop bullet, instead. There's something about the combination of citrus and pine that sparks you awake more totally than any macro lager.
Yet when talking about the ultimate first sip, the conversation needn’t begin and end with hops. Take the aforementioned Cocoa Psycho. If ever you need a beer to relax with, yet keep the eyelids twitch-free until the be-jumpered sleuthing has concluded, it's this one. From the very first moment, it gives you everything – deep, dry chocolate, bitter coffee and warming alcohol. It's one of the most open beer we brew; all of Cocoa Psycho's flavours are evident right from the off. Unlike the shifty, hard-staring Danish mechanic, it has no secrets.
The mark of a great novel is that it grabs you right from the off, from the very first line. Whether Nordic Noir or Moby Dick, the best capture the imagination immediately. Each streamable drama series similarly attempts to entice you from the opening scene, in an attempt to stave off the five-fingered pinch-close of boredom.
In terms of beer, what are the parallels? What are the most instantly-gratifying, best-first-tasting craft beers out there? When you need a jolt to get you through the first ninety seconds, what do you reach for?