Beer Tasting 101: Yarrow Sarsaparilla Ale
The beer is amber in color, about 14 degrees Lovibond, with a rapidly dissipating head. No chill haze mars its clarity, and you almost wish some foreign object were suspended in it — a seed pod, perhaps, or a small scarab — to give you an excuse to peer longingly into its gem-like depths.
Sniffing the beer with the requisite solemnity and decorum, you inhale a complex bouquet of resinous, grassy and citrusy aromas, situated approximately at the ecotone between an old meadow/orchard and a maturing northern forest. Of course, since you are also the brewer, you can’t entirely separate your present experience from your three-week-long fantasy of how this beer would smell and taste. Will it measure up? you ask yourself. After all the labor invested in its creation, how bad would it have to be for you to admit disappointment?
At last you lift the glass to your lips and have a taste, letting the liquid flow slowly over your tongue. Goddamn, you say to yourself — this is a beer! And then hasten to think of some appropriate qualifiers so you won’t sound like a total Homer Simpson-like dumbass. It’s, uh, crisp and floral, medium-bodied, dry! (Can it be all those things at the same time? You sure hope so.) Assertively yarrowy but not astringent, with a sort of earthy, spicy undertone from the sarsaparilla. Carbonation is fairly low, as you’d planned.
There’s a lingering finish, mildly bitter: the yarrow does not want to let you go. The pint consumed, you wander outside. Yarrow is still in bloom and releasing waves of scent into the night air, and you experience a kind of gestalt. Some recently felled black locust saplings are contributing their own sharp tannins to the mix, and you feel a sudden, deep, almost carnal love for the world, which you realize has a lot to do with the alcohol and a little to do with the yarrow’s own potent chemistry. Fortunately, your northern European heritage of emotional repression prevents you from doing anything you might later regret. You go back inside and open another bottle.