Friday dawned with a rare glimpse of the sun while temps crept up into the 60s. A beer run would give me a perfect feel for whether or not I should ditch the four-inch-thick Carhartt jacket for a hoodie. I climbed into the Mighty Tundra and pointed it towards the Four Seasons Beer Store. Their selection of craft beer made it worth negotiating into traffic.
I didn’t know what I was in the mood for. The season was changing (still) and I wanted to wean myself away from the higher ABV beers for something a little more down to earth and exciting to the taste rather than heart and stomach warming.
Upon entering the store, I walked directly to the cooler to check for new membership. Whoa! What’s this? A whole slew of beers from Brooklyn Brewery. The essential Brooklyn Lager was flanked by a brown ale, an IPA, and a summer beer. I haven’t seen Brooklyn beers in these parts in ages. I grabbed a sixer of their East India Pale Ale wondering if there was such a thing as a West India pale ale.
Sixpack in hand, I proceeded to the craft shelf. Pretty much all the Goose Island Belgian bombers with their female names were on display and the usual array of unheard of beers from Germany and Belgium and their exotic price tags. I glanced towards the bottom shelf and spotted a sixpack of green cans. I wondered if it was one of those hard lemonade or hard ciders that put on the shelf along with the brews.
Nope. This was a beer made by the Ska Brewing Co. out of Durango, Colorado. It was Modus Hoperandi India Pale Ale. Hmm. Craft beer in cans, how novel. That triggered a memory of when Marty Nachel, a certified beer judge, gave a seminar at one of our homebrew club meetings. During the Q&A session, I asked him if there was any difference between beer in bottles versus cans. He said that canned beer edges out bottled beer in the fact that since the can is a perfectly sealed container, there’s no chance of oxidation in the beer. Also, since all the cans are coated on the inside, there’s no chance of a metal taste in the beer. Worth a shot.
The beer was 9 bucks for the six and I felt that there was something wrong, perhaps something that I was just not used to in buying this beer. It had to be the cans. Perhaps the mere fact that cans are the long-preferred method used by all the cheap piss-beer breweries made me think that way.
The Argument for Canned Beer (popup)
Being the adventuresome person that I was, I grabbed the ringed sixer of Modus Hoperandi in cans and set off for the register. Damn! I remembered the beer fridge was empty of house beer and I decided to stock up with cheap beer for whatever duration they’d last. I dropped off the sixers on the counter and went back to the coolers in the rear. The choice this time was a 30-pack of PBR for the masses. I cursed as I dug for my credit card and then again when I realized some overtime hours would be used to pay for the transaction.
Back in the garage, I stocked the beer fridge but there was still plenty of room for more but it would have to wait for a more profitable time. Now I had a quandary. Saturday night, I’d be drinking an IPA to be sure, but which one? The Brooklyn brew was new to the area and I knew they made great beer. The Ska beer was also new, but it came in cans. I thought that i’ would try the canned beer and see if what they say is true. (But then again, I really didn’t know what I’d be looking for.)
Saturday was comprised of finalizing a recipe for my next homebrew recipe, this time a foray into brew-in-a-bag and all-grain. A great meal of Gyros and chocolate cake and I was ready to wash it all down with some canned craft beer. By 8 o’clock it was still 70-something in the Manly Garage so I set up shop with the MacBook, a memorable Goose Island shaker glass and the first can of Modus Hoperandi.
It felt odd wringing the first can from the ring. I popped the top and there was hardly any “PSshht!” Just a little “Tsst” almost like uncapping a bottle. Here we go. Let us pour.
The beer came up in the glass more orange than brown with tons of small bubbles ring in an almost translucent liquid. The head was a nice thick off-white and rose up about an inch or more. The aroma was sublime. I got that whiff of grapefruit again and that guaranteed a nice citrusy beer taste. I wondered how well it blended with whatever malts were brewed with it.
The first taste had my mind scrambling to describe the flavors. Sure there was that bitter grapefruit taste but also some nice malts which gave it great body. Even the first few sips gave me pause as to the star of the show here, the hops or the malt. They tasted so good together.
The citrus grapefruit flavor was there to be sure. Each swig gave a little zing at the back and the exhale produced those fruity notes. The malts, as costar in this show, remained a mystery so far. A slight sweetness could be detected but it was quite subtle. The beer really has some body going for it and combined with the citrus zap, made for a most enjoyable drink.
The Ska Brewing website is completely based in Flash and has a Ska music background. It took a while before I found the mute button way at the bottom. The site is also in black and white and looks like a vintage 1960s J.C. Whitney catalog. Unique sound effects accompany mouse clicks and rollovers. The site pegs its beer at 65 IBUs and that tastes about right. However, they also describe the taste as being piney with the grapefruit notes. I didn’t detect any dominant pine but it’s been years since I stuck my schnoz into a pile of pine needles. Ah, the drawbacks of an artificial Christmas tree.
The middle of each sip presented the tongue with a liquid that was not too thick nor too thin. But it was quite obvious right from the start that this beer had good backbone. I remember having a beer that tasted similar. I’m sure it was Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA. It would be very interesting to taste compare them both side by side.
This Modus Hoperandi is quite a treat in the taste department. No ingredient overwhelms another. It’s a symphony of malts and hops that will have any craft beer drinker wanting an encore. It’s also a true demonstration of the viability of cans as vessels for craft beer. The trash collectors loads will be smaller and your own profits will be larger because of it (if you recycle aluminum yourself.)
The 6.8% ABV won’t blow you away after two cansful (canfuls?) and with proper preparation, one could down the majority of the sixpack over time. Having a couple of these on a warm summer day out on the patio or deck would be the perfect punctuation and a great way to toast the sunset. Then to sleep… perchance to dream.
Taste: A- > Hops by Mother Nature, body by Fisher.
Smoothness: A- > Smooth as a freshly tarred road, without all the fenderwell noise.
Drinkability: B+ > Three? Four? What the hell. One more.
Bang for the buck: B+ > Worth the price for a good craft beer in cheap cans.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Cloudy. (sip) It’s strange. You want to say it’s bitter and dry but two seconds later it’s not. (sip) It has a distinctive taste but I can’t identify it. (sip) It’s not horrible. (sip) Ah, carmelized grapefruit! (sip) It’s different. I give it two and a half stars. (Thank you Roger Ebert. Where that came from is beyond me.)
Ska Brewery tour, Part 1
Brew Minions, a Parody Video is 22 minutes long and well worth the time.