Mug Shots: New year, new beer

Dec 26, 2006 at 3:19 pm
The wistful tone of the Scots-Irish tune “The Parting Glass” seems better suited to another year’s passing than the better-known “Auld Lang Syne.”
    Of all the money e’er I had,
    I spent it in good company.
    And all the harm I’ve ever done,
    Alas! it was to none but me.
    And all I’ve done for want of wit
    To mem’ry now I can’t recall
    So fill to me the parting glass
    Good night and joy be with you all.

    There is a common expansiveness to New Year’s celebrations, but I prefer the logic of restrained, interior beer drinking. Like so many other parts of life, there is an implicitly funereal tone to beating the year’s calendar, because awaiting us all is an eventual failure to see another.
    Time to contemplate, consider and not merely hit the trough for another round guaranteed to keep you in the bathroom — standing or kneeling. Time to drink less, to drink better and to seek the beer that yields interlocking layers of tightness.  
    Time to consult the wisdom of Old Ale, Barley Wine and even the occasional stray strong and eccentric lager: JW Lees, Traquair House, Old Crustacean, Stone Old Guardian, Samichlaus and many others.
    If the evening is cold, set the bottle in an east-facing window sill after sundown. Appropriate wine with dinner is recommended. Afterwards, find a clean goblet. Aged cheese for a nibble? Of course.  
    Older samples may boast the nobility of a gentle oxidation, usually something to be avoided, but in this instance tantamount to a silky negligee, obscuring but not concealing the curves and contours. There’ll be some nuttiness, sometimes a musty fruity character, and reminder of alcoholic warmth.
    Indeed … enjoy, and joy be with you all.

Roger A. Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. He writes about beer for Food & Dining magazine. Visit for more beer.