Beer




The gates of hell for me during this cruel pattern of smoky Satan’s Breath that relentlessly inhaled and exhaled over southcentral Alaska for the last number of weeks was standing in front of a plastic partition separating the two sections of a little cabin that shelters me from the elements in my mining camp in Hope last weekend.

Situated on a pile of rocks — mining tailings — the structure afforded no relief from the heat that beat down from the murky, otherworldly skies and came up from the reflective, broiling surface below. It was 84 degrees outside and 90 degrees inside.

I stood in front of the curtain, prepared to pull it back and transition from purgatory into the furnace beyond. I was suited up. I was wearing protective coveralls, bulky old boots, safety goggles, a pull-over hat and a mask that was shielding but suffocating at the same time.

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I stepped inside where the temperature was a full 10 degrees hotter. I picked up the gun on the floor and rivulets of sweat poured down my neck as my internal temperature started to soar.

I took as deep a breath as I could and started spraying paint on the walls. A white, humid fog began to fill the room. I endured it as long as I could, and 45 minutes later, scarcely able to breathe, I stumbled back through the partition, shedding clothing and casting it to the left and right as I went.

By the time I made the front door, I was stripped down to nothing but a T-shirt and pair of cut off Levis. I only slowed briefly enough to grab my small beer cooler. I swung it up into the back of my six wheeler, jumped on and drove through the hot smoky air to the closest water body – a settling pond – and left the wheeler running and dove over the rocks headlong into the cool, dark abyss.

The temperature contrast between where I just was and the body of cool, clear mountain water was exhilarating and instantly dropped my body temperature at least 10 degrees. I came up for air realizing that I was refreshed on the outside, but was parched. “Now I need a beer,” I said to myself as I luxuriously paddled back to the shore.

With preliminarily relief, I picked my way up the rock pile, shut off the wheeler and climbed up dripping and sat sideways on the seat. I pulled my cooler closer. Inside were a number of beers from this month’s La Bodega Beer Club selections. I dug around in the mixture of ice and glass bottles looking for the lightest beer in the bunch.

Bodega must have had me in mind and the hot gods must have pitied me because I was choosing between delicate, light selections from Weltenberger, a monastic brewery – and the oldest one – in Bavaria and Klosterbrauerei Andechs, in northern Munich.

One of the most perfect beers I’ve had in one of the most perfect settings at the perfect time this year was the first one I picked: Weltenberger’s Pils. This sparkling, straw yellow beer poured invitingly into the pint glass I’d had the mental wherewithal to toss in the cooler before getting started on the painting project. A delicate noble hop essence on top of a light doughy essence pushed beyond the paint dried on my nose, but I didn’t waste time poking around in the aromatics and took my first, long, luxurious sip.

A crisp mixture of soft pilsner malt flavor, some honey character and hints of yeast rewarded my dry throat. I took a number of pulls from the glass before I slowed down long enough to truly appreciate what I was drinking. Just enough bitterness offset the dry-ish malt character in this incredibly noteworthy beer that’s soft on the palate, too easy to sip and sessionable at 4.9 percent alcohol by volume.

Maybe because it was my first beer of the day and a wonderful reward given my adverse conditions, I can’t recommend this beer enough if this heat wave lasts and your chores put you in hell’s midst like it did me that day.

I languished for at least 45 minutes enjoying this beer before returning to the humid oven behind the curtain. At least then I knew I had ample reward after each successive coat of primer, and then paint.

In the two days it took me to complete this wicked project, I’d repeat the process, heading to the settling pond with beers in tow and magically transporting myself to the Weltenburg Abbey within the Danube Gorge and the cool rolling hills surrounding the Andechs Monastery east of Ammersee.

Kloster Andechs Weissbier Hell is another light, but full bodied classic from the region. This honey colored brew pours hazy golden with a Bavarian wheat beer’s signature clove/banana essence. The flavor follows perfectly with the addition of bread and a touch of cloves in another incredibly quenching sipper at 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.

Weltenburger’s Barock-Hell is a traditional German helles and by design is also light and refreshing. Another clear golden beer with a paper white topper, the aroma is a nice mixture of Tradition, Hercules and Perle hops, delicate grains and a touch of sweet bread. A nice citrus snap greets the palate and light pear and apple notes follow through into a dry finish in this remarkable summer sipper.

I saved some of the slighter darker selections for the late afternoon when the heat was the most intense, but I craved something with a little more body and substance, not that the beers before these were lacking anything at all. Weltenburger’s Kloster Anno 1050 Marzen is a delicious, spicy Oktoberfest style Marzen that pours burnished gold in my glass and wafts off a rich caramel malt character ringed with noble hop aromas. The flavor is very similar with more sweetness than’s hinted in the nose but on top of grain and toast notes and some interesting apple-ish esters that emerge in the finish.

Others in this notable lineup include Kloster Andechs Weissbier Dunkel, a dark wheat beer, and Weltenburger Kloster Asam Bock, a German dopplebock — the biggest beer in the bunch weighing in at 6.9 percent alcohol by volume — an apt reward at the end of any hot project. I had the dopplebock after spraying the final top coat in the 95 degree oven comprising the back rooms of the cabin and pushed through the partition for the last time before tearing it down that evening.

I’ve been a La Bodega Beer Club member since its inception years ago and have never been disappointed in the mixture of mostly new beers to our state, but I have to say the store knocked it out of the park this month with some of the most fitting, rewarding beers I’ve ever had given the time, temperature and situation. If you haven’t considered it, For $25 a month automatically charged to your credit card, expect a surprise exclusive to club members every month before the beers are released on the store’s floor.

Can I go as far as saying the beers I enjoyed though that distasteful project saved my life? I really feel that way. The experience makes me want to go buy cases of these beers and distribute them to the thirsty firefighters battling the blazes that plague or state right now. Get these beers while they last and I’m sure you’ll know what I mean.

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