Digital connections

Brew Dude Joshua Riley joined a group of friends via a virtual space to chat and have some beers.

Joshua RileyBrew Dude

As we have all transitioned to our online spaces as a community, it is hard to find a way to continue to connect with our friends and family who are not living with us. I have a 4-year-old at home who is my heart, but sometimes, I would like to speak to an adult with a different set of interest beyond rainbows. My daughter, Penny, is obsessed with rainbows, which is a delight but almost the only topic she wants to discuss.

Recently, a group of friends wanted to get together via a virtual space and have a chat between five or six of us. We set a time and gained access to a service called Zoom, which I imagine is perfectly positioned to be the fastest-growing company in the world now, alongside Netflix. We all showed up to talk about our work, our families, the current situation we all face, but there was one other important asset to this communal call: beer. Why else would I be telling you this story?

It was arranged I would round up the best beers available to us in our local community, so I set out to find such materials at our friendly neighborhood essential business, Liquor World. I picked three beers I thought would be the perfect companion to our evening’s discussions that would satisfy a variety of tastes and a balanced approach for the longevity of a conversation. I thought three beers, of varying ABVs, would be appropriate for a two- to three-hour conversation. So, with five other people involved, I gathered together three 12-ounce bottles of beer, placed them in a rouge six-pack holder, then distributed them in sealed and sanitized containers to my friends’ houses. I wrote a little introduction to each of the beers and why I selected them and in what order to drink. This is what we have been reduced to in our current climate, but it is enough for these times.

The first of the three beers I selected is a beer I have written about before and will continue to recommend, to mention and to purchase as long as they make it — Goose Island’s wine barrel-aged saison Sofie. I have loved this beer for a long time. It is one of the very best saisons you can find regularly in the Midwest. I count it among my favorite beers of all time. It is a delight. One of the members of our confederation is a fan of sour beers. This saison is not technically a sour beer, but it is a close cousin to that style and perhaps, on that side of spectrum of beer, the only version I actually enjoy. They started selling Sofie in six packs, which worked perfectly for my purposes here.

The second beer I packaged together was 3 Floyds’ Alpha King. I cannot recall how many times I have mentioned 3 Floyds in this column, but I know I once mentioned Alpha King in an article by itself because they had turned it into a comic book. I interviewed founder Nick Floyd for that piece some time ago. Alpha King, in my opinion, is very nearly a perfect beer. It is a classic American pale ale that tastes like a beer is supposed to taste. I am an old man, so I understand this bias. The new movement of beer is toward highly “juice”-oriented, hazy, tropical fruit note New England IPAs. I love those beers, too, but I know when I am drinking them, I am drinking a trend of beer, not a beer itself. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Revolution Anti Hero and 3 Floyds Alpha King taste like beer to me, just as your domestic beer drinkers might think Bud Light or Miller Lite is what beer tastes like. I love this beer.

The third and final beer I sent in this package was Metropolitan’s Generator Doppelbock. The end of the season is near for Doppelbock, but that is perfectly OK with me. It was a chance to recommend and support our Chicago German lager house, Metropolitan. I have written about Generator before as well. It is the defining beer of this style for me. I have had the other beers, such as Celebrator and Bell’s Consecrator and other excellent examples of the style, but for me — maybe because it is the one I have had the most — I turn to the Generator. I chose a Doppelbock during this time because it is the style of beer German monks drank during their Lenten season, historically and because I wanted a lager in the mix, and I needed a night cap for the last beer, so at 8 percent ABV, it worked out quite well.

The chat went well. The social context itself was worth the investment in time. The friendship and shared experience was a welcome relief from the tedium of life spent almost entirely indoors. I look forward to future arrangements. Starting other virtual gatherings with different friend groups should those arise in the meantime. Reach out to your friends. Maybe if there was someone you weren’t quite close to before, now is your time to reach out. Zoom is free and very easy to use. You have to invite others via an emailed link from the host to attend, so start one and invite some friends. You don’t have to do this high concept I put in place, but there are ways for you to make it your own.

Sofie from Goose Island Beer Company

ABV: 6.5 percent

IBUs: 20

Style: Farmhouse Ale — Saison

Brewery’s notes: “Our sparkling Belgian Style Farmhouse Aleis wine barrel-aged with an abundance of hand-zested orange peel. Spicy white pepper notes contrast the citrus tartness. The light, refreshing, creamy vanilla finish will excite those fond of champagne.”

Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee in six packs of 12-ounce bottles for $13.99.

Alpha King from 3 Floyds Brewing

ABV: 6.6 percent

IBUs: 68

Style: Pale Ale — American

Brewery’s note: “A bold yet balanced American Pale Ale with slight caramel sweetness and aggressive citrus hoppiness. This is our flagship beer.”

Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee in six packs of 12-ounce bottles for $14.99.

Generator Doppelbock from Metropolitan Brewing

ABV: 8 percent

IBUs: 28

Style: Bock — Doppelbock

Brewery’s notes: Fruit, nuts, roasted grain, semisweet cocoa, toasty.

Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee in six packs of 12-ounce bottles for $9.99.

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