The new Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” based on her wildly popular book, encourages people to look at objects that they own and ask themselves a simple question: Does this item spark joy? The host presents this clever method to help cut through the excuses and the complicated history of objects we own by just boiling it down to whether or not something makes us feel joy when we see it.
While this method is meant to help us de-clutter (and I plan on applying it to my excessive collection of beer glassware later), I think it can also be a philosophy applied to choose what beer to purchase. When I go beer shopping, sometimes I’m caught up in the sheer amount of choices available. I start thinking, “I should try the latest IPA from the hottest brewery,” or “I already bought that beer last week, I should try something new” or “I already have picked out three hoppy beers, I should round that out with something else.” The “shoulds” follow me down the beer aisles, sometimes making the process far less joyful than it could be.
So this weekend, after doing some Neftlix binging, I visited the beer aisle with a different attitude. I took my time, looked at what was there, and stopped and grabbed beers that sparked joy – or at least my curiosity. The result was that I came home with two beers and one cider that I probably may not have seen, tried or gravitated towards.
One of the beers that I immediately picked up was from Orono Brewing Co., simply named Get After It. It’s a beer that Orono Brewing created as a collaboration with Board of Maine, a Maine-based apparel and seasonal gear shop. I can’t say for sure what made me pick it up, but I felt that little twinge of joy and happiness when I read that it was a cream ale. Cream ales are relatively rare among craft breweries, and the style name in and of itself is confusing. Cream ales contain no cream, and, in fact, are not all that smooth in mouthfeel. They are a dry-finishing beer that is similar to a pale lager, with a subtle hop profile. They are distinctive in that they use ale yeast, but then are cold-conditioned (like a lager would be) for some time after the fermentation is completed, and sometimes uses corn to create a light and dry finish. This allows some of those warmer and fruiter flavors to settle out, and gives the beer a cleaner taste than an ale might have. It is one of the few styles that originated in the United States. Orono’s version is a bit hoppier than others I’ve had and adds a slightly bitter hop punch to the end, making it a memorable beer. It is definitely worth checking out.
For the second beer, it might have been the color that hit me with the little spark. Lone Pine’s Alba Rosa is a white IPA brewed with rose hips and pink peppercorns and is wrapped in a can label that’s bright pink with an attractive, elegant typographic design. The beer itself is not pink, despite the addition of the pink ingredients. Its taste is a refreshing twist on a typical IPA. The peppercorns don’t contribute a pepper-like flavor, but they seem to sharpen the hoppy flavors throughout the beer and enhance the citrus notes that the rose hips contribute. It was refreshing to try a beer with added ingredients that isn’t overshadowed by their addition, and I would certainly buy this beer again.
The cider sparked joy for an entirely different reason. I swept my eyes over the cider section and was initially drawn in by the graphic design of a few cans. Then my eyes caught sight of the logo for the cider brand: Beak & Skiff, a cidery based out of Lafayette, New York. While the name and the place might not mean anything to most Mainers, to me it immediately brought back a rush of childhood memories. In central New York, my family would take an annual fall trip about an hour away from home to Beak & Skiff’s apple orchard to pick apples when certain varieties were available\. We’d go every single year, fill our bags to the brim and eat a smorgasbord of apple treats for weeks afterward. I picked up the Original 1911 cider (named for the year the apple orchard was started), and it was juicy, tart and refreshing. The 1911 is not a particularly sweet cider, and leaves you with a light and tart bite after every sip.
The next time you find yourself debating a choice of beer in a store or at a bar, try stopping yourself and asking, “Does this beer spark joy?” You might find what you bring home will surprise you.