Many years ago, when I first began drinking beer, I really had no clue as to what was worth drinking. Hell, I was in college, so price dictated more than taste. On top of that, I had been straight-edge all through high school and the first part of college and hadn't tasted beer since my grandfather snuck me sips of Bud as a kid. But many Old Mils, Honey Browns and Rolling Rocks, began to develop a beer quest. I would drink anything I hadn't had before and appreciated finding new and good beers.
But I still did not know much about what I was drinking. Lucky for me, my friend Ryan was much more into researching why beer was what it was and even began brewing. So I began to pick stuff up too. Things like what makes an ale an ale. And I discovered that traditional ale was not hopped at all. This fascinated me, especially because my favorite beers were low hops, malty ales.
So I might be a bit of a snob when it comes to ales, but I figure if you are advertising something as an ale, it better live up to the ale rep.
The two ales in question tonight: Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale and Mad Elf Ale. If you have tasted either and read this far, you can guess which one I liked.
Phin & Matt's falls into that standard "hop-the-living-hell-out-of-it" American microbrew trap. I am not anti-hops. They are good when balanced correctly against the rest of the beer. But just hopping something to the gills, just to see how hoppy it can be, is like trying to make a hot sauce hotter than any other -- it just is showboating and detracts from the part of the experience that is enjoyable: Taste.
Now Troegs' Mad Elf, that is a nice hearty ale. A bit heavy on the alcohol side, but perfect for winter and an after-dinner drink.
Anyway, maybe you think I am wrong. Maybe you love super-hoppy beers and hate sweeter beers. That is OK, to each their own. But now you know which of those two beers you will like. Ha!