So, on a recent sunny day, I played a little late afternoon hooky from work, checking out at about 3 p.m. (don’t tell the boss).
In actuality I was working. It just happened to entail some sunshine, music on our patio, and beer.
Oh, the things I do for this job.
As you know, I’m a buy local, shop local supporter to the extreme. With beer, we have local options. The most diverse and readily accessible in Chatham is Sons of Kent.
They have a very smart curbside pickup option these days. Call up the brewery, place your order, pay over the phone with a credit card, give them a description of your vehicle, and go pick up your beer.
You pull up and pop your trunk, they send someone out with your order and place it in the trunk, and you are good to go.
Social distancing and tasty treats. Win, win.
So on Thursday, after a chat with Sons of Kent’s gatekeeper, Doug Hunter (one of the four friends who came together to make the brewery a reality), I placed my order and then picked it up on the way home.
I had told Doug my plan: My wife and I wanted to try some of the Sons of Kent items we’d never sipped before. When I picked up my order, there were SoK coasters and a couple of four-ounce tasting glasses in my package. Nice!
Friday afternoon came along and home to the wifey I went.
First off, Mary Beth and I have similar and yet different tastes when it comes to beer. Neither of us are all that into mainstream beers anymore. I mean, I purchase it now and again to make sure I have something in the fridge as a backup in case friends pop by, or I need some liquids for a visit to places such as Eggless Chad’s back deck, Sensei Jeff’s misty holey board park, or Pete and Arlene’s poolside pondering park (where you can stare at dragonflies for hours as you relax).
But all these are on hold until the COVID-19 social-distancing rules are relaxed and it’s safe to gather again.
But I digress. As stated, Mary and I differ on our preferences for beer. I’m a dark ale fan and I don’t much like citrus-infused beer, or wheat beer.
We both like a good IPA, but aren’t addicted to the high hops.
So with those similar yet divided tastes, we tapped into a few selections from SoK, and naturally with some classic rock playing on the stereo.
We popped the tab first on a can of Zephyr, a dry-hopped sour beer. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I don’t recall ever having a sour beer before.
Mary was curious but skeptical.
That changed quickly.
“On a summer afternoon outside, I like it,” she said of her suggested time to enjoy it. “It’s not what you think of as a sour. It has very bright flavours and I find it refreshing. I think it would go well with guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips.”
Obviously she’s better at this that I am. My thoughts were that this wouldn’t be my first choice of beverage, but it was tasty. It wakes up your mouth, and I could see wine drinkers enjoying it (nothing against wine consumers, either).
Then we shifted gears slightly to Juice Box Hazy IPA. Right out of the gate, I had my reservations. The name alone brings thoughts of citrus.
I do like the odd Radler on a hot day (well, a Radler cut with a regular beer, actually) so I am not totally against citrus flavour (grapefruit qualifies as citrus, right?).
Anyway, I found it left a good first impression, but the aftertaste was a bit hoppy for me. Otherwise, it was smooth drinking.
Mary found it similar to Zephyr, but didn’t enjoy the aftertaste as much.
Fans of higher IBU (International Bitterness Units) counts would enjoy this one.
Next up, Safari, an American Pilsner. Remember, Mary Beth and I were outdoors, on a sunny afternoon, sipping sample glasses.
And this one is a winner in both our books.
“Yeah, I like it. It has a rich colour, is smooth on the tongue without tasting too heavy,” Mary Beth said. “That is a good, regular beer.”
It is smooth, with a smooth aftertaste. Safari could be consumed in the backyard while barbecuing, or while playing holey board (you need that beverage in one hand for proper balance). I believe Sensei Jeff would enjoy it. Eggless Chad too.
Last up for the afternoon taste bud tickler was Fingask ’45, a red ale brewed as a fundraiser for the Chatham Pipes & Drums for a trip to Europe.
I was in love from the get go, although Mary and I both expected a little heavier beer than what is in the can.
What is there is one smooth red ale. You could consume more than one of these on a warm day on the back deck or patio, or by the pool. I would, however, advise against drinking one of these after mowing the grass on a hot summer day. One would quickly turn into three or four.
Mary Beth said it reminded her of Newcastle Brown, a great English ale, and said the fact it is not heavy makes it a good afternoon-on-the-patio beer.
As for me, I liked the Safari and Fingask equally well, but still consider SoK’s 1792 as my favourite one I’ve tried so far.
I have not as of yet had their Scotch Ale, have only sampled the Mammoth a couple of times, but enough to know it’s one of my favourites. I enjoyed the Fergie offering, Spirit Wolf, Flywheel and RM40.
One more thing: Our cat, Finn wanted to offer a tidbit for feline beer drinkers. He chose the Juice Box, as he sneaked a sip from the top of the can when we were done with it. We had to shoo him off, so I can say he liked it.
A day after our sampling, friends Pete and Arlene popped by on the patio for a social-distancing social hour. As we all sat apart, I gave Pete, an admitted IPA lover, a Juice Box to try. Where I thought it OK, he loved it, to the point he called SoK before they left to order a six-pack for curbside pickup.
Arlene, in the meantime, armed with an N95 mask, had him add a six-pack of Zephyr for her. She didn’t even taste it, but trusted Mary’s judgment.
It turns out, she loves Zephyr.
And on a Saturday afternoon, Pete worried about how long it would take for SoK to put together their order – “about 30 seconds” came the reply over the phone.