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Basecamp Blonde: Go Lighter for the Holidays



Remember that the holidays are a test of endurance, not speed. True, this year's course has been shortened considerably by doing away with a cavalcade of office parties, but take care — danger lurks. There was all that turkey and dressing from Thanksgiving. And if you kept your gathering regulation-sized, you were plowing through a mountain of carbo-loaded leftovers for about a week.

There is still a titanic Christmas ham looming in your future and, the human mind being the mystery that it is, you aren't likely to remember that no one is coming for round two until after you've made three trays of your double fudge "corpulent explosion" brownies. Or at least made a Costco run to pick up a bag of fun-sized Snickers the size of a sofa cushion. Don't even get me started on that alcoholic amateur night we call New Year's Eve.


No, we aren't done yet. And while 'tis the season for those roasty stouts and toasty Scottish ales, you may well want to lighten things up a bit before your cholesterol and BMI turn you into a big, fleshly glacier.

To that end, let me suggest Hutton & Smith's Basecamp Blonde ale, which their marketing guy describes as "light and drinkable with a nicely malted backbone and touch of bitterness."

That's true enough. For old fans of Chattanooga's Hutton & Smith Brewery, this is a rebranding of Belayer's blonde ale, which also smells of an aspirational marketing guru being obvious. Understand that, as a former ad guy, I say this with love.

For my money, though, "basecamp" lacks the dash and derring-do of belaying, which is basically trying to vertically hop down a sheer cliff face with a rope and a lot of faith in your equipment. Mrs. M noted I didn't like the new name because I am, essentially, a lunatic. (There is no reason to mention which agency I worked for, but Dan Conaway also thinks I'm an idiot.) At any rate, I do see Mrs. M's point — that aligning an ale with a bone-smashing death wish does not set the right tone for what is essentially a quiet, easy drinking beer.

Whatever we're calling the stuff these days, Basecamp Blonde weighs in at 4.8 percent ABV, and when I say "quiet" I do not mean that you don't notice it. Hutton & Smith has always struck me as a pretty high-end brewery, and this ale lives up to the reputation: It really is a great beer. Like a lot of H&S products, it's got that vague twist of the sweet somewhere along the palate, which compliments that "nicely malted backbone" the marketing guy was going on about. There is also that touch of bitterness on the far end, but nothing that puts you into the same sandbox as the IPA set.

If you can't let the holiday season pass without your trusted Scottish ale — Oskar Blues Old Chub is very good and worth getting for the name alone. Even better, the tartan on the can happens to match my favorite pair of ill-advised trousers.

If you want to shop local (and there is no good reason not to) — remember Boscos pours a great one on Overton Square. While we're all hanging out at home trying not to breathe on each other, High Cotton's Scottish Ale is a great expression of the style that is available all over town.

Basecamp Blonde, however, is a refreshing breather from the heavier, roasted flavors of the holidays. I suppose there is a certain logic to the rebranding. The basecamp is where you go to relax and recharge after the brutal endurance race of, say, the Iditarod, the typical Southern holiday season, or tumbling off the side of a mountain to an amused chorus of, "Hey Murff, grab the rope. Man! ... That's gonna leave one big jiggly bruise."

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