I just couldn't write another column from my patio. And tales of drunkenness and derring-do across Hell's half-acre are hard to come by when you haven't been anywhere lately. So, there I was, in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday — surrounded by exactly zero of my closest friends — out in front of Hammer & Ale, drinking a flight of summer beers.
I was plenty distanced, socially speaking. A keen observer might even say I was all lonesome. Sunlight is supposed to put a hurt on the COVID, and there was plenty of it turned up high. I just couldn't reckon how to drink a beer with a bandana tied around my face or take notes with my glasses all fogged.
Breaking regulation, I went face-nude into the first beer of the flight. I've reviewed High Cotton's Thai Pale Ale before, but it bears revisiting when a brutal combination of heat and humidity makes the weather go all "Bangkok." It's a beer singularly made for the climate, with both flavor and presence, while staying light on the palate. I don't recall it getting bitter in the heat, but that may be because it was a small glass and I really quaffed it. Although, if you really wanted an authentic Thai beer buzz, you wouldn't be drinking ale but a light pilsner.
And speaking of light, my second stop on the flight was a Frost Kölsch. Now, this is a great light craft: refreshing, crisp, and a civilized ABV. The sort of thing that Mrs. M might go in for, had she not been heroically called back into the office, like a grown-up. A few summers ago, I was down in Birmingham, and nearly every brewery in the city had its version of Kölsch. It's so perfect for the summer heat — and for people not sold on craft beer — that I'm always a little surprised that more locals don't brew up a version of it.
For the next beer, Hammer & Ale's David Smith pulled me something called Lovebird, from Nashville's Jackalope Brewing. This was an exercise in trust: It's a wheat beer flavored with strawberries and blueberries. I'm not an unqualified fan of wheat beers and am really suspicious of fruit beers, but this one works. And works well. The wheat base and the fruit play nicely together because the brewers have kept it light. The real key to Lovebird is that Jackalope has used real fruit in their brewing process — as opposed to a syrup — which keeps the after-taste clean and not too sweet and clingy. Which is probably the part I can't stand about fruity beers.
Smith also suggested a limited-edition IPA from Hutton & Smith over in Chattanooga — Locked Lips. Now the good people at H&S pass themselves off as granola beer nerds. And, quite frankly, that is exactly what you want in a brewer. A word of caution — don't drink it outside. If I have one problem with Locked Lips, it hinged on a tactical error on my part: I saved it until the last to sample.
Taste wise, it is very good — big, hoppy, and balanced, without being bitter. Or at least it doesn't start out that way. The issue is drinking outside when it's 96 degrees. When it warms up, Locked Lips gets "bigger" and starts to boom the way those stronger IPAs will. It's not even that it ever got bad, just a little too big to be drinking on an unshaded patio that used to be a parking lot. Or inside a steam-injected oven, for that matter.
I only wish that I still smoked. Sitting alone in the middle of the day drinking and sweating with a cigarette in my brooding hand, I might be able to pass myself off as some sort of poor man's philosopher. Without one, I just looked like a sweating, friendless idiot.