West Coast IIPA
The Mill Brewery
We were somewhere around Brunswick on the edge of the lockdown as the beers began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit parched, maybe we should have a drink…” And suddenly, there was a terrible roar all around us as the winds picked up, swooping and screeching and diving all around the balcony, which felt like it was going a hundred miles an hour with the top down on our way to the end of Second Quarantine. And a voice was screaming “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn hops?” Then it was quiet again.
It was almost September, and we still had three weeks to go. They would be tough weeks. Very soon, I knew, we would all be completely twisted. There was no going out, and no nipping to the shops for things to keep us occupied. We would have to ride it out.
My redundancy package had given me a wad of cash, and part of it was already spent on very delicious booze. The fridge looked like the display of a bottle shop. We had two slabs of Goat, a dozen bottles of white, two boxes of red, and half a cupboard of sparkling wine, and a whole galaxy of multi-coloured NEIPAs, DIPAS, saisons, lagers and also a shelf of scotch, one of rum, some gins, a box of raw milk cheeses and two dozen boiled eggs.
The Solitary Bliss poured, burnished copper in the glass, like the tobacco starburst of an old Les Paul. It was dank on the nose, herbaceous, and seemed to say, “drink me you bastard, I dare you”. So, I obliged it. It tasted like savoury grapefruit, if it came straight from the earth, or orange, but one of those weird bitter ones, bergamot, I think. There’s something in there like passionfruit, or mango, but I never got the chance to find out. It felt light and refreshing, but the bitterness draws you back again and again, the acrid coating of resin on your tongue telling you that you’re thirsty even as you drink. The hops are like some wonderful drug, messing with your concept of thirst; you want more and more, and you barely even notice that it’s 8.6%. It’s good. A little too good.
I had to drink another beer later, but that didn’t worry me. It was a chocolate porter, not all at once, just enough to maintain pace. The only thing that really worried me was the liquor. There’s nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man hitting the liquor in the depths of a lockdown binge. And I knew we’d get into it soon. Probably at the next opportunity.
But we can’t stop here. This is hop country.