Few pleasures are more satisfying than watching sweat beading up on a body of amber, copper or intense ebony. Instantly, my diversion triggers salacious thoughts and I want to have the added indulgence of devouring the lusty aromas and flavors that go with it. I want it to extinguish my thirst, not merely douse it. Nothing quenches a thirst like Belgian beers in the wild.
Philadelphia reigns as a city of hot bodies, and the steamy summer sidewalks bring them all into view. By early June, the Manayunk Wall provokes the most well-conditioned velodrome-cannibals in the world with its 17%-grade, pumping those iron muscles into forms that the mind can’t imagine. Award winners all … launching sinful flights of fancy in every woman’s dreams. What could possibly quench a sultry daydream like that?
Think Saison Vautour from McKenzie Brew House, Gold medal-winner at the GABF in 2007, 2009, and 2010. Head Brewer Ryan Michaels is a master in his manipulation of grain and Brett. The pineapple-smoothie appearance grabs my attention as little droplets of dew form on the outside of the glass. A head of white lays in folds on the surface, while aromas of Brettanomyces, grainy bread and citrus drench me in pleasure. Such a gratifier has the power to match any world-class cyclist on the international circuit.
By July, the action nudges toward the Schuylkill River for the Independence Day Regatta in Competitive Crew. Generations of scullers have been grappling for top honors since 1880, and the intensity never wanes. Every ripple on the river is matched by tightly-toned harmonic ripples of muscle directed from the shell of the craft.
Along the river in nearby Manayunk, Doug Marchakitus, Head Brewer at Manayunk Brewery, flexes his muscle with a handful of limited releases, while Bill Young and Evan Fritz assist in the brewhouse. Monk from the Yunk, a bright Belgian Tripel, emerges from the Keller, crisp, earthy and golden. Captivating with its nose of earth, noble hops, and tropical fruit, this Trappist-like ale is spawned from the insatiable appetite of vibrant Belgian yeast. From its neighboring vessel, St. Alpha Belgian IPA makes its presence known, marrying its assertive American bitterness with the European caress of apricot and banana.
Across town, the Phillies steal the show at Citizens Bank Park.
The phabulous Phils, working like stud-horses toward the coveted World Series, know how to deal with the sultry field. Philadelphia, “the Best Beer Drinking City in America,” is well suited to extinguish the most explosive heat. “In the Pursuit of Hoppiness,” the best place to start is at Dock Street Brewery, “where the wild things are.” Brewer Scott Morrison slams-in a triple hitter with Dude de Garde, a Classic French Farmhouse Ale at 6.75% ABV.
Dock Street is well suited to mirror the World Series with the Abbey Series of beer, a grand slam of 750 ml Big Bottles, released in May by owner Rosemarie Certo. You may have to find a scalper to snag your favorite, but the effort would be worth it. Look for Dock Street Flemish Red Sour Ale, with its tart aroma and blood-stained ruby body. Plums, apples, currants and oak lay in an overlapping mantle of complexity.
Ignited by such subtlety of flavor, desire kicks into overdrive. ABT 6, golden, earthy, quenching and floral; ABT 8, with its mahogany body and fruity middle; ABT 10, Abbey Style Tripel, hazy blonde, with citrus, melon and spice; and ABT 12, an Abbey Style Quad of moxie and heat, with a walnut-purple body and layers of vinous fruit, mixed with cherries.
It’s tough to look at a baseball diamond’s four corners without thinking of other delectable Quads. Terry Hawbaker began his appointment as Head Brewer at the Farmers’ Cabinet by brewing up his hybrid version of Hawbaker’s Sour Quad, with the heft of tart dark cherries, raisins and plums in a vanilla oak base.
Farmers’ Cabinet co-owner, Matt Scheller, expanded on the European Farmhouse theme with a newly established five-barrel brewery in Alexandria, Virginia. Now, settling-in to the tailor-made Cabinet Artisanal Brewhouse, Hawbaker is on the fast track, focusing on primitive field beers and redefining styles with a mix of newly-interpreted traditional styles, some of which have come close to extinction.
Marry Me in Goslar, a German-style Gose, yums the palate with herbal, bready aromas, touched with Indian coriander and a subtle hint of rose-tinted Himalayan sea salt. But give me those dense black bodies – No Love Lost Black Farmhouse IPA, crisp and citrusy, or New Dawn Fades, a burnished farmhouse ale with earthy lemongrass and heat that can only come from ebony peppercorns; yet, either can quickly quell a seemingly insatiable thirst.
While we’re treading on the dark side, we dare not miss the third annual Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series at Fairmount Park on Belmont Plateau. I’ve worked up a sweat just thinking of those wild ones, slipping through the muck in the sweltering mid-July heat, clothes clinging to every curve and sinew, ready for a dousing spray … and wishing it were beer rather than mud and water.
These are the burly ones, in need of inspiration from Renard D’Or, a creation of Brian O’Reilly at Sly Fox. This Belgian Golden Ale, crafted with German Pils malt and candi sugar, rolls across the tongue as light-bodied, despite its 7.9% ABV.
While we’re rolling in the mud, pass the Sly Fox Saison Brune, distinctively dark, yet designed with Sly Fox’s proprietary Saison yeast, imparting a dry, spicy profile to invigorate those strained muscles.
Finish with Triumph Brewing’s Belgian Something, a delightful blend of English malt and English hops, Belgian yeast, and a hefty dole of cardamom, sea salt, lemon, mustard seed, peppercorns, bay leaves, and a touch of brown sugar.
Pour some sugar on me …