Father's Day, Functional Alcoholism and Funk: Lost Abbey & New Belgium Brett Beer

Father's Day came and went recently and, nearly a decade in, I'm still getting used to the fact that it applies to me. Don't get me wrong, I am fully and completely a father. In order to do it even remotely correctly, being a parent has to take up approximately 97.3 percent of your time, energy and mental capacity. It's just that being a father is such a damn weird thing.

I remember distinctly, the day I first walked out of the hospital with my first daughter (I was far younger than most reasonable people think I should have been), wondering when somebody was going to stop me. Surely a society that wouldn't let me drink yet wasn't about to let me walk away with another human being in my charge -- a person whose very life relied solely on my ability to foster and protect it, me with no prior training or real idea what the hell I was doing. It all seemed a bit absurd. I like to think I was, and am, well-suited to the task, regardless. My daughter's alive and has no (serious) (physical) scars, so I'm going to count that as proof.

Shortly thereafter, when I graduated from being deemed sufficiently able to raise a kid to being deemed sufficiently able to hold my liquor, I had an interesting conversation with a cashier at the Randalls near my apartment. I was buying a bottle of wine for dinner, kid in tow. The cashier knew us, as my wife and I shopped there regularly. Defying all state laws and Randalls procedures, she failed to ask for my identification, and was chided by the young man bagging up our groceries.

She explained to him that we were regulars, that she had checked my ID many times before and that he should mind his own business. She then explained to me that, even if I hadn't been old enough to drink, she'd have sent me home with the bottle anyway. Anyone with kids deserves that much, she reasoned. I can't say that I disagree

Flash-forward to my ninth Father's Day, and what did I receive as a gift? Booze. A whole lot of it. I'm not entirely sure what that says about my wife's opinions of me and my ability to deal constructively with the rigors of fatherhood, but I'll take what I can get. Especially when that includes a collaborative brew involving Lost Abbey.

I've only had one Lost Abbey beer, and only on one occasion, but it was easily one of the best beers I've ever tasted. Needless to say, when this came home, I was deeply excited to try it. I've had mixed feelings about New Belgium for a while, but their Lips of Faith series is always a source of excitement for me. Even when I've not liked a bottle, I've always found it interesting.

Pouring out a very pale, very bright yellow (it looks like a glass full of lemon juice), this collab produces a dead white and moderately sized head of dense foam. Interestingly, that head has a self-expanding character, continuing to inflate after the pour, like the beer-pour version of carryover cooking.

I had expected to be assaulted by Brettanomyces elements as soon as this one left the bottle, but it's surprisingly restrained in the aroma department. There's a somewhat rounded, almost creamy character to the scents at play, which predominate with citrus and a hint of spice, with just the faintest touch of dry funk.

The flavor is very much in line, reminding me oddly but pleasantly of lemon-poppy seed cake. It is broad and deep, but very crisp at the same time, with a slightly buttery character. I know I'm throwing out wide-ranging reference points here, but I can't help relating this to hollandaise, with that mix of richness and vibrancy.

A very slight muskiness lurks behind everything else, barely enough to notice if you're looking for it, and easily missed if you're not. It carries with it a hint of clove, and some phenolic funk creepsters peering out from the shadows. When you look right at them, they disappear, and you wonder if they were just figments of your imagination.

So, we have bright but soft citrus: mandarins or tangerines, maybe? Perhaps even dried papaya. It's mildly, pleasantly tart. The expected funk manifests mostly as spice, with a bit of wet hay, but not much. Just a trace of bitterness closes it out. It is a very, very approachable Brett beer, though perhaps a bit of a letdown for those expecting more oomph. Taken on its own, mentally reverse-shedding as many expectations as possible, it drinks a lot better than it does taken in its own marketing light.

That's probably a bad thing, on balance, but I still liked the beer. I also liked the gesture of beer-as-gift, a small recognition of the stresses of fatherhood, and of the need to unwind a bit. Next year, maybe she'll go the extra (1492) mile(s), and bring me back a bottle of Framboise de Amorosa. Now that would make me feel appreciated.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall