The 4th July is a special day on the Old side of the Atlantic; it’s the day my eldest daughter was born. Apparently, it’s of some significance on t’other side too, being the day when (it is generally agreed that) the Declaration of Independence of the United States from Great Britain was adopted by the Continental Congress. For a short time we played with the idea that my daughter should perhaps have a suitably independent (middle) name: like Freedom or Liberty. Then we realised that she would be commemorating those darned Yankee Rebels all her life, which, well, was jolly well not on. It would, I later learn, also mean she was commemorating the day that three of the U.S. Founding Fathers, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe died. All of them, remarkably, passed away on that day. Party poopers. A later President, Calvin Coolidge, on the other hand, also added some mid-party entertainment by being born on the day (not in 1776, I should add).
However, there’s an American Beer Day that deserves to be celebrated more: the 18th of April. This was the day in 1975 when the Anchor Brewery brewed a beer that would kick start the U.S. craft beer movement, and in particular a beer style, that of the American Pale Ale. Anchor, in fact describe Liberty Ale on their website as an IPA – if it is, it is more in the English tradition, except for the incredible, resinous, peppering of hops. Liberty Ale remains not only a historical classic, but a beautiful, refined beer.
It starts with the bottle and the label. Many beers sport interesting labels, but Anchor has a bottle shape it owns, mid-height, broad shouldered & rugged yet smoothly curved to appeal to the fairer sex too. The labels, printed on a thick gauge, matt and textured paper are decorated with illustration that harks back to the immediate days of independence. The beer remembers the ride of Paul Revere to warn the rebels in Concord to move their munitions as the British were on to them.
More than anything, Liberty Ale is a celebration, a veneration, of the Cascade Hop. Here, it is used in its whole cone form and you can tell. Everything about this beer is refined – not delicate necessarily – just not overplayed. It’s a luminescent, gold beer, with a bright, white, long lasting head, a natural bead of fine carbonation (no artificial carbonation here) and filigree lacing. Its aroma is pungent and piney but again restrained and leafy. To drink, this is a clean and focused beer, the hop provides beautiful, layers of hoppy, citrusy accents off a rich malty, well structured base. It is in short, sublime.
Little surprise that, just like Paul Revere’s ride, it was the start of something revolutionary.
© Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2014
(Liberty Ale is distributed in the UK by James Clay @jamesclaybeers)