If there's one thing the self-appointed guardians of the Craft Beer Movement™ like to complain about, it's aardvarks and the noise pirates make and every single other goddamn thing up through zymurgy its very blessed self. As I've noted here before, it's entirely possible that the knitting community whines about yarn as much as we whine about beer, but a) I doubt it, and b) this isn't a scarfing blog, it's a drinking blog, and that's why I've gathered you all here today to listen to me complain about your complaining about beer.
This edition of "Drunkspin Gripes About Griping" will address one of our most beloved of your hatreds: The irrational rage many beer-drinkers project (and maybe even actually experience, the poor bastards) about "seasonal creep," the nefarious term by which we refer to the unconscionable practice of breweries releasing certain beers at times we find inconvenient, illogical, or otherwise punishable by death.
Of course, much of this backlash—like most other wars, plagues, and famines throughout recorded history—can be attributed to pumpkin beer. I don't like pumpkin beer (although Tröegs, the eventual brewery in question here today, makes a really good one), but I somehow managed to wrangle an exemption to the law that everyone has to drink it nonstop from the moment it hits the shelves in July until the last keg is kicked on Christmas Eve, so I don't much care about it one way or the other.
Selfish, I know, but it keeps me sane. I really do feel for the rest of you, all the otherwise free-drinking bon vivants who would just enjoy whatever beer you felt like on any given day, if not for your legal mandate to drink spring beer in a blizzard just because some brewery or another decided they had nothing better to do with their hoppy witte than call it a white IPA and make it a late-winter seasonal because, I dunno, snow is white and wheat beers are springy and fuck it, here's your Long Thaw, chump.
I like Long Thaw, by the way. But it's not my favorite micro-seasonal this time of year, because it couldn't possibly be, given that my very favorite seasonal beer of all happens to be released just in time for the slush harvest. Tröegs unleashes Nugget Nectar, their impeccable hoppy amber ale, this time of year. I don't know why, and I thank them for not ginning up some half-assed reason. Nugget Nectar comes out in February because Nugget Nectar comes out in February; it's not groundhog-flavored, and it has nothing to do with dead presidents or chocolate hearts or the NBA trading deadline. It just gets here when it gets here, leaves when it leaves, and blesses our dirty souls every day in between.
Nugget Nectar is, at least in my neck of the woods, the ideal compromise between regular beer and trophy beer. It's only around a few months of the year, and it's not the easiest beer to find even when in season: You don't have to go on an all-day hunt, you don't have to know a guy, but they probably don't sell it at the gas station. So it's just exclusive enough to make you feel like you're in on something, while stopping far short of being a true pain in the ass.
It's also billed as a hoppy amber ale, because that's what such things were called when it debuted in 2004; nowadays Nugget Nectar would be an imperial red IPA, the alcohol-by-volume would be goosed up from its natural 7.5 percent to somewhere in the 8- to 9-percent range, and you'd need to wait in line for it. Or maybe not any of that, because Tröegs seems too cool for that bullshit, but you know what I'm saying: We got lucky with this one.
Nugget Nectar pours a nice deep orangey brown, with a fluffy white head that positively screams, "Hey, I'm beer!" (Why do we always talk about this? Let's stop talking about this, except when the head's weird in some way.) It has huge aromas of grapefruit, nectarine, and pine, with a healthy underlying whiff of caramel malt. The recipe calls for Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich malts, and you can definitely taste the latter two.
Jeremy Danner, ambassador brewer for Boulevard and the wind beneath my beer wings, has issued a moratorium on saying hoppy beers have "strong malt backbones," so let's not say that. But let's know that. Nugget Nectar reminds me of the best possible version of an old-school, '90s-era American IPA. It's got that throwback malt, but drenched in modern hops, including the now-standard Simcoe along with Nugget, Tomahawk, Warrior, and Palisade, which combine to make Nugget Nectar juicier and more vibrant than the best of my beloved first-generation IPAs.
This is a fantastic beer that does not pretend to have anything to do with the atmospheric conditions, the revolution of our rock around the hot gas-rock, or any pagan ritual or shopping season. It's just a limited-time delight that you should drink every day until the radlers and shandies take over in April.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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