Beer is much less pretentious than wine. Generally less expensive by the glass, too. Don't get me wrong, I like wine just fine but my palate takes to beer more easily.
This past weekend I attended the Best Beers of 2006 event at The Drafting Room in Exton, PA. Given that it was the same weekend as the famed Oscars, I liken it to be the Oscar Awards of the brewing industry. No actual awards are bestowed, just lots of good drinking of rare beers. What I like most about events at the Drafting Room is that the beers are offered in a 5 oz. option so I get to taste everything and still drive home. Captive Husband does not like to be the designated driver!
My favorite of '06 was 10 years alt from Victory Brewing Co. It's no longer available, brewed to mark their 10 year anniversary. The style is native to Germany, specifically Dusseldorf and Rhineland. The term Altbier translates literally to old beer referring to it's ancient past. Today it refers to a beer brewed for a special occasion, usually a bit darker and stronger than the breweries normal output. It's not common among artisan micro breweries either, making this incarnation extra special. Victory's brew had a wonderful balance of bitter and malt and floral hop flavors and aromas. You knew it was special the moment it passed your lips. It was available in a 3L format, known as a Jeroboam larger than a magnum. The bottles were signed and dated by Bill and Ron, the brewers. We picked one up intending it for our wedding reception which was to be later this year. Since we sped things up, we'll save it for our anniversary. When consumed, it will be one and a half years alt!
The photo is a perfect pour of stout floating atop hard cider. It was a wonderful greeting from my brother in law on a recent visit to DC. While we knew it as a Snakebite, Wikipedia states it's more accurately a Poor Man's Black Velvet. A Black Velvet is a mix of champagne and stout. Whatever you call it, sipping sweet cider through chocolately stout is divine.