This is not a post about the best beer on Earth, since no such thing exists. There is rarely, if ever, a “best” anything. Was Michael Jordan the “best” basketball player ever? Wouldn’t LeBron James crush him one-on-one? Is Citizen Kane the “best” movie of all time? It’s a tour-de-force…but I’d still rather watch Shawshank. Is the Bible the “best” book ever? Are you kidding me? Who wrote that shit? It’s awful.*
*What’s the deal with that Job guy? What a loser.
There is no “best” beer. Russian River’s Pliny the Younger is oohed and aahed over every year because it’s very rare, very hard to find, and is a very hopped-up version of RR’s already crazy-good Pliny the Elder. But is it the “best” beer? Not if you like darker, maltier brews. Three Floyd’s The Dark Lord is equally hard to come by, and piles on flavors and complexity like El Bulli…but it’s not the best either since it’s richer and thicker than a frozen custard and would probably disappoint most hop-heads. Bud Chelada combines all of the wondrous beauty of cheap, watery urine with a dash of clamato juice, but it too probably can’t be considered the “best” beer on Earth by virtue of the fact that it’s used to torture prisoners at Gitmo.
So there is no “best” beer…that’s too subjective. I know very few Aleheads that could offer up a definitive “best” or “favorite” brew. But the “perfect” beer? Ah…that, my friends, is a different story. Ask an Alehead to name the most “perfect” beer on Earth, and they will have an answer. That answer may vary from person to person, but they will have one.
My answer? The AleSmith YuleSmith.
Before you go rushing out to the store to snap up this brew, you should know that there are actually TWO YuleSmith offerings. The first, a summer edition, is exquisite in its own right, but it’s not “perfect”. That superlative is reserved for the Winter version of the brew.*
*I’ve said this before, but I still don’t have the faintest idea why AleSmith couldn’t come up with another name for their Summer Seasonal. The term “Yule” is only relevant to the holiday season…it has absolutely no connection to any other time of year. How hard is it to come up with another name for a beer you release in the heart of summer? SunSmith? SurfSmith? TanSmith? Beyond the fact that YuleSmith makes no fucking sense for a summer brew, it’s also extremely confusing to their customers. You don’t give two different beers the SAME name! You just don’t! I love you, AleSmith, but come on!
What makes the YuleSmith perfect? Is it my favorite beer ever? Not at all. I’d grab a KBS, Rochefort 10, or Abyss over the YuleSmith any day of the week. Would it be the only beer I’d want if I was stranded on a desert island? Nope. That honor goes to Orval (or maybe Sculpin if it’s really hot on the island).
What makes the YuleSmith perfect is that it’s missing nothing. Everything you could ask for in a craft beer is ideally represented by the brew without a single, negative defect. It is the epitome of craft brewing…bringing everything to the table while taking nothing off of it. Ask an Alehead to find fault with the YuleSmith and they will find none. They may prefer other beers to it…perhaps MANY other beers…because “perfect” doesn’t mean “best”…it means “entirely without flaws”.
*The University of Toronto did a study a few years back to determine what made a human face “beautiful”. Through some complex mathematical modeling, they revealed that Shania Twain embodied the perfect arrangement of facial features while Angelina Jolie’s face missed the mark by a wide margin. This is an apt analogy to YuleSmith vs. other beers. Shania Twain is unquestionably beautiful. I completely understand how her face could be considered perfect. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it…I can find no fault with her visage whatsoever. That being said, ask any man if Shania Twain is more attractive than Angelina Jolie and all you’ll hear is laughter. Again, “perfect” doesn’t mean “best”.
The YuleSmith couldn’t be perfect unless it emboided the perfect style…an Imperial Red Ale. Imperial Red Ales are booming these days since they’re the “five-tool players” of the craft beer world. They’re high-gravity without being booze monsters. They have big, sweet caramel malt backbones without giving you diabetes. They have massive hop profiles without making your face implode like a black hole. They’re beautiful to look at, beautiful to smell, and beatiful to taste. If done properly, they are the quintessential craft beers. A style no Alehead can resist.*
*The two biggest “prestige” beer styles in the craft world these days are DIPAs and Imperial Stouts. Imperial Red Ales split the difference between those two on the malt-hop spectrum which explains why they’re such an ideal style for showcasing every facet of a brew.
So what sets the YuleSmith apart from its IRA peers? Simple…the craftsmanship of AleSmith. The SoCal brewery does everything right. They’re still a relatively tiny brewery (just 3,300 barrels last year), but they seem to have mastered every style they’ve set their sights on. Their Speedway Stout, IPA, Decadence, Evil Dead Red, Grand Cru, Old Numbskull, and Wee Heavy are best-in-class examples of a Double Stout, IPA, Old Ale, Red, BSDA, Barleywine, and Scotch Ale respectively. And the aforementioned YuleSmith Summer is about as good as it gets for a DIPA.
It’s no surprise then, given their track record, that AleSmith nails the IRA style. And when a brewery as perfect as Alesmith takes on a style as perfect as the Imperial Red Ale, the results are…well…perfect.
I’ll spare you a breathless tasting note of this 4 Hop brew since, at this point, my opinion should be quite obvious. If you want a beer that defines the word “balance”, the word “drinkable”, and the word “craftsmanship” with every sip, snag a bottle of the YuleSmith. It may not be the best beer you’ll ever drink. But it will be perfect.
What’s your “perfect” brew Alehead Nation?