Our Chicago intern Rich presents to you: Seinfeld: A Guide to Craft Beer. Enjoy!
I get asked a lot by friends and acquaintances to give them beer suggestions or what “beer x” will taste like. I enjoy pointing people in the right direction and it’s flattering that they take my rudimentary understanding of beer into consideration. I can always try to describe flavor profiles or mouth feel to non-beer geeks but I’ve always wanted another way to explain beers. One night I was in yet another discussion about what beer was the proper choice when I noticed out of the corner of my eye the Seinfeld “Shrinkage” episode and thought “eureka”. As a result of that night here is my biased, debatable, and completely useless guide to craft beer illuminated through Seinfeld characters.
Jerry Seinfeld- Pale Ale: Jerry’s the head honcho, the go-to guy. Usually the most even-keeled of the group. As the co-creator and antagonist, Jerry plays a prominent role in every episode. When he’s not complaining about “over-thanking” or airplane food, he is concerned with people wearing the same outfit over and over. Like Jerry’s consistent role in every show, each brewery and their mother have a pale ale. Typically a balanced malt-to-hop ratio, nothing really overpowers you about this style of beer. Even when Kramer steals Jerry’s food or Newman pulls one of his many antics, Jerry stays within customary emotional bounds.
Midwest Example: Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter
Elaine Benes- Sours: Throughout the series, Elaine often comes off as snobbish and elitist, much as I associate the hoopla around sours. During arguments, Elaine is known to show off her sharpness and acid-tongue, very similar to how the high levels of acidity and the viscous qualities of a lot of sours pierce your palate. Some sours have a tendency to overpower your senses, you think to yourself “too much”. Elaine had a similar situation regarding her continued criticism of The English Patient, eventually resulting in her momentary firing from J. Peterman Catalog. Sours can absolutely shine, aging and evolving from a simple sour mash to a gorgeous beer. Look at the transformation of Julia Louis-Dreyfus from frizzy haired Elaine to her new role in Veep? She’s bringing it. Often, sours straddle a fine line and it’s certainly an acquired taste, almost like appreciating what George describes as “a full-bodied dry heave set to music.” Oh those dance moves.
Midwest Example: Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja
Cosmo Kramer- Brettanomyces Beers: The always interesting and sometimes excitable Brett beers fit Kramer’s personality to a “T”. The funky notes of Brettanomyces yeast can be a peculiar taste to many, evoking describers like “old leather” and “horse blanket”. When was Kramer’s off-beat persona not peculiar to many? Brett beers are always fascinating and adventurous, pushing the boundaries, kind of like when Kramer makes the coffee table book that turns into a coffee table itself, genius. Kramer is usually harmless and adds a lot to group dynamic but sometimes he has an affinity for getting his friends in trouble, like talking them into double parking or urinating in a parking garage. Brett also adds to the dynamic of a beer, however, some breweries fane away from the wild yeast because of its troublesome infectious nature.
Midwest Example: Boulevard’s Saison-Brett
George Costanza- IPA: No matter what IPA you’re talking about George fits the bill. Whether it’s a black IPA mirroring his robust figure, flaunted in the episode in which he leaves a scantily clad picture of himself for a photo shop attendant, or a rye IPA that parallels the spicy and passionate nature of his personality. Both an IPA and George showcase immense bitterness, there whole existence is tailored around it. He couldn’t just sit there and let Susan’s sister and brother-in-law steal the name of his yet-conceived son, “Seven”. “IT’S NOT FAIR, JERRY. I THOUGHT OF IT FIRST.”
Midwest Example: Figure Eight’s Where Lizards Dare
Frank Costanza- Imperial IPA: Much like his son, Frank is a firecracker with a boisterous personality, just times two — hence, the double/Imperial IPA characterization. Frank is known to push the boundaries, creating the infamous holiday, Festivus, and who could forget the “Manssiere”, you know for those men who are, ahem, fuller figured on top. Experimentation with Imperial IPA’s continues to be pushed, more hops, more citrus notes, and more aroma. At times these beers can be categorized as angry, they can ruin your palate. Kind of like the anger Frank shows when you ask him to take off his shoes.
Midwest Example: Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught
Susan Ross- Lager: Granted this is a bit of an umbrella category, but work with me. Lagers can’t catch a break; the style was tarnished by poor adjunct filled macro examples. Even I’m guilty of overlooking perfectly acceptable lagers for the safe ale. Susan has always had bad luck. She’s been vomited on, had her father’s cabin burned down, and was fired after George kissed her in a meeting. The piece-de-resistance though is when she died from licking the low quality glue on her wedding invitations. The general beer drinking public usually associates lagers with boring light bready characteristics, and with her patented pantsuit, Susan doesn’t exactly scream sex appeal either. There are plenty of lager styles that are truly interesting and diverse and have a wide range of flavors. For instance, a Helles, Maibock or a Dopplebock come to mind. Conversely, Susan also enjoyed her wide range of partners, from a hairy George Costanza to her lesbian fling. Overall I feel bad for both of these guys, neither deserve their unfortunate circumstances. So, for the sake of the late Susan Ross, let’s give lager a shot.
Midwest Example: Metropolitan’s Flywheel
Newman- Stout: Like a full-bodied man, stout is a deliciously full-bodied beer. The very essence of both, the beer and the soul of this maniacal man, are black. Newman is a scheming character whose devilish ways mirror a good deal of stouts and whose name evokes demonic images and evil. Just like Newman’s tendency to put people and emotions aside in order to prevail, the IPA’s and Stouts are ignoring guidelines and getting bigger and bigger in a race to the extreme.
Midwest Example: Bell’s Expedition Stout
Soup Nazi- Barrel Aged Beers: Beer nerds fan themselves when barrels are mentioned. “Oh mercy me, however do I enjoy barrels.” (Say that in a Savannah accent; like molasses just oozing out of your mouth.) Barrels are all the rage, just like that soup everyone had to have. Not just anybody can get this soup; there are rules and strict ones at that. Barrel aging is exclusive in itself, not just any beer is chosen for aging in oak. The sheer uniqueness of these beers make them hard to find. In addition to the rarity the difficult price-points of these beers make it hard for young Millennials like myself to get them, often it feels like the beer gods are yelling “No soup for you”. If you are privileged enough to be a part of this exclusive club, damn it, you better enjoy it.
Midwest Example: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout