tired hands tortoise

I got no idea where quality comes from. It’s certainly not drive, or patience, or practice, or even talent. Funding doesn’t seem to make a difference, either, at least in the sense that pouring a bunch of money into something doesn’t guarantee success (a lack of funding does increase the chance of failure, though). Sometimes, some projects work excellently. Much more often, however, they blow up and fail and within 18 months of opening there’s just a big carbon-stained blank spot where there once stood a brewery.

How many small, awful breweries were opened by guys who had done a good job of running other businesses? The houses they built were nice looking and structurally sound, or maybe the restaurants they ran served delicious food and were always bustling with smartly dressed thin people, but then their brewery produced barrels of swill that tasted like a combination of citronella candles and Buttered Popcorn-flavored Jelly Bellies. Or, even more perplexing, how many good homebrewers have gone to shit as soon as they went commercial? Like, they did an excellent job of brewing beer for themselves, to their own tastes, but as soon as they tried making some for the shitty tastes of normal people they got the yips, starting crapping out extract-tasting Raspberry Blondes and an IPA that’s several steps below Granite City’s.

Maybe quality is paradigmatic? Like the opposite of lemmings running off a cliff? A bunch of creative types form together a really productive horde that just succeeds and succeeds for a while, until things burn themselves out or get co-opted.

But now—just now, very recently, within the last 18 months—it’s like every single brewery that opens up is producing monster shit. In less than a year, Hill Farmstead went from not existing to being the best-ranked brewery in the world. The Alchemist grew from a sorta buzzy, not really well-known brewpub to the producer of the country’s most highly regarded IPA. Greenbush started producing insane beers that sound like they shouldn’t work somehow do, and Topping Goliath and Pipeworks have just fucking mastered the west coast styles that not very long ago were regarded as cutting edge.

And god knows how many other such breweries are out there, beyond my ken for geographic/financial reasons. Tired Hands is one such brewery. I just had two growlers from them and they were both well beyond solid—they each were thoroughly well-brewed in a manner that would have been life-changingly startling, if I had had them only 2 years ago.

First up was Tortoise, a brett-soaked amber ale. (Pictured above—just, scroll up and you’ll see it again. Actually, do that: scroll up, look at it, soak that fucker in.)

The brett blots outs the lightly arboreal, lightly rusty flavor that you usually get in good, fresh amber, but the very beginning of the hop nodes are still present. Also, caramel malts. And then sharp brett. What’s remarkable about this beer is that it’s not only pointedly sour but also quite sessionable, and if this is a sign that brewers are starting to strive for balance (which was actually once a prized trait in beers) in their sours, then that’s a nice development.

Second, St. Oner. I glanced at the label maybe 75 times before I realized it was a play on “Stoner,” because I am an idiot. It’s also their one-year anniversary beer, and the description made it sound like it was if Bell’s Wedding Ale was an IPA:

tired hands st. oner

Anyhow, it’s a high-alpha IPA that’s heavily spiced and otherwise fucked with. This was the hoppier of the two, so of course it’s the one BA likes most, but I think Tortoise beats it out. Still, it’s really good. The addition of honey, lime, and actual grapefruit grind productively against the hoppy facsimiles of those flavors. Imagine putting both an actual cherry and a cherry Jolly Rancher in your mouth at the same time. Now imagine that somehow not being disgusting. That’s what this beer is like.

I dunno. I got no idea what guys are doing right now that’s making the beer so good. I just know I like it, and I never want it to stop.

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