I suffer from a 50-minute commute. One would think I'd get used to it after a while, but in my experience, the opposite is true. Every day, I think of how many minutes of my life I've spent driving to and from an office, and every day, that number is higher than it was the day before.
I used to try and do useful things in the car. I listened to NPR or educational podcasts for a while, thinking that the time lost would be more bearable if I could at least arrive home having gained something from the experience. This did not work. I would pay attention for about 17 seconds before somebody would cut me off, leaving my brain full of silent rage, with no processing power left to take in auditory signals.
These days, I listen to music on the radio instead. I do own an iPod and some number of late-'90s/early '00s CDs, but I don't find myself using them much. I think it's because mocking shitty DJs and shitty ads brings me a modicum of satisfaction. "Can you imagine yourself on a beautiful New Jersey beach?" Hell to the no, ad lady, I cannot. I'm in one of half a million cars trying to get home in Philadelphia, my imagination has been dead and gone for years now, and "beautiful New Jersey beach" sounds about as likely to exist as "delicious macrobrewed imperial stout". Some advertiser you are.
Another reason I go with my car radio is that my car's radio control panel has a great volume dial. Every time I start to feel exasperation at humanity's collective inability to zipper merge, I reach over and click-click-click the sound up a couple notches. It's so satisfying. I've been thinking about click-click-clicking my volume dial for the past fifteen minutes. A portable version of my volume dial would be superior to any stress ball I can imagine.
As a result of this practice, there is a pretty direct correlation between the volume of my radio and my general frustration with humanity when I arrive home. Some days, I have a nice, sedate drive, and my volume dial sits at 15 or so, just where it started.
Other days, it goes less well, and my volume dial will reach 50 before I arrive home. One time, some neighborhood children asked me why I was listening to "daddy music" because I had been blasting a Pearl Jam guitar solo while parallel parking. I told them that no one knows feelings the way Eddie Vedder does, but I'm not sure they understood what I meant.
So that's my commute. I try to go for a daily run when I get home, because it's fun to pretend that running cancels out all of the unhealthy things I do in my life. When I run, I usually will conclude my run at one of two places. Option A is Whole Foods, so as to buy things to cook myself a healthy dinner. Option B is the beer store, so as to buy beer that I will drink along with pizza or whatever other food I can scrounge up.
Obviously, Option A is healthier. That said, when it's been one of those days where I've had to turn the radio up past 40, it's really hard to say no to the beer store. My commute goes past two colleges, so when they return to classes in the fall, the additional traffic means a lot more click-click-clicking on my part, and a lot more running to the beer store when I get home.
There's a plus to this, though. Last week, I went to the beer store a few times, and finally came upon something I'd been looking for; Stone's Enjoy By 9/13/13 IPA. As fate would have it, it was September 12, so it didn't take long to convince myself that this was a must-buy. I thanked my lucky stars that those Temple students had decided to double-park on a major commuter roadway that day, pushing my patience over the Whole Foods equator into the beer store hemisphere. Otherwise, I never would have had a chance to sample this excellent offering, right?
Two days later, I walked into a bar to see it on tap. Temple students: you are unforgiven.
Still, it was cool to sample it both from the bottle and on tap. I actually found it fresher from the bottle, though -- not sure if the keg was just nearing the bottom or what, but I got a lot more of the hop flavor out of the bomber I brought home than the tulip from the tap.
This particular iteration of Enjoy By has a fantastic hop aroma. There are sweeter fruit notes, but they play second fiddle to the piney herbal hops that give the beer an outstanding fresh smell. Those so inclined might even describe the aroma as "dank", perhaps even "icky" or "sticky". It's terrifically tasty too, with honey sweetness mellowing into a veritable herb garden of fresh grassy hops.
There's some malt there, I guess, but I don't think "balanced" was what they were going for with this one -- just a great mix of different hops. The aftertaste is rich and earthy, and it leaves you wanting more. It's refreshing enough, though it'd be too heavy of a beer for mowing the lawn. I found it to be just right for settling into a chair in the backyard and forgetting a frustrating drive home.
Sadly, I was unable to ascertain what hop varieties they used for this beer (though I heard a rumor that such data might just be a work in progress on this very site). Regardless of what hops they used, this brew did nothing to change my views on Stone's IPAs; they hop those beers up like you wouldn't believe, but I've yet to find a Stone beer where that approach went badly. For my money, they might just be the most reliably great brewery out there. I'll leave you with that, because I think I hear the new Katy Perry song coming on...
Stone Enjoy By 09/13/13 IPA
Appearance: Looked great both in my pint glass at home and in a tulip at the bar. Looked coppery yellow at home, darker amber at the bar because they had a lightbulb out. Persistent lacing, vanishing inch or so of head. 4.4
Smell: So, so good. Never had a beer smell so fresh, though we're supposed to get some of those wet-hopped beers here soon, so that superlative will be put to the test. Nice and piney. 4.8
Taste: Opens peachy sweet, finishes fresh, herbal, and grassy. Usually prefer the tropical/citrus fruity hops, but this was a great change of pace. Really want to know what hops they used so I can try and replicate this effect at home. 4.5
Mouthfeel: Fairly heavy carbonation, smooth, not as much kick as I expected from a 9.4% ABV. 4.2
Overall: Great beer, not the best I've had from Stone but good enough that I'll buy any Enjoy By offerings I can find from here on out. I love the hard-hitting hops they use in RuinTen, but this was a smoother, fresher brew that certainly piqued my interest. 4.5