I've been here before. At a table, with Firestone Walker's Pivo Pils and Half Acre's Pony Pils in front of me. But that time was in Chicago, at a table in the Map Room, surrounded by fellow BeerGraphs contributors Josh Augustine, Greg Sasso, and my brother, T-Bone.
That time was also recorded – it was Episode 3 of The Drinking With Shirt podcast. Recently, the podcast reached a bit of a milestone. You haven't heard it yet, because I haven't edited it yet, but T-Bone and I have recorded Episode 32. Soon I will edit it. And soon you will hear it. And the significance of 32 episodes is that it means we have essentially completed the first round of a 64 beer tournament. It took us over two and a half years. It is mildly exciting, but where we go from here has yet to be determined.
I have demons. Many demons. But one specific demon – one specific, beer related demon – involves the first time these two beers sat in front of me, on that table, in the Map Room. I don't mean to give away the outcome of Episode 3 for those of you that haven't heard it yet, but we chose, after much conversation and deliberation, Pony Pils as the winner. I've been haunted ever since. By a beer demon.
You see, since then I've had Pivo Pils many, many times. And I have enjoyed it immensely. I've gone back and listened to that episode and wondered how did this beer not win? Did we have hometown bias? Did we fall victim to the perils of groupthink? Or was Pony Pils the better beer that day?
Until recently, beers by Half Acre were not available in my area, and so all I could do is lay awake at night and wonder. However on this night, in front of me right now, sit both beers, and I am giddy at the prospect of this second chance, giddy at the prospect of killing demons, giddy that Half Acre appears to be available in my area once again. Giddy at the prospect of a good nights sleep.
What follows is a record of the places great beer can take you. It is the chronicle of a love affair.
Imagine meeting two lovely muses while vacationing in Chicago. Imagine the passionate late afternoon you spent together. Now imagine thinking about that one afternoon every lonely, rainy day over the past two and half years. Imagine lamenting your best days gone by each time you pass a roadside pony while driving through the rural areas surrounding your small town. Separated not only by the pane of glass of your driver side window and some rusty barbed wire, but by too much time apart. For a fleeting moment, you remember living.
Now imagine getting a second chance. Here they are, again, both of them in front of you. You'd resigned long ago that it would never happen, but here it is. Here they are. You're shaking. Say something nice about how they look.
Pivo Pils still has that nice half finger of white head. Towers of bubbles rise up from the bottom of the glass, like the Pillars of Creation, but just bubbles, not interstellar gas. And the shine of it, the clarity. Truly beautiful.
But Pony, you have a haze, the paler of the two, and yet somehow there is a glow. Grabbing the light of the room and pushing it back out, like headlights in the distance without my glasses on – there is a halo, a soft focus implying there is no glass, rather some micro thin membrane, some gravity, holding it up. There is a vibration to it that says, 'touch me', or, 'hey world, check me out.'
And so I lean in and the Pony Pils smells... mellow. A lemony citrus with fresh grass and an earthy, almost sourdough aroma.
Pivo, by contrast, brings aromas of dirty grass and grain to the encounter. There is lemon here too, but a lemon pine. The Pivo smells sharp. Biting.
The taste of Pivo Pils is so wonderful that you could drink it alone in a room with no windows, just mirrors on all sides, and you'd forget what you look like. The despair that normally gets reflected back and forth between you and you, until you're drenched in it, would simply evaporate, steaming mirrors, slowly fading your reflected self. You forget your friends and family. You are no longer your father. Pivo Pils is your mother now. And you have a good relationship.
Pony though is something else entirely. Simply put, Pony Pils tastes like a picnic on a sunny day with a beautiful girl and it might be love.
You just can't go wrong here. Both taste so good that you lose yourself. And both feel like pilsner clouds inside your mouth. Mouth clouds.
In the end, I don't know which beer wins here. Both are fantastic. It could go either way, probably just coming down to personal preferences or the way the winds are blowing that day, and so I feel good about the outcome of the Pilsner BeerSport back in 2014. I know I win because I just got to drink both of them again and I feel good in my own skin right now. So good that perhaps I am singing a pilsner parody of DJ Khaled's 2010 hit “All I Do Is Win.” Maybe that is happening right now.
Follow JR Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. He rarely tweets. Unless he's been drinking. Then, look out.