Jess and I haven’t gone to bars much in the last few months, due to a) her pregnancy, and b) the pall of tobacco smoke hanging over the entirety of West Virginia. This is not an anti-smoking screed, it is a factual observation: EVERYBODY smokes in this state (that remaining 74 percent? Liars). If you see a person who is not smoking and think to yourself “Here is a person who is not smoking,” I tell you he/she will pick up something and smoke it before you finish that thought. I don’t want my kid to have a voice like Kathleen Turner, so we stay away from the bars.
Last night, however, it was just me, so down to Riverstone I went. Riverstone lives in the alley near Black Bear, is usually pretty quiet, and has a great bottle selection. Gibbie’s remains at the top of the list for draft beers and actually has a menu, but Riverstone gets a few extra points for, well, not smelling like Gibbie’s. Plus, it’s Halloween Eve (Halloweeneen?), and I’m not looking for that kind of crowd.
The Riverstone crowd is a bartender, me, and two old guys enjoying smokes and Bud Light. Riverstone’s got just about every Rogue beer there is in bottles, but that’s not what I’m looking for. Instead, I order a Harpoon Leviathan. I don’t think I’ve ever had any of Harpoon’s line, but I know they tend toward the hoppy; I’m more of a malt fan. Leviathan is an Imperial IPA, so it sounds interesting – while I avoid pale ales, I really like imperial stouts. Also it’s got a big scary fish on the label.
The first taste is nice. The IPA bitterness is still very much there, but it’s balanced by a rich flavor and texture (this is the “Imperial” part, I think). The bitterness bites the back of the tongue while a strong, almost sweet (but not sugary) malt flavor handles the front. You can distinguish between the tastes, and either might be too much on its own – the sweetness especially – but paired, the sweet redirects the bitter before it becomes overpowering (but it’ll still hang around the back of your mouth for a good while).
The label is fantastic, too – see it? That huge goldeneye trout is too massive for any mere label. Harpoon is now doing a whole series of big Leviathan beers. With luck, I’ll be able to find some at Korintus.
Still feeling pretty good, I decide to try something else. The Leviathan was pretty hefty (10% ABV) so maybe something from the bar. I see they’ve got Miner’s Daughter Oatmeal Stout, from Mountain State Brewing Co. West Virginia beers have treated me pretty well, so I go for that. The beer comes very cold, and I’m not sure if that coldness has something to do with it, but it’s got an almost watery taste. There’s some stout bitterness, coming at the edges of the tongue and front of the mouth, but not a lot. It’s hard to tell exactly what I’m tasting – it’s sour like a stout, but there’s a lack of substance. Mountain State describes it as “surprisingly light in body,” and I’d agree. It’s almost crisp, for heaven’s sake. At the end, I’m not sure what to make of this beer. It wasn’t bad at all, just kind of empty.
One more thing: Hillbilly craps, or “Shut the Box.” Riverstone’s got a good selection of games, but most are for two, so I took on myself in this dice game. And lost. A lot. The object is to get the lowest score possible by rolling dice and covering the numbers you get (for a 12, for example, you could cover the 12, or the 10+2, or 8+4, or so on). When you get a roll that doesn’t match the numbers, you stop and add up the numbers still showing. In 50 rounds (it goes quick), I got two 12s and a bunch of 40s. I blame the Leviathan.