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It’s a grey, rainy Saturday, and we have nowhere to be. So while the dogs gaze mournfully out the window, occasionally growling as a way to defend our honor against the passersby below, we’ve decided not to change into real pants (I’m rocking these babies), and power-watch House of Cards in preparation for the release of season two next month.

It also seemed like the perfect opportunity to break out one of my Christmas gifts from Patrick: Kill Devil Brown Ale, a reserve by Widmer Brothers. According to the bottle, it’s a “90% ale brewed with palm sugar and molasses aged in rum barrels and 10% ale.”

This beer definitely errs on the sweet side, which isn’t terribly shocking. But what is nice is that the rum-aging isn’t overwhelming, destroying all other flavors in its pathI'm looking at you, Heavy Seas, And the sweetness and strong biscuity malt character are balanced by the effervescent, medium body and its IBU count of 30. 

For those who don’t know, IBUs are the unit of measurement for bitterness in a beer, which comes from hops added during the brewing process. 30 IBUs is a bit high for traditional brown ales, but standard for the American-styled brown ale.

I know for many, bitterness seems like a contrary flavor that no one should like. Even merely saying the word “bitter,” I instinctively make this face. But this is what makes brewers so damned talented. Having just the right amount of hops in a beer recipe, can add the perfect balance to a robust, coffee-filled imperial stout and or a brown ale like Kill Devil.

In the absence of hops, they would be unpalatable, cloying, overly sweet messes.

One of the things I have learned is something I heard Nathan say recently: Malt beers are harder to make than hoppy beers — like IPAs. It seems like an obvious concept on its face, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true it is. There is such a delicate balance that must be struck in a malt-based recipe. When done correctly, the bitterness acts like a refreshing palate-cleanser. When done incorrectly, it’s like you have the beer equivalents of Cher and Mariah sniping through their agents about who is being top-billed.

So anyway, long live lazy, rainy days and Patrick’s uncanny ability to pick out amazing beer gifts. Especially since our tastes are so contrary. 

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