Backlash Beer Co’s Salute Epitomizes Boston Spirit
Although this may not be obvious all the time, the reason why I started writing here is not because I love the Boston beer scene and think it is special and you should be aware of it, though I do. It is because I think Boston, the city, is special, and I humbly hoped I could transmit a little bit of that emotion through my beer writing.
The fact is, I truly love this town and I hope you will learn to love it too. Seeing tributes to “my f’ing city” everywhere just motivated me to keep writing about it, showcasing not necessarily the best, but hopefully the “Bostoniest” beers, neighborhoods, bars and people.
One of the sites I love most is right in front of our library, at Copley Square, close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where last week’s attacks took place. Standing with your back to the library and facing the square, you see the Hancock Building, Trinity Church and Old South Church. Each building is of a very distinct architectural style, but somehow they fit together and complement each other. Whenever visitors are in town, that is the place I point to and say “that is our city, this is who we are.” It is a beautiful mix of old and new, of different thoughts and styles coexisting respectfully. Out of all the stereotypes this city is known for, I think that is one of the more adequate and beautiful ones.
Part of why the attacks hurt so much, is because they felt so incredibly personal against things I see as inherently Bostonian. So when the nightmare inflicted on this city finally came to an end last Friday, I could think of nothing more perfect to celebrate than pouring out a bottle from the stash of my beloved Backlash Beer Co’s Salute.
First of all, Salute is a phenomenal Imperial IPA. Drinking it, you would never guess this is Backlash’s first “American” beer or that Backlash itself is only a couple years old. As is the case with most beer geeks, Imperial IPAs are some of my favorite beers and I can assure you that Salute holds up against those names that you always see at the top of internet best-of lists and is hard to find at the store. Which is to say, I could hardly think of a night Salute would not be the perfect beer for.
The first time I poured it, I remember getting giddy about Salute’s deep amber color and the overwhelming nose that was – thanks to the Citra and Simcoe hops – equal parts piney and citrusy, sure signs that I was about to taste greatness. Salute carries its 100+ IBUs and 8.50 ABV quite well since you never get an overpowering bitter kick when you drink this beer or that undesirable “bubblegum” sweetness.
Rather, Salute is a pleasant, mostly fruity experience with a very prominent grapefruit note. You only feel some of those IBUs towards the end but it comes in a refreshing wave rather than an aggressive one. Interestingly, as it warmed up in my hand it completely shifted gears and developed quite well into a satisfying yeast flavor. Essentially, Salute is perfectly “balanced”–or as balanced of an example as you should expect from an IIPA. Flavors and smells play nicely with one another and that’s a good thing. But what made Salute so very special on that Friday night was that, it too symbolizes what I admire the most about this city.
See, Salute is not just a name. It is also a genuine gesture to a real Bostonian. Since the Citra and Simcoe hops used to make this beer – that make it so delicious – were obtained through Sam Adams’ “Hop Sharing” program, it is a salute, a public thank you, to Jim Koch, the founder of Sam Adams. The “Hop Sharing” program is a pretty amazing idea to begin with: the big, powerful, Boston Beer Company decided it had enough of some precious hops and instead of hoarding it, offered it out at cost price to smaller brewers who otherwise would never get them. Backlash returns that unbelievably generous gesture by putting all of those hops into one single batch of perfectly hopped beer, ultimately rewarding you, the drinker, who certainly wouldn’t want a brewer withholding hops from you so that he can stock up on them.
Don’t let me fool you: Boston is not the easiest city to live in, or the least intimidating, and I will not claim we all get along great all the time. We exchange dirty glares on the T, honk at each other every chance we get, and generally see no incentive in putting up a nice facade. Essentially, we call each other “cawksuckah” a lot. That’s why when we decide to come together as we sometimes do, we are capable of achieving truly amazing things. And, as I see it, the fact that we do come together and overcome our many differences is worthy of celebration by itself.
For a while after the attacks, I felt a little “weird” thinking too much about beer. At its core, beer is intended to comfort people and everyone in this town desperately needed comfort more than it needed analysis. After all, what could I say about beer that wouldn’t sound frivolous when compared to stories like the one about runners running 2 miles past the finish line to donate blood right after they had just ran 26 miles? But then I realized that that story captured everyone’s hearts partially because it’s an inspiring one of adversaries momentarily abandoning competition for a greater goal. We told that story over and over again because it was proof that terror did not and could not win. And we told that story and many others because it showed to the world and to ourselves who we are when we act together. I fear that the bonds we made to each other and to our city then will evaporate too quickly. When that happens I will need reminders that it ever existed. Which is why I am thankful Salute exists.
PS: I know that Helder Pimentel, Salute’s brewer, essentially begged everyone to pour Salute into tulips. But I hope he’ll forgive my glassware selection.