Ore Dock Brewing Company | Ski Bum Wheat
I don’t ski in the same way I don’t bowl or attend weddings—if I have to rent special footwear, it’s not worth my time. This nonparticipation can be traced back to 1998, specifically Sonny Bono’s skiing accident. His death fueled a fear within that kept me from a middle school trip to a local hill. My paranoia was further confirmed when a friend returned to school the following Monday with a gash and stitches above his eye; he had caught a tow rope with his face. By springtime, he wore a scar that said he had done (and survived) something substantial. I, however, relishing in my newfound neuroticism, was about the same. Unimpressive as ever.
I adore the season, though, and most of its harmless outside activities. But when the winter takes its toll, there’s no excuse needed to stay inside away from sub-zero temperatures. This is not laziness. This is survival.
So, survive like me and find a good book, sit in a pulled-from-the-street chair, fan an oak-fueled fire, and pour a good beer. For this time of year when light is scarce, I recommend the Ski Bum Wheat, the dark winter wheat ale from the Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette, MI (my local go-to). Though I enjoy all of their selections, Ski Bum is brewed for a certain mood. This is a drinker-desires-log-cabin-solace kind of beer, best after the sun goes down (which is a tad after 5:30 p.m. here), to be enjoyed with all the simple, aforementioned luxuries.
Sweet in its aroma, a light-hearted maple, a refreshing change from a region that loves its spruce, diminishes upon first taste, switches to a nice nutty flavor, almond (and a subtle something else I cannot place) with a smooth caramel finish like snow drifts, like ice floes. This is an ale that wants to be a porter in its color (dark brown in greater volumes, lightens into copper the lower you go), but this is also an ale that wants to be a cider in its texture, a light crisp carbonation that seems to nip like -5 wind chill: a minutely noticeable bite—nothing we Midwesterners can’t handle. The Ski Bum pairs best with hot and heartier meals made to warm and nourish the body but not which overwhelms the palate. Think pasties, if you’re from here, chili if you’re not. Think anything baked in a fire-brick oven. Pizza with blander textures and colors: mushrooms or black or green olives. Brown the crust more than you’d be comfortable with. Teeter the bridge between well-done and burnt.
Ski Bum, overall, is a complex and surprising ale that inspires activity, whispers that when the sun comes up, adventure is reachable just beyond the door, in the cold, stymied within the wind. It tells me to trust my instincts, but to not be inhibited by them. You still won’t find me in skis, but if you look to any Marquette county hillside crest, maybe I’ll be there, climbing, searching. Mind the obstacles and come join me. We’ll find what we’re looking for and be home well before dark.