By Kurt Epps
Beer has a way of breaking down barriers between people, even if the barriers aren't really anything more significant than politics or religion. Sure, you can get into some heated arguments about politics and religion at the bar over a few brews, but only if the brews aren't the focus of the evening, which is the case with all those canoe beers.
But real beer drinkers don't usually drink canoe beers, so politics and religion are usually ancillary topics that really matter very little. Joe Skelly, a real beer drinker, can often be found barside at Uno's Grill and Brewery in Metuchen, where his favorite Mike Sella brew is the Porter. Between sips, he's usually blowing everyone away at national trivia, because the guy's a virtual repository of knowledge (which makes his liberal politics even harder to comprehend).
I mean, as fellow Democrats, we should be seeing eye-to-eye on most issues political. The problem is that I'm a conservative Democrat (OK, a staunch conservative Democrat) who voted for Reagan (a former Democrat) and who remembers when my party was the party of the workingman. Today, it seems to be the party of those who won't work, which is why my vote in the last two presidential elections went to neither Bush nor Kerry nor Gore. My vote went to a guy whose political stance was about five hundred yards to the right of The Minutemen of the American Revolution. I didn't even care that he wasn't running.
But this column is about beer, not politics. In fact, it's about Joe Skelly's beer. You never really know a guy until you drink his beer, and I'd always thought Joe was a great guy. But after downing his 2007 Homebrewed IPA, I've had to kick my assessment of him up a notch.
I'm a big fan of IPA's. I love the hops and the way the beer goes with almost every food I enjoy. Uno's puts one out that is probably my favorite year-round brew—Ike's IPA. You won't get a better meal match than Uno's Steak or Shrimp Quesadilla and an Ike's.
Unless, that is, Joe Skelly's IPA is available. Joe was kind enough to bring in a sample for me after our last beer dinner at Uno's as a Christmas present. That's the kind of guy Joe is. Even after suffering through my jokes and schtick, he had enough Christmas spirit left to give me a present.
Housed in a well-sealed plastic bottle with a hot pink label (Joe is a liberal Democrat after all) I pulled out the brew to enjoy my Friday night at home. I confess that I wasn't expecting much. Liberal Democrats usually hold Natty Light in high regard. But this was Joe Skelly, a real beer drinker, so as I poured the brew into my brand new, handy-dandy Sam Adams glass, I hadn't lost all hope. The question was, "Would a real beer drinker be able to make a real beer that was drinkable?"
Damned right, he would. This was very delightful, somewhat different example of the style. First look was that the beer was a tad darker in color than many IPA's. Its clear, dark amber was appealing to the eye in a curious way. First taste revealed that the hops were subdued more than those of the typical eye-popping IPA. Mouth-feel was extremely smooth, again somewhat atypical for the style. There was an unusual, and equally subtle, sweetness that was very pleasant, and the finish was clean. I'm guessing that the very slight sweetness was a product of the malts Joe used, but he didn't tell me what went into his creation.
I enjoyed it so much that I finished the entire quart after dinner. It must not have been exceptionally high in alcohol content either, because even after the quart was drained, I felt no effects. That's a good thing.
In sum, Joe Skelly turned out a damned fine brew, and if Uno's brewer Mike Sella ever organizes a homebrew tasting at Uno's, he should make sure Joe's IPA is entered. If a liberal Democrat can make a beer worthy of the homebrewing Minutemen of the American Revolution, I can ignore his politics.
Provided, of course, that he sends me another quart.