According to pop psychologists, this week's Monday is known as "Blue Monday," the most depressing day of the year.
The reasoning is that right around now is when it's clear you'll never achieve your New Year's resolutions, and it's when your credit card bills for the holidays come due.
Sounds plausible, perhaps, but what if you've long since given up making resolutions and you've clipped your credit cards to pieces?
Talking with Sam Braudis of Easthampton's TrüBeer this weekend, I discovered a third possible reason for being glum this time of year.
Tired of relying on my old standby beers, I was hoping Braudis might be able to introduce me to something new and interesting. All through the fall, every time I visited the store I'd come home with new treasures (TrüBeer was profiled in "The Great American Beer Store," December 1, 2011), and the cold, wet weekend needed a jolt of something tasty.
But as I surveyed the shelves, I was seeing a lot of familiar labels. When I asked Braudis to point out any new acquisitions, much to my alarm, he sighed.
"It's not the right season," he said. "Back around Thanksgiving and Christmas, we were getting something like a dozen new beers a week—sometimes more—but now we're down to one or two. It won't be until the spring that things pick up again."
To be sure, even without a steady stream of new brews coming through the door, TrüBeer is stocked with a vast library of bottles that would keep even the best imbiber busy for years, but I took this news hard. It had been a particularly spectacular beer season this fall, with lots of new brews and brewers bubbling up everywhere. I'd gotten used to the weekly thrills, and now this?
Still, I couldn't blame Braudis. He was just confirming what I'd begun to suspect. One by one over the last few weeks, new favorite beers at favorite watering holes had started to leave the taps. Whereas brewers were happy to talk shop during the holidays, now they were getting lazy about returning calls. One head brewer I'd been hoping to talk to even had the nerve to go off on vacation. It appears, after having provided us all with our holiday cheer, this is the time of year brewers regroup and refocus, leaving the rest of us to return to old standards until spring.
I sighed, too, and resumed searching the shelves. After a few minutes of disappointed silence, Braudis asked, "Have you tried Double Trouble, Founders' new Imperial IPA?"
Founders is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and many beer connoisseurs consider it one of the finest microbreweries in the world. Its varieties of breakfast stout are famous for their rich flavor and distinguished character, but I've never been a big fan of its slightly murky Centennial IPA. I'd never heard of Double Trouble before, though.
"It's getting snapped up fast. I only got a six pack from the distributor," Braudis said, "so I haven't put it out on the shelves, but it's definitely worth a try."
Typically, I find the alcohol levels in Imperial beers (which are almost twice those of normal beers) to be too overpowering to be enjoyable, but Braudis assured me this was not the case with Double Trouble. "Smooth" is the word I think he used, and he was right. The clear, bright orange beer looks like something much lighter in taste, but the strong citrus flavors are delightfully warm and seriously bitter. My frown was most certainly turned upside down.