I am an aspiring beer snob. As a card-carrying snob of another variety, condescending to those who lack my deep and obscure knowledge of music and film has become more than something I simply cherish; it has become a weapon with which I arm myself whenever my ego needs stroking. My life could be falling apart, but as long as I have a nose to look down upon others for excluding the French New Wave masterpiece L’Année dernière à Marienbad from their list of favorite films, I’ll have enough hot air in my head to keep going on my merry, superior way. I’d like to say that I consume beer the way I consume music—with equal parts enthusiasm and scrutiny—but for now you’ll have to call me a beer novice. Not a drinking novice, mind you, for I am all too aware of the tumultuous relationship between man and drink—the discovery in one’s youth, the experimentation and defining of one’s limits, the intentional and repeated mockery of those limits that leads invariably to a mockery of oneself—I’m no stranger to any of it, but only recently have I applied any sort of discrimination to the beer that I drink. Eight years of relying on alcohol as my primary coping mechanism, and only now have I found a beer truly worth writing about.
When I took my first sip of Unibroue Éphémère, my immediate reaction was one of sheer horror, as I was forced to imagine the largest pile of garbage I’d ever seen in my life, a towering heap that was in fact just the tip of a far more imposing mountain of refuse that represented every beer-drinking second of my life spent in the enjoyment of a beer other than Éphémère. I’d never been too keen on the suggestion that a person can become addicted to IV drugs after their first shot until my own instantaneous addiction at the hands of Éphémère. If Tom Cruise would have intervened and made that first glass my last, I would have converted to Scientology as quickly as you can mutter the word “psychopath.” Not since my first milkshake have my taste buds responded so enthusiastically to a drink. The flavor of apples is the dominant characteristic, starting off crisp and slightly sweet and finishing with hints of tartness and spice. Though Granny Smith apples provide Ephemere its unique flavor, the sweetness is more a whisper than a shout; you’ll never have to ask yourself if it’s beer or cider you’re drinking. Bottled “on the lees” for additional fermentation, the yeast sediment lends the champagne-colored brew a cloudy tint and a sizable head. Light in color and flavor but not in alcohol content, you’ll feel a buzz quickly even if you choose to sip instead of consuming it the way it should be—in greedy, satisfying gulps.
I’ve found it to be often true that the best pieces of art are those that initially strike one as ugly or confounding, but are rendered with a little thought and effort to be no less than beautiful and revelatory. My favorites of music and film is a list populated by obscure oddballs who earned spots there only through the numerous listens or viewings required to fully grasp their merits. Well, those two sentences have absolutely nothing to do with the beer in question, because Unibroue Éphémère should be appreciated immediately without a learning curve. Any quantum physicist will tell you that anything, literally, is possible; but trying to wrap my mind around the possibility that anyone could take an unenjoyable sip, gulp, or chug of this beer is sending my brain into impossible acrobatics.
Éphémère is not even close to the manliest beer ever made. I doubt the Vikings would have used it for anything but washing their face. The name “Éphémère” (in reality meaning “transitory”) may have the vague suggestion of femininity. It may be fruity. And yes, the bottle may, in fact, prominently feature a glowing fairy suspended by flowers over a serene pond. (Why didn’t I pick Unibroue’s Maudite, French for “Damned” and featuring a freaking demon on the bottle? Because it’s not as gleefully delicious, that’s why). But if I go on to save the human race through my knowledge of beer, it will only be because Éphémère has changed the way I think about the whole process of drinking. I will no longer allow every beer to be just another rung on the ladder down from sobriety. I feel obligated by this discovery to immerse myself in the world of craft beer and see what other hidden gems I’m missing. Alternately, I might just declare the search over and enjoy nothing but Éphémère for the rest of my days. Refreshing, smooth, and just the right amount of sweet, Unibroue Éphémère is an infinitely drinkable beer with a big personality that could never be confused for another.