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Fly like a beer
Savannah restaurants and bars are offering flights of beers and wines – a sampler line–up of small portions, so you can experiment

With so many great new craft beers hitting the market, it can become daunting, both in terms of drinking and buying.
And what a bummer to score a $10 six–pack of a new beer, only to discover it’s really not something you would want to drink regularly.

That’s where flights come in. More and more Savannah restaurants and bars are offering flights of beers and wines – a sampler line–up of small portions that let you experiment with your palate.

One such destination is pioneering Savannah craft beer bar The Distillery. When this Liberty Avenue bar and restaurant opened about 18 months ago, it offered flights from the first day. With a dynamic menu of beers on tap and  steady stream of bottles and cans, a flight here can offer you a taste of five beers at a sitting – without pushing your BAC too far.

I stopped in recently to sample five beers I had not tasted. After scouring the huge draft menu, I settled on two Imperial IPAs, a pair of Belgian–style Tripels and a French–inspired Biere de Garde. Side–by–side tasting of Belgium’s St. Feullian Tripel and Weyerbacher Merry Monk was a treat.

St. Feullian is a classic golden tripel with a smooth and creamy orange taste and a slightly coriander and banana aftertaste. There is a hint of bitterness but, overall, it’s a very well–rounded and drinkable beer. Careful though, at 8.5 percent ABV, it can sneak up on you.

Weyerbacher’s take on the style pushes the alcohol to 9.3 ABV but delivers insane complexity and, what’s this...a hint of herbs on the finish. The beer drinks beautifully and finished fairly clean.

Both beers are bottle–conditioned, meaning they get carbonation from a bit of yeast added to the bottle. This traditional technique adds to the creaminess of each beer.

I transitioned to the monster IPAs with Southampton Biere de Mars. This French–inspired seasonal from a New York brewer is fresh, crisp and enjoyable. It’s easy to pick out the aroma of apple, which then carries over to the palate. Biere de Mars were traditionally the first beers of spring, and bottle conditioning meant they would lay down, and continue to age in the bottle, for several months to come. 6.5 percent ABV.

My taste buds were about to get smacked back into reality with samples of two Imperials India Pale Ales.
Brooklyn Blast, 8 percent ABV, explodes with hops but finishes amazingly clean. Chilled properly, it drinks crisp and refreshing, but look out for the 8 percent ABV – this one can fool you with it easy drinkability. Imperial IPA, sometimes called Double IPA, usually packs a higer ABV, and also boasts malt and hops bills designed to chase away the fizzy beer sissies.

Brooklyn Blast certainly achieves that goal – and Oskar Blues Gubna drives home the point. It’s massive 10 percent ABV is held aloft by an immense malt backbone. Approach this beer with caution; sip and savor from a classy snifter, the alcohol is concealed by smells of citrus, pine and toasted malt.

In doing so, you’ll slowly warm the beer. I discovered that Gubna takes on a whole new set of characters when slightly warmed. Suddenly, it’s pungent and herbaceous – teasing with hints of basil and thyme.