I’m not one of those parents who celebrate Back-To-School time– I love summer, hanging out with my kids more often, and not making lunches every morning. Sending them back to school dovetails with my own work schedule going from laid-back to crazy, so it’s a double kind of disappointment that can be at least partially addressed by enjoying some adult beverages.
And whaddaya know, this year we have a happy coincidence of back-to-school melancholy and Elul introspection, so there’s even more potential to dive deep into self-reflection as summer slips away. So while I offer you this piece about special drinks for the month of Elul, keep in mind that I’ll be sipping these not from a position of being gleeful, but of being serious, and dare I say introspective, as we kick off another year of school while bringing 5774 to a close in a few weeks.
Israeli wine is easy to find these days, even in the far-flung reaches of Bedford and Burlington where I’m usually shopping, miles away from the epicenter of Jewish culture in Greater Newton and Brookline. With that in mind, a fresh and invigorating white wine from an Israeli winery is a great way to support the Israeli economy and enjoy some bright grape flavors before the chill of fall sends you off to buy red wine instead.
Dalton Winery’s White Canaan is a white wine straight out of the Northern Galilee; this complex blend of white wines is harvested from September grapes that are harvested just across the Hula Valley from Mount Hermon. Serve with grilled salmon or dairy to bring out the floral and fruity flavors.
I’m always on the lookout for something interesting in the liquor department. My sister has been piquing my interest in small-batch gin, but in the spirit (ha) of tying a beverage to a traditionally-harvested-in-late-summer Biblical fruit, I offer you the following suggestion based on the annual fig harvest of August-September in ancient Israel.
Mahia is an ancient fig liquor that was traditionally distilled and distributed by Moroccan Jews. In 2012 Tablet had a fascinating profile of a New York company, Nahmias es Fils, that revived that tradition in the famous Diaspora community of Yonkers, and NPR picked up the thread in June with this piece. While the very small-batch distillery is still small-time, why not splurge for a bottle to support a growing Jewish business? Look for a local store that stocks it here.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know I’m not into summer beers and definitely prefer the flavors of fall. But yet again, here we are in August with a 90 degree day and pumpkin beer already on the shelves. Call me old school, but I don’t want to be drinking pumpkin brews before I’ve gone apple picking for the first time. So as we mark the shift from citrusy lagers to spiced porters, and wheat beer to pumpkin ale, here are two Massachusetts beers that will help you make that transition.
Newburyport Brewing Company Green Head IPA, aka “The beer that bites you back,” is a hoppy, strong IPA that tastes great and comes in a very portable and tasty six-pack of cans. I’m starting to get back into cans recently, and this is a very grabbable, very rewarding investment.
Blue Hills Brewery makes a very tasty and cleverly-named beer named “Black Hops” that is a chocolately, zesty, and hoppy beer that is a nice mix of lager and hops, with the added bonus of one of the cooler label designs you’ll find out there. It looks like a dark, brooding, winter beer, but goes does a lot smoother and lighter than you’d expect. Extra bonus: it comes in a big 22-oz bottle, so there’s time of opportunity to drink and contemplate life as you sit outside this Labor Day weekend.
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