The beer: Calm Before the Storm
The brewery: Ballast Point Brewing Co. in San Diego
Style: Cream ale; this American ale style is similar to an American lager, with its low hop bitterness and light body. Cream ales are typically a light golden color.
The pitch: Smooth, delicious and deceptive, this cream ale offers an interesting twist for the style. It's infused with coffee and vanilla -- flavors more associated with porters and stouts. The result is a much lighter body, lower alcohol content, and crisper profile than you'd expect from a coffee-vanilla flavored ale. Neither dark like a coffee ale nor golden like a cream ale, the amber color defies expectations, too. The aroma is heavily vanilla, backed by coffee and sweet malts. The coffee shows up bigger on the palate, but it's not a bitter flavor, thanks to cold-brewing. The vanilla-cream flavor and malty backbone lend sweetness. With an alcohol content of just 5.5 percent, a light body, and a fairly dry, refreshing finish, this could be the most sessionable coffee ale around.
Fun fact: Ballast Point created this seasonal beer as a lighter alternative to its Victory at Sea, a robust coffee- and vanilla-flavored imperial porter. The newer brew hit the Dallas market in September, and should be available until early November, when Victory at Sea returns for the colder weather. The skeleton pirate from the Victory at Sea label appears on the Calm Before the Storm label, making the beer appropriate for a Halloween party.
Serve it, pair it: Delicious on its own, but you could pair it with pork chops, pulled pork sandwiches, grilled cheese, vanilla pound cake or a mild blue cheese such as Mozzarella Company's Deep Ellum Blue.
Get some: This seasonal ale is available until early November; it's sold in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles for about $14.99 at: most Central Market and Whole Foods Market stores; Spec's; Total Wine; Lonestar Beverages; and many smaller stores with large selections of craft beer.
Tina Danze is a freelance writer. Follow here on Twitter @Tina Danze.