With the sun in Aries, a new astrological year begins, filled with hopes and doubts. "Am I making the best financial decisions for retirement?" or "Will professional tooth-whitening improve my romantic prospects?" And, most critically, "What beer should I be drinking this year?"
That last question is notoriously tricky. The answer "Whatever tastes best to you" sounds too facile for this season of navel gazing. So, with apologies to serious practitioners of the astrological arts, here is the brew for you, as suggested by the position of the stars at the time of your birth. Let Madame Julie be your guide.
Aries, the Ram (March 21–April 20)
Born under the first sign of the zodiac, Rams are impulsive, outspoken, energetic and assertive. They can also be immature and bossy. The ideal beer? Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Co. in San Diego. Strong and highly bitter, the beer's tagline is "You're not worthy." Beware Aries: you may have met your match.
Taurus, the Bull (April 21–May 20)
Taureans are earthbound, methodical and prudent. They are homebodies, so, Taurus: Stay close to home in your beer selection as well. For the Bull, shun Schlitz Malt Liquor (remember the ads?) and Red Bull—bovine travesties, both—and embrace the Bull City. Durham has two micros—Triangle and Fullsteam, and Bull City Brewpub to come. Taurus, guard the hearth and drink local.
Gemini, the Twins (May 21–June 20)
Gemini are imaginative, intellectual, abstract and literary. For the twins, a new beer in the style called a double or, in the Belgian manner, dubbel, with origins that will appeal to Gemini's brainy side. In Vina, Calif., the ruins of an early Gothic Cistercian chapter house from Spain, bought and shipped to California by William Randolph Hearst, are being reassembled to create the world's newest Cistercian monastery. Like a few of its Trappist brethren in Belgium, the Abbey of New Clairvaux is involved in brewing, and their cork-topped dubbel, called Olivia, should keep the twins engaged.
Cancer, the Crab (June 21–July 20)
This moon-linked symbol is passive, nurturing and inward-looking. The Crab should sidestep widely available Blue Moon in favor of Sisters of the Moon from Kinston-based Mother Earth Brewing Co., a contemplative India pale ale. Glowing amber, like a rising full moon in the glass, this IPA has plenty of malt to balance citrusy hops.
Leo, the Lion (July 21–Aug. 21)
Leo is dramatic, expansive, self-absorbed and attention-seeking. Brooklyn Brewery is said to be brewing a suitably theatrical imperial stout called Black Ops, but they deny all knowledge of the project. If it existed, it would be a huge, bitter-chocolate, coffee-drenched stout aged in bourbon barrels, which add rich vanilla and oak notes. We know nothing about this beer.
Virgo, the Virgin (Aug. 22–Sept. 22)
Analytical, self-possessed and logical, the spirit of the harvest bounty and fertility, the Virgin is the enigmatic keeper of hidden wisdom. Virgo, discover the joys of the freshest possible brewing ingredients with "wet hopped" beers, brewed with still-green hops that are harvested only hours before their addition to the brew kettle, when their aromatic resins are at their peak. The freshest expression of the style is Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale from Rogue Ales, which features hops from the brewery's own micro-hopyard.
Libra, the Scales (Sept. 23–Oct. 22)
Born under the sign of balance and harmony, Librans are tactful, nuanced, diplomatic and detached. Balance is a quality any brewer would love to hear praised in his or her beer. It is in the most delicate styles that real balance—that could otherwise be disguised by overwhelming flavors—is on show. For Libra, Prima Pils, a delicate German-style pilsner where flaws have no place to hide, from Pennsylvania's Victory Brewing Co.
Scorpio, the Scorpion (Oct. 23–Nov.22)
Erotic, powerful and complex, Scorpios sting the ones they love. Avery Brewing Co. in Colorado offers you Salvation, a Belgian-style strong golden ale that promises one thing and delivers another. The luscious stone fruit and spice in the aroma and flavor make this champagne-like beer seductive, but the potent alcohol has defeated many a suitor.
Sagittarius, the Archer (Nov. 23–Dec. 20)
The Archer explores, debunks and shoots arrows into the routine and the mundane. Archers seek greater patterns that bring unity to diversity; they are masters of inquiry. For Sagittarius, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is creating deliberately sour, wood-aged beers from their apparently mundane base in Dexter, Mich. La Roja delivers a shot of piercing tartness, with notes of caramel, spice and fruit. Sour beers will never be mainstream, Sagittarius.
Capricorn, the Goat (Dec. 21–Jan. 19)
The depth of brooding winter heralds the season of the goat, which is sullen when tethered and agile when set free. The family of bock beer—strong, smooth lagers—have already claimed the goat as their own, since "bock" in German also refers to a male goat. Capricorn, embrace your fate gratefully: Strong and chocolaty, Deep Water Doppelbock, from Thomas Creek Brewing Co. in South Carolina, has the spirit and kick of a feral billy goat.
Aquarius, the Water Bearer (Jan. 20–Feb. 18)
You are spiritual, idealistic, inquiring and visual. Your sign is a figure carrying water. Your beer is Bud Select 55.
Pisces, the Fish (Feb. 19-March 20)
Where still waters run deep, this is where you find the Fish. Those born under this sign are sensitive and vulnerable, receptive to the environment around them. For Pisces, the complex and fragile wild-fermented beers in the style of Belgian lambics. Unlike other beers, where the source of the yeast is strictly controlled, wild beers are fermented by the microorganisms that float in the open windows of the brewery. For the Piscean purist, New Belgium Brewing Co. has created Le Terrior, fermented by wild yeast, a funky reflection of the local environment.
Not happy with your reading? A thorough analysis of your ideal beer match would require consideration of moon and rising signs, naturally. But the signs all point to good beer.