Okay. I didn’t get home from the restaurant until 5 this morning, but I’m awake again, with a tall boy of Marshall Wharf Cant Dog DIPA in my system and plenty of Wu Tang bouncing off the walls of my apartment building. I’m ready for some flow of my own, my first blog.
Here are 5 beers my staff is judging you for ordering, and my suggestions for what you ought to be drinking instead.
BLUE MOON/SHOCK TOP
I have a hate/love relationship with these ubiquitous, pseudo-craft Belgian Whites. On the one hand I HATE the fact that MillerCoors and AB-InBev have tricked so many people into thinking they are drinking something close to the small batch, artisanal brews I hold in such high esteem. At the same time, I LOVE that there are millions of casual beer drinkers out there who are somewhat primed to experience the endless pleasures of Belgian-style ale. This phenomenon really requires its own post, so I’ll wrap things up with some serviceable upgrades that actually capture the refreshing splendor of beer brewed wheat, orange peel and coriander: Allagash White, Southhampton Double White, and Cisco Gray Lady.
Harpoon IPA is everywhere in Boston. Everywhere. Even behind my bar, which features some of the most exotic drafts available in the state, we always have a line of ‘Poon. It’s a moneymaker for vendors and a familiar step up from light lager for the customer looking for a beer that tastes like SOMETHING, but at the end of the day, I think of Harpoon IPA as the unceremonious first step in the 1,000 mile journey that is India Pale Ale. Step two? Try Dale’s Pale Ale, Lagunitas IPA, or Green Flash West Coast IPA, then we’ll talk hops.
SAM ADAMS BOSTON LAGER
Jim Koch, whom I’ve met a couple times, is one of the godfathers of the American craft beer movement and deserves a great deal of respect. That said, Boston Beer Company, commonly known as Sam Adams, represents a whopping 1% of beer consumed domestically and needed the U.S. Congress to increase the production limit from 2 million barrels to 6 million last year in order to retain the moniker (and tax breaks) of a craft brewery. Their flagship Boston Lager, an amber, malty Vienna-style lager is a fine beer, and often your best option for flavor at a ballgame, concert, or fundraiser. To the Sam drinkers out there, the subtle pleasures of other real lagers await! I’m all about pouring pints of Boston Lager alongside another tasty, locally brewed sample of Berkshire Brewing’s Life On Marzen Lager, or a time-honored, real deal German lager like Weihenstephaner (est. 1040 A.D.).
I won’t name names, but shandys have become a big thing this summer and they usually suck. For those who don’t know, a shandy is basically beer mixed with a soft drink, usually some for of lemonade. More often than not, the mass-market bottled form of shandy is not much more than fizzy, boring beer masked with a cloyingly sweet, artificial citrus infusion. If you must eschew the incredible array of juicy, fruit-forward, dry hopped brews out there, I’ll confess I have a soft spot for Narragansett Shandy, a BBQ-friendly collaboration with the iconic Del’s Lemonade. Better yet, ask your bartender to MAKE YOU a shandy, with real beer and the fresh juice of your choosing.
Sigh. In 2012, almost 20% of the beer consumed in America was Bud !@#$%*& Light. The history of beer in America, specifically the rise of the flavorless light lager, will fill another post at another time. For now, just know the popularity of Bud Light and its ilk can be attributed to some really bad lawmaking (see: Prohibition) and not much else. Those funny TV ads serve to distract the masses from realizing that Bud barely deserves to be called beer. Since the dawn of civilization, beer has been appreciated as a mystical concoction with unparalleled diversity of flavor, texture, potency, and nutrients(!) in its many, many iterations. Bud Light is a brand, not a beer. If you only drink Bud Light (I’ve watched people turn and walk out of my restaurant when they find out we don’t carry it), and you have even the slightest interest in enjoying beer in some capacity other than getting drunk, take a deep breath and actually CONSIDER something else. Literally. Anything. Bud Heavy?
I manage a restaurant in Boston with tons of good beer on tap and the food to match; a large amount of my time is spent tasting, studying, and teaching the enjoyment of beer in particular and paying attention to your palate in general. I don't have a favorite beer, but Ayinger Celebrator changed my life shortly after I turned 21. Chet Maplewood isn't my real name.