Wet Wednesday: Variety is the spice of life

I saw something glorious on Sunday...but before I get to it, you need a little history. As I mentioned in my own personal history of beer, the first step to liking beer came in the form of Pyramid Hefeweizen. That bottle was my "monkey using tools" moment. It was my small step. The natural progression was to Widmer Hefeweizen and other wheat beers. I slowly began trying new beers and styles. A few friends and I went to Hooters and on the server's suggestion a buddy and I ordered a Sam Adams Boston Lager and a Sam Adams Summer Ale. She set the Summer Ale down in front of me and the Boston Lager down in front of my buddy. We each took a sip, then passed the beers across the table so that we could each try both beers. He never gave the Summer Ale back.

It was obviously the superior, better tasting beer and I had to finish the Boston Lager before I could order another Summer Ale. (Don't worry, it was funny and we are still great friends.) I really enjoyed that Summer Ale and assumed it was because it was another form of a wheat beer. Then I tried Octoberfest when it came out in the fall. Loved Octoberfest. And I loved the Winter Lager. I even liked the White Ale. I found the Sam Adams Hefeweizen. I started going to small liquor stores looking for other varieties of Sam Adams. When I found the Cherry Wheat, I thought I had found my favorite beer. I loved the sweet, fruity flavor and the full wheat texture. There was a span of a few months where this was the only thing I would buy. I felt that they took my favorite style (wheat beers) and doubled my pleasure. After going through several different varietals of Sam Adams and liking them all (except the Cream Stout...never liked the Cream Stout) I was wondering why I liked all the Sam Adams beers except their main beer, the Boston Lager. This is their most famous and widely distributed beer. Why is it not as good as all the others. The local liquor store owner convincingly explained that all their small beers were microbrewed by the Boston Beer company except for the Boston Lager and Sam Adams Lite, which were macrobrewed by one of those large beer companies. Eureka! I loved microbreweries and disliked macrobreweries. That made so much sense. It fit with what I already knew of my own personal tastes. I didn't even have to bother checking the validity of the store owner's statement. I like microbreweries and I like variety. I still get excited when the next Sam Adams Seasonal comes out. I buy at least one twelve pack every season. I especially like when Costco has their 24 bottle holiday case with four bottles each of six different varieties. And now I am always on the lookout for microbreweries that have multiple varieties. Like BJ's. Their sampler consists of seven 5 oz. glasses, featuring their Brewhouse Blonde, Harvest Hefeweizen, Piranha Pale Ale, Jeremiah Red, Nutty Brunette, PM Porter and Tatonka Stout. They will occasionally take out the Porter or Stout to add a seasonal or temporary beer. You start with a sip of the Blonde, work your way from light to dark and then start over. You learn to appreciate the differences in styles. Constantly tasting a new beer keeps your taste buds guessing. Each sip feels like your first. Despite not being the biggest fan of stouts and porters, I have thoroughly enjoyed ever sampler I have ever tried. BJ's always stands out in my mind, but Steelhead Brewery also does a good job, with a pale ale, IPA and Double IPA.

But alas, I so rarely get to experience the pleasure of a sampler. I usually buy a six pack or 22oz. bottle and commit to one or two beers for the evening. That it, until I walked into BevMo and saw a blank brown box sitting on the floor. I paid $12 for this "Mystery Pack" and felt like a little kid on Christmas morning when I got home to find out what I had paid for. "Ooooh, a Racer 5 IPA. Oh, a Corona. Hey! A Guinness! Sierra Nevada, Newcastle, some organic beer...I don't even know what language this is..." Some were good, some were not my taste...but they were all a surprise. I still enjoy buying a mystery pack as a gift for a friend. They have no idea what they are getting because I don't even know. But it's not just the surprise factor that gets my juices flowing. It's the variety. It's getting twelve different bottles in the same box that is particularly exciting. So I was ecstatic to walk into the beer aisle at Lucky on Sunday and see this:

Needless to say, I walked out with this:

Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, Widmer Drifter Pale Ale, Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, Full Sail Pale Ale, Red Hook Long Hammer IPA all in a single six pack. $8.99. I mean, how awesome is this? If you could hear me, you would hear my voice getting all high like a teenage girl meeting Justin Timberlake. I'm that giddy thinking of the Cherry Wheat cooling in my fridge next to the Torpedo. I've never tried the Full Sail or Drifter. This single move may have made Lucky my go-to beer purchasing locale. The only thing that will keep me going back to BevMo is that they carry Stone Ruination IPA.


  1. Ahahaha - "If you could hear me, you would hear my voice getting all high like a teenage girl meeting Justin Timberlake"... classic

    I too love a good sampler. In fact visiting a brewpub is among my favorite social events for this very reason. In Orange County, Taps Fishouse & Brewery is a good example of a place like BJ's that doesn't distribute its beers but has a good in-house tasting lineup. Taps has the added bonus of a beer brunch on weekend mornings.

    I recently visited The Bruery, and plan to visit Steelhead soon. To me at this age, it's the emotional equivalent of a trip to Disneyland when I was 10.

    This also brings up an interesting topic among beer drinkers: in terms of percentage of beers you consume, what is your ratio of new beers you're trying for the first time to beers you've had before?

    I am probably 80% new beers to 20% old beers. Even when I find a beer I love, I only go back and drink it again on rare occasions. I think the thrill of discovery is most fun for me. I like having a wide breadth of knowledge about all these different beers and beer types.

  2. A second comment here just to deal with Sam Adams. That has to be the brewery with the biggest range in beer quality in the world. They have some super good beers (my favorites are the Scotch Ale, the Imperial Double Bock, and the Honey Porter), some really drinkable social beers (I'm thinking of the Blackberry Wit, the Coastal Wheat, etc.) and some highly questionable beers (the Cranberry Lambic is pretty poor for example). I also disagree with you completely on the Cherry Wheat, I am not a big fan.

    But what else is new - we know that you and I have very different tastes in beer. What's cool about Sam Adams is that we could go to their brewery, or get one of their sampler packs, and both of us would find plenty of beers and styles we liked. For this reason I am proud of Sam Adams for holding the banner of the craft beer movement for the last 3 decades.

    The other coolest thing going in craft beer is sponsored by Sam Adams - the Longshots homebrew contest. The coolest and most interesting ideas in beer tend to come from creative homebrew outfits, so it's absolutely awesome for beer drinkers to get to try some of the best examples. Huge ups to Sam Adams for that.

  3. Whoops - the Summer Ale by Sam Adams is easily my favorite of their beers, forgot to mention that. Scotch Ale is a close second.

  4. My ratio is probably the inverse of yours. 80% beers I know I like and 20% new beers. With a "Build your own six pack" I am more likely to try new beers more often, because I really don't like getting a six pack of a beer I have never tried only to be disappointed. When I am just having a beer with dinner at home, I want to know that I like it. If I don't like it, I don't want to have five more bottles sitting in the fridge. Even when I buy 22oz. bottles from BevMo, I might get one I have never tried along with one I know I love.

  5. Once again we are beer opposites

  6. I'm in Aaron's boat; I may lean even a bit more towards the "beers I know" pool.

    The make your own 6-pack is one of the better marketing shticks I've seen in years. Good work Lucky.

  7. Agreed, that Make-Your-Own-Sixer is dynamite, especially since it looks like they give you a wide variety from which to choose.

    I feel like, wherever I am, I'll be willing to try a new beer. I still see myself as a beer-drinking amateur, in terms of how much I've tried. I know my preferences - wheaty over hoppy, English-style ales over pale ales, microbrew over macrobrew - but there is a lot of room for additions and subtractions to the My Favorite Beers List.

    Which is a good thing, since the best beer I've ever had (Consecration) was already hard enough to find in the City, and might be nigh-on impossible to track down on this side of the Pond. Le sigh...