Friday, May 14, 2010

The Search for a Better Beer

I’m taking a detour for a moment to explain to my reading public just what exactly entitles me to feature and rate beers over in my sidebar. I’m just a mom after all, and a mediocre one at that, so what qualifications do I have that help my beer research?

Well, none to be exact. No beer-drinking college degree to speak of, no past membership in any sorority where attending frat keggers was part of paying dues, no alcoholic tendencies that started my drinking at the ripe old age of eleven. I’m sorry to say that I’m just your average mother who enjoys a good beer while grilling (or watching the neighborhood children…just kidding guys) and who also likes to share the beer experience with my husband. It’s nice to have him say, “Can I get you a beer?” and actually respond with “Yes” versus, “You know I hate beer. Why don’t you ever offer to pour me a glass of wine?” Plus standing around a bunch of guys with a beer in your hand automatically makes you a cool wife. Who doesn’t want to be a cool wife?

My husband’s beer sampling years started much earlier than mine, which means if it’s called beer, he’s probably tried it. I learned long ago that his beer choices would not be my beer choices. He’ll drink everything from extremely bitter beers to Coors Lite. This required me to venture off  to the liquor store on my own and I’ve been sampling different ones ever since. I found out that I’m a true lover of unfiltered wheats.

But trying to sample and feature different beers everyday has proven to be a tad difficult. First of all, my local packie (package store for those of you residing in the West) does sell single beers, but most of which I’ve tried. I’m scared to commit to a six-pack in case I hate it, plus the stock I’d accumulate buying six at a time just to sample a different one everyday, would make everyone in my house an alcoholic since I’d need to be pouring it on the kid’s Cherrios and feeding it to the plants just to get rid of it all. And that’s definitely a buzz-kill.

The other day I found myself in a town adjacent to mine and needed a few different beers—I figured I’d try my luck at a different packie. You know, spice it up a bit. My three-year- old daughter had fallen asleep in the backseat (of course) and being the multi-tasker that I am, I decided to stop for beer anyway. So I shelp my sleeping daughter over my shoulder, grab my mom purse, and head into the packie at around 1:30 in the afternoon.

I finally spy the cooler along the wall, which is visibly buried behind cases of liquor stacked 8 feet high, and find the one-man-wide corridor that follows the beer case. I make my way to the single beer section hoping to find a treasure trove of beer I have yet to sample.

Well, the good news is that if you’re really thirsty, there are a lot of 22-ounce beer choices. Quite a few from Wachusett Brewery, and many of the 12 ounce beers I’ve tried. Bud Light. Budweiser. Coors Light. Boring.

I can’t decide, and unlike my local packie, some young twenty-something hot guy did not come up to me within 9.7 seconds of my entrance and ask if I needed any help. And this time I was shleping a sweaty sleeping kid. So with one hand I’m holding my daughter to my body, and with the other I’m trying to decide what I should pick, noticing of course that there are no prices on the bottles or posted on those little plastic signs that always fall off the shelving. I’m holding open the cooler door with my mother-butt and grabbing bottles of beer; two 22-ouncers of Wachusett IPA (different varieties), and the only 12-ounce beer I hadn’t tried, a Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA. Apparently it was an IPA kind of afternoon.

Now I’m wrestling three bottles of cold beer with one hand and a wrist while my daughter is STILL sleeping, and trying to avert the gazes of the two people in line ahead of me who are looking at me with a mixture of pity and admonishment since I’m clearly buying 58 ounces of beer for my lunch at 1:00 in the afternoon while I drive around in my mom van. I wish I could have come up with something witty at the time, like “After the beer she had earlier wears off, she’s going to need another..” while nodding at my sleeping daughter, but I refrained. I just needed to get out of there.

The clerk rings up the total and pronounces, “That’ll be $19.38 please.”
Cough. “I’m sorry, what?” I ask, thinking he said $19.38.
“19.38,” he replies again, annoyed with the alcoholic mom and victim daughter.
“How much are the beers?” I ask, now branding myself broke, cheap, and alcoholic.
 “Well, a couple are about 5 or 6 bucks,” he tells me, barely glancing over the receipt. And there are people behind me in line. Fabulous.

I need the beers to review. It’s hot outside, my daughter is sleeping, and I’m annoyed with the register guy, so I pay the man and head outside to inspect the receipt. Besides, at this point I know I’m writing a blog about it, which is at least $19.00 worth of material.

Wachusett 22 California IP 22 oz………………$4.70.
Wachusett 22  Larry 22 oz……………………...$5.45.
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IP 12 oz…………….$7.95.

$7.95? for a 12 ounce beer? Are you telling me I only paid $2.20 more for 44 ounces of beer, than I did for 12 ounces of stuff I’ve never tried?

Let me tell you, if I am going to pay $8 bucks for a bottle of beer, not only had it better be FABULOUS beer, but I expect something to go with it. Like a ball game in stadium seats. And peanuts. Or a comedy show of blue collar proportions. During events like those I’m happy to fork over $8 bucks and a lung for a drink, but at 1:00 in the afternoon on a weekday, I’m feeling a little fleeced. Well, I think, this crap better slide down like maple syrup on a stack of warm pancakes.

I returned home and filled my husband in on the day’s journey while tending the chicken on the grill. I told him what I bought, and he replied, “Why all IPA’s? You don’t like IPA’s. They’re high octane.”

Fabulous. Where the hell was he at 1:00 in the afternoon when I needed advising? Where the hell was anyone? Why didn’t I remember I don’t like IPA’s?

I went upstairs to crack the 12 ouncer, thinking I could blog about it later in the evening, removed the cap and took a looonnnggg swill.

And about threw up. No kidding.

At this point I decided to read the bottle, where is states that not only is this beer good now, but it also gets better as it ages, like, for a year or more. Maybe I should have done a little more bottle reading before purchasing because any beer that can age like wine probably isn’t really even a beer.
I have never, in my life, tasted a beer that left me feeling like I needed to Magic Erase my tongue; that I would have rather sucked the label off glue and all than drink another swallow of that liquid. What’s a mediocre, beer-drinking, fleeced mother to do when she’s holding $8 bucks of crap in her hand? That’s right. Go give it to the husband.

I handed him the bottle as he’s asking, “So, is it good?” I shake my head and tell him to try it. He takes a loonngg swig and also coughs while swallowing. “Wow.” He says. “That’s potent stuff.”

I’ll flash to the end for you. He had one more sip trying to take one for the team since we forked over $8 dollars, but after that it went back into the freezer where it turned into an adult Flavor Ice and I threw it away. The fact that not even my husband would finish it speaks volumes. When it comes to beer he’s like Mikey—he’ll drink anything. Except that.

After the disappointing Dogfish episode, my husband broke open the Wachusett California IPA figuring the only place to go was up. That one was surely better than the first, but that’s a little like saying castor oil tastes better than sludgy motor oil. My husband was right, I didn’t care for the California IPA either—too bitter for me—so my husband selflessly drank that one (he enjoyed it I think) and I grabbed my old standby, Sam’s Summer, which of course I can drink like a soda. We decided to let the Wachusett Larry simmer awhile in the fridge because honestly, I’m not ready to admit an 0 for 3 beer count with a $20 dollar price tag.

If you’re a big fan of Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA, I’d love to hear about why you like it and also how long you’ve smoked. If you work for the Dogfish Head company, I’m not trying to slander you, but clearly do not understand why anyone would brew something that heinous. Maybe you could enlighten me. The unqualified beer critique that I am.


jennymc02375 said...

So that is the second time in a week I have heard about the Dogfish IPA. A certain husband of mine, go figure, was so excited to see that my parents local packie in CT was carrying it. He was like a kid in a candystore in that place. I'll have to let him know your thoughts, and the price of a 12oz bottle. Seriously?? $8?

Rachel said...

They have a couple different IPA's..the one I tried being the 120 minute. They have a 60 minute, a 90 minute...But yeah. The 120 minute was beyond awful and nothing I'd buy again. I just hope your husband doesn't try to brew a replica of that. Maybe there are good Dogfish Head beers out there and I just haven't sampled them yet. Have to say, I'm not in a hurry!