Commitment is an act, not a word. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
There’s an entire sub-genre, it would seem, of stand up comedians and nervous protagonists of rom-com movies who lament on the American male’s deep reluctance to make a commitment. Perhaps this is hyperbole, or a stereotype that is easy pickings for humorists. Or, perhaps not. Maybe men really do have a harder time committing.
But what does this have to do with beer?
I’m getting to that, imaginative dialogue partner. Be patient.
This writer has found that the best way to discover and appreciate new beers, in the part of the world where I reside, is the very magical “Craft Your Own Pack” offer at Wegmans. For future brevity, I will refer to this as the CYOP*, and the act of purchasing and enjoying these beers as “cyopping*.”
I’ve touched on this before, in previous posts. For a very reasonable $10.99, thirsty Americans can choose six different beers from a handsomely displayed set of refrigerated shelves full of ambers, pilsners, lagers, stouts, ales, pale ales, IPAs, and even ciders and lemonades.
(It should also be noted that, unless watchful eyes are afoot, a person could theoretically take individual beers from craft four and six packs in the adjacent aisles and place them discretely into their “craft my own pack” holder, and the seller is none the wiser. Though my own Wegmans now has an employee stalking those very aisles every Saturday and Sunday morning, perhaps meant to halt that sort of rogue shopping banditry style cyopping).
This is the most recent six pack I crafted. A typical range of pales, IPAs, sours, fruity beers, and other mouthwatering treats meant to delight both young (well, you know, 21+ young) and old alike.
Of these six beers, four are new to me. I’ve knocked back my share of Bel Air Sours and Sierra Nevada Pale Ales over recent months — they are both delicious representatives of the sour and American Pale Ale genres. The IPAs are ones I have not tried as of yet. The amber ale was tasty, and refreshing, and while the blood orange ale was as well, though it could have stood more orange flavor.
But the bigger question is, would I commit to buying an entire six pack of any of these?
(Confession: I attended a birthday party for my wife’s cousin’s 3 year old son, two weekends ago, and grabbed a six pack of the Sierra Nevada pale ales to bring based on her cousin’s statement of “I’ll drink anything you bring over” and a limited subset available at the local gas station I hit on my way out of town. But those were bought knowing that I would only likely be having two, and sharing the others with him and any other guest that wanted one. So that doesn’t count, for purposes of this discussion.)
I’m talking about the six pack commitment. Six of the same beers, in a row, in my fridge, all at once. To be drank, over a relatively short time frame, in order to clear out room for the next six beers.
(Author’s note: I’m not talking about that sad pack of hard lemonades, originally six but perpetually five, that the wife thought she might enjoy, slowly turning into Lemon Pledge in the back. I’m talking about Daddy’s beers, friends.)
I’ve faced this dilemma before. I’ll have a beer, on tap in a bar or restaurant, or in one of these choose-your-own-adventure six packs, and enjoyed enough to take the plunge. I’ll go to Wegmans and buy a sixer of that variety, and by the time I’m halfway through it, I’ve had enough. Sort of a best case buyer’s regret (I mean, they’re still beers, paid for, in my house, so I’m not exactly suffering).
Maybe this is a side effect of choosing fruity, off-the-beaten-path flavored beers. A berry ale that seems refreshing once every four or five months loses some of its magic if I’ve had 3 or 4 over a week’s time. This is the beer drinker’s equivalent of looking at everyone else’s date at a wedding and wondering what those other gals can do that your own date cannot, or shall not.
So, to be concise, a beer has to be pretty special for me to make the six pack commitment. I had this one, in a recent CYOP, and deemed it worthy.
I took the plunge with the Great Lakes Brewery Ohio City Oatmeal Stout (5.4% ABV, 25 IBU).
There is just something about oatmeal stouts that appeals to me. First off, while I am a cold cereal & milk guy most days, my default plan B breakfast is a bowl of instant maple brown sugar oatmeal. The stuff keeps on the pantry shelf for ten thousand years, and doesn’t require anything besides a half cup of boiling water (good for days when there’s no milk left) and, if circumstances allow it, maybe a small pat of butter.
So maybe the oatmeal stout appeals to my innate love of warm, soothing oatmeal breakfasts.
Maybe it’s just that rich, chocolatey, silky kind of flavor that they all seem to possess. I can’t think of a single oatmeal stout that I didn’t at least passively enjoy. It’s specific to oatmeal stouts, too, as the Russian Imperials and milk stouts don’t grab me the same way.
Some of these oatmealers, such as the Buried Acorn’s (which they have sadly not brewed in some months), were worthy enough to get their own blog post. Others, like the Ommegang oatmeal stout, or the Blue Moon cappuccino oatmeal stout, are like one night stands in my mouth, just coming across my palette briefly but remembered fondly the next morning. And yet others, as in the Full Boar Dark Victory Oatmeal Stout, to be dreamed of and likely prose’d here as well someday.
Others, though, well, if they’re locally available in the six pack format, and I’ve already sampled them at a local pub or through a recent cyopping, well, then, I’ll get down on one knee, and in a classic romantic fashion, offer my commitment to drinking them.
<cue rom-com tissue honking and/or sitcom applause track>