A Beer Journey Across America, Chapter 1

What if you found yourself a thousand miles from home, with nothing but the kindness of strangers, and the beer they bestowed upon you, to comfort you in your hour of need?

Would you hold up?

Would you gird up your loins and take deep breaths and soak up the majesty of this fine land? Would you be sufficiently able to appreciate and respect the unforseen, the unplanned, the heretofore unknown path and revel in the newness and uncertainty of it?

Or would you wilt and suffer in it?

This intrepid blogger, quite involuntarily, had to walk this path and determine this through the only way that an individual truly can. He had to live it. He had to walk this road and determine, upon emergence at the terminus of the path, whether he was better or worse for wear.

This, friends, is my story.

I spent this past week on travel, for work, in beautiful Dallas, Texas. It was “July in Texas” warm, which is to say, it was hotter than butts stuffed up inside of other butts, the way that mozzarella gets sometimes stuffed inside of a pizza crust. But, as they say, a “dry heat.”

The week included meetings, and Uber rides, and Mexican and Thai food, and even an MLB game.

A game in which I partook of a local Texas Amber and another local IPA. They were both delicious, by delicious, meaning, they were cold and caused me to feel less sober than I did at the onset of each one. Because ultimately, that’s the thing, right there.

Our journey home is where things took a turn.

This trip, meant to be from Dallas, to a connecting flight in Boston, and then on to Syracuse, did not go as planned. An audible was called. Thunderstorms, and the kindly guidance of friends in the airline industry, suggested and then imposed the revised itinerary of a detour through Chicago.

It did not go as planned.

Luckily, we made friends. And not just the pleasant, pass the time making idle chit chat type of friends, but “friends with benefits.”

(Bloggers’ note: Non sexual benefits.)

Our new friends, Syracuse residents like ourselves, on business travel also, suggested we share an Uber downtown, as we all called the same “take the train” audible in the absence of concrete air travel plans. “Come,” they said, “live with us, in forests of azure,” to paraphrase the Lizard King himself. In this case, this non travel detour included a couple of key highlights. One being delicious local Chicago pizza (not “Deep Dish Pizzer,” a la the Bill Swerski Super Fans show), and another being local Chicago beers.

This, my friends, is the Revolution Brewing “Eugene Robust Porter.” I cannot tell you what the brewmasters may have intended, not without internet, but I can tell you that it’s a classic porter style beer, dark and rich and yet smooth and satisfying. Like watching a lumberjack bleed out into the snow while humming a CSNY song.

Somehow, my 14 hour detour of a train ride home included these two things.

And yet, wait. The story gets better.

“Come with us,” my new friends implored. “Take advantage of the hospitality of our employer, we have a fully stocked bar.” These fantastic sassy Chicago/Syracuse gals happened to work for an organization that feels (rightfully, mayhaps) that the best way to ensure their employees’ happiness is to keep them fully stocked with not only beer, and wine, but a vending machine full of free dental supplies.

If I’m lyin, I’m dyin

We felt the need to “pre game” this 14 hour bus ride. On account of the fact that, well, we didn’t have a ton else to do, and the price was right. So we dipped into the “office stash.”

I drank them, they deserved it

The beer on the right is a Ballast Point “sculpin IPA.” I have knocked back my fair share of these. Grapefruit, tangerine, and others. They all go down nice, like a free beer should.

The beer on the left is a 10% kick ass “double IPA.” My travelling companion, not being the drunk-tional beer blogger sort, found this one to be a bit strong for his liking. I gave it a proper home.

This next one was another “Revolution” brewery beer. I do not have a specific recollection of it, having knocked most of it back in the very brief interval of waiting for my third Uber of the day (from my new besties’ work to the train station).

Also a beer. I drank it. NEXT

We headed off to the train station.

Looks nice. Like your mom, if she were a building

But not before getting a couple of brewskis for the long ride home (seriously, how great is my new friends’ work fridge? I might have to update my resume when I get home).

This is not my life. It’s a parable

Part 2 to be posted shortly, and, by shortly, I mean, over the next 13 hours of train travel and sneaky IPA drinking. Plus, we have leftover pizza left to consume. So much left to tell!

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A Game of Thrones Beer Review: For the Throne

I want to believe the best in people, in things, in the world around me.  I’m an optimistic man.  That’s my nature, really, has been for a long time.

Based on that, I wanted desperately for two of my favorite things to come together in a synergistic holistic fashion and be great together.  Those two things being a craft beer and Game of Thrones.

But sometimes I have to face the reality of the world.  Not everything can be great.

I’ve enjoyed season 8 of GoT so far, and the build up to the series finale.  I’ll be sad when it’s all said and done, but I hold out hope that some magical day, George R.R. Martin will finish the series and I’ll have new GoT content to absorb.

In the interim, well, there’s For the Throne.

For the Throne. To the sink.

 

Produced by Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown, just a few short hours down the road from me, I was hoping to give this beer a glowing review and offer it up as the perfect compliment to the home stretch of my favorite television show (I watch very little television besides Mets games).

But I can’t do that. Why?

Because this beer tastes like Renly Baratheon’s asshole.

I wish it weren’t so, but it is.

It’s touted as a “strong golden ale is co-fermented with Pinot Grigio and Viognier grape juices, then bottle conditioned with Champagne yeast.” It should sound like an odd amalgam of ingredients and process and it tasted that way to me. Too funky to be fruity, it wasn’t a beer or wine or champagne. It was just a yellowish alcoholic mess, like Barney from the Simpsons.

What, specifically, does it taste like? (Note, these jokes will ring hollow to those non followers of GoT).

It tastes like the underboob sweat of Robert Baratheon.

It tastes, well, I’d imagine, like what it would taste like if you wrung out Master Aemon’s diapers into a beer bottle.

It tastes, perhaps, like the gunk that got stuck in Cersei’s hair when she did the walk of shame.

It tastes, I think, the way I would think a hot pie tastes, if the hot pie was just a crust surrounding horse diarrhea.

It tastes like the goop underneath Ser Jorah’s grayscales when Samwell cleaned him up.

It tastes like the last thing Joffrey tasted before he bellyflopped and died at his own wedding reception.

It tastes, to me, like the bottom of the chest that Varys held his castrator in for all that time.

Maybe others might disagree, think it’s a great and unique and interesting flavored product. But I’m taking the black before I take another sip of this sucker.

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Two Beers, One Lunch: Back to the Hops Spot, Again, Some More

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a “Two Beers, One Lunch” post, and there’s actually a good reason for that.

In December of 2018 I changed employers.  My new job is located further from the downtown eateries, and, also, because I am newer and still learning, it’s a tougher situation to drink two beers and then go back for an afternoon at work without risk being branded as “unprofessional.”  Or “a big lush.”

But this past week, after taking my first turn in an on call rotation, I had accumulated enough hours worked to be able to take a half day on Friday, which meant lunch out followed by a trip home to nap.

This meant a prime opportunity to return to the Hops Spot.

You may recall, dear reader, my previous trips to the Hops Spot, saved for posterity here, and then also here, and finally, also here!

Yes, there’s a pattern.  This is my preferred spot to go grab some delicious grub while also having a couple of brews.  I’ve yet to have a bad meal there, and they routinely keep a list of 40+ beers on tap from all over the northeast U.S. of A.

This meal started out with the Fat Orange Cat Brew “All Cats are Gray in the Dark” white stout.  This is a brewing company based out of East Hampton, CT, and they make a fine ass beer right here.

Pictured in the background, in blur, is one of my regular two companions, whom I will refer to as “the Imbiber.”

Yes, you read that right. Stout.

 

I’ve never had a white stout before, but having recently enjoyed a black lager, and after a ringing endorsement of this drink by our server (who swore that if you drank it with your eyes closed you’d never know it wasn’t a dark beer in color), I took the plunge.

Magnificent!

Hints of coffee, chocolate and vanilla, as per the menu, and I could say that I wasn’t really feeling the vanilla, but I was all about the coffee and chocolate flavors here.  My other companion, “the Sampler,” used the word “witchcraft” to describe this concoction, light in color but dark in taste, and I agreed that that was the best way to describe it. You could legitimately close your eyes and imagine it going down as a dark, rich stout.

The meal?  Well, after a number of visits enjoying the classique poutine, this trip I went with the very Indian flavored Chicken Tikka Masala poutine.

This is some shit right here!

 

Made up of fries, chicken tikka masala (Indian spiced) curry style gravy, chicken, cheese curds and fresh cilantro, it scratched me right where I itch. No, not the butthole. What I mean by that is, no one else in my family enjoys Indian food. Therefore, I look for opportunities to indulge in that style of cooking where I can.

Next up, beer number two, and I went with the full pint here.  Because I had the afternoon off and was headed right to bed after this, I figured, why not?

This second beer was the Stoneyard Progressive Adult v1 sour farmhouse IPA.

Big and sour and magical, and featuring “the Sampler” in the background

 

This was another winner! The sour, ITBMCBB*, is described officially as a “juicy, sweet/tart IPA. Brewed with lactose, oats, natural peach and orange flavors, lots and lots of Citra hops, lactic acid. Mmmmmmm.”

I agree with each of these things! Noticed the peach flavor specifically, but honestly, it was just a refreshingly tart and tasty sour beer. I’d buy another one of these, for sure.

So, let’s review. What have we learned here today?

1. This blogger keeps going back to the Hops Spot to try new menu items and also pick fresh choices from an always changing selection of delicious beers!

2. This blogger has two companions, “the Imbiber” and “the Sampler,” who make for pleasant company and co-enjoyment of beers and poutine.

3. I’m just dreaming about Indian food while eating American fare with my family.

4. Sours and stouts are great! (OK, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you knew that already)

 

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Ceetar, You Ignorant Slut (or, “Guinness is, in fact, the Perfect Beer”)

With all apologies to my esteemed coblogger, Ceetar, no, “Nugget Nectar” is not the perfect beer.

(Author’s note: Hat tip to, of course, SNL, for providing the inspiration for the title of this post.)

(Author’s additional note: I have not in fact ever tried a Nugget Nectar beer, so it is premature for me to not declare it to be the perfect beer, but I do hope to try one sometime in the near future.)

The perfect beer is, of course, a Guinness.

Not Guinness blonde, or extra stout, which are in fact fine choices.  I’m talking about the original Guinness Irish Dry Stout.

Let’s review.

Why is Guinness the perfect beer?

First of all, it’s the beer that got me off of the “yellow lager at the ballpark” mentality, and out into the great big world of beers that are out there, to see what else tastes different, and enjoyable.

Second of all, it’s available everywhere.  Lots of places have it on draft (more on this in a moment).  It’s generally pretty reasonably priced.

Third of all, it’s got a distinct flavor.  I’ve drank probably 200 different beers in the last two years, but if you put a blindfold on me and put a Guinness in front of me, I’d know it.

Fourth of all, it’s got just 125 calories per 12 oz serving.  Now, any respectable Guinness drinker is either getting a 16 oz pint at a bar or alternately popping open a 16 oz can at home, but, still, even at that ratio, you’re still getting far fewer calories from a Guinness than you are from most craft beers and IPAs.  While that may not matter to everyone, for those of us who are attentive to not being ginormous gastropods, every little bit counts.

Fifth of all, and perhaps best, when you get those beautiful 16 oz cans to drink at home (do not buy the bottles, while they taste like a Guinness, they don’t do this), and you crack one open, nitrogen from a “widget” is released, simulating the draft beers that are charged with nitrogen, and you get this fantastic and wonderful visual effect (forgive the shakiness here, I am squatting after a long day of work, exercise, drinking, etc.).  Not to mention, that very comparable draft beer taste and feel.

Last of all, and, maybe the best reason, Guinness is delicious.  Drink one, you’ll see.  You will feel like Arnold does in “Predator” when he gives the flamethrower battle cry from the trees.

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Run, Relax, Refresh: Now and Later

Lest the reader think that the default state of the Barley Prose blogger is in full repose, drink in hand, perhaps being fanned by palm fronds or fed grapes by bikini clad servant girls, I’m here to inform you that there’s actually a very active side of the spectrum on the Barley Prose writing staff.

That’s right, it’s another installment of Run, Relax, Refresh!

Run!

First, the run. This is the very well known “Tipp Hill Shamrock Run” 4 mile race course.

This “spring” race (spring in quotes, because, in Syracuse, a March race usually features temperatures very un-springlike) is an annual tradition, being run for the 14th time in 2019, and most years attracting upwards of a couple of thousand runners. Getting people to come out and run a hilly four miles in weather best described as “balls-ass cold” is no small feat, but this historic neighborhood is just the draw to get people to shake off their late winter doldrums. There is live music along the course, people in wacky costumes, and tons of free booze (mimosas, Jameson, etc.) being handed out to the less speed-inclined. It’s a fine morning workout and I’ll be running it myself for the ninth consecutive year.

My local run club gets out on this course a couple of times each winter, with the cooperative efforts of local pubs, for a course preview followed by morning refreshment. Here we are.

Coffee? Uh, no, I’ll find something frothier

NOTE: many of the runners in my club opted for coffee and breakfast pizza post-run, not everyone is so inclined to cracking into a draft beer at 9:30 in the morning, but, then again, not all of them write for such a prestigious publication as the Barley Prose blog.

I held back a bit on pace, knowing that I had a 14 mile training run (technically a half marathon being raced at training pace, plus a 1 mile cooldown) on tap for the following morning. Plus it was my first day back after a week in Cancun and I was feeling the briskness of a Syracuse February morn.

Here’s my Strava of the course.  Because, of course, unless it shows up there, it almost certainly didn’t happen.

Relax!

We started and ended our run at the Now and Later Bottle Shop and Tap Room, placed conveniently right around mile 1.3 of the race course. This is a concept that I am a big fan of – while these folks don’t brew their own beers, they keep a well stocked set of beers on tap for convivial moments, such as after a group run for example.  The bar is complete with funky taps and a nice range of semi-local micro brews.

Choices! But, just you wait…

The other half of this facility is a place where the buyer can go select a four, six or twelve pack of a wide assortment of beers to take home with them. It’s a good concept, have one in the tap room and get more to go! They have a number of their choices stocked in the cooler adjacent to the bar. This is really the kind of wall I can get behind, politically and spiritually.

Wall of beers <sniff>
Refresh!

My beverage of choice this morning was the Kings Country Brewers’ Collective offering of a “Morbid Hour” Black Pilsner.

Bonus points for the glasses with the tap room name on them, for the forgetful sort

There’s a nice interview here with the folks at KCBC, a Brooklyn brewery located in Bushwick. Both the brewers and their clientele count themselves as fans of “metal” and brewed this beer specifically for a series on the “most metal breweries” and for a music and drinking fest entitled the “Decibel Metal and Beer Fest.” This beer, despite being called a pilsner, is in fact a black lager or “Schwarzbier,” but was named as a pilsner so as to be more appealing to the masses.

I enjoyed the crud out of this beer!  It was smooth and had a nice finish.  Dark, but not as heavy as a porter or a stout.  Not sure what it is about a dark beer, it could be that I started out as a Guinness man and the dark beers just all appeal to me.  I’ll be digging into this thought in an upcoming post.

As usual, I will let the prose-inator carry this post to the finish line…

“This beer tastes like what it would taste like if a

made love to a

in the middle of a

and then together raised a baby with their shared feelings of

and, finally, that baby cried

tears of

into a frosty pint glass.”

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Down With the Sickness

Sometimes, a fella has to put his beer glass down and take a little break.

Ideally, it’s a self regulated decision.  As in, whoa, you know, feels like time to dry out a bit, pull back on the reins, ease off the gas pedal, insert your favorite metaphor here for being less beered up all the time.  Maybe make that call before people are pulling you into a room and giving you the intervention drama, like on TV (a show that has car crash watchability for me personally).

Or, maybe, it’s a financial decision.  These delicious craft beers and porters and stouts and imperials all cost more than a draft of American lager that I was happy to slug down all of those years.  Maybe a break from drinking is just a way to replenish the bank account.  I can respect that.

Or, maybe, you’ve got something cooking like I do.

Incoming!

Bird flu.  SARS.  Asian swine flu.  Swamp fever.  Dengue.   (NOTE: I am not a medical professional).

Basically, life has sneezed AIDS into my mouth and now I’m hurting.

For the better part of the last six days I’ve felt more or less like the guy in “Jurassic Park” who gets eaten by the T-Rex when he’s sitting on the toilet.  Wet, panicky, hiding, on the bowl, waiting to die.  That’s my week.

Not really the recipe for finely crafted words about the merits of a certain sour cran concoction served up by the local watering hole, which has been calling me over an Instagram post since Friday.

Not really the recipe for a Flagship February post about Guinness, the beer that really put me on a road towards finding out what else there was to drink in the beer aisle that I was missing out on.

Not really the recipe for that “cross promotional” theme I had been cooking up in my head based on the recently enjoyed Harpoon Dunkin Porter – like, when do we get the Heinz Ketchup Red Ale?  The Oscar Meyer Dirty Dog Water Light Lager?  And so on…

Not really the recipe for my idea of tying quirky beers to odd folks in my neighborhood, like the whisper thin Asian teen at my local Wegmans who pushes carts back in to the store, and talks to himself loudly all day, or the lady at work who draws her eyebrows on asymmetrically and reminds me of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.

And, sure as sugar, not the recipe for drinking and appreciating beers!

So, in the interim, I shall sit here and suck on my ice water, and dream of better health and thirstier days, and the wherewithal to put it all down in new prose for this fine blog.

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Do You Even Crowler, Bro?

Until not that long ago, I would have assumed that if you mentioned a “crowler” in front of me, that you were just making up words.  I was not always the astute and seasoned blogger, admirer, criticizer and prose generating beer themed adult who sits here today.

I was just a boy, once.

Only the biggest bestest beers get to live in the Guinness glass

 

It turns out that a number of these new craft beer tasting/tap rooms are also willing to sell a beer to go. The standard size is the growler, a 64 oz. portion.

Now, sadly, I am the only one in my household who tends to lean back in the chair for a beer. Which means that a to go serving with the equivalent of four 16 oz. glasses of beer is just an awful lot for me to bring home.

As awesome as it is to have your own jug of beer. A jug!

I don’t own this but it’s nicer than most of the furniture in my house.

Well, this is where the crowler comes in.

The crowler is a 32 ounce serving of beer to go. This equates to two very tall, full pours into a 16 oz pint glass. My most prized piece of glassware, the Guinness glass, holds a bit more, making for a more comfortable drinking experience.

I am all about this! Two tall beers is a decent amount of drink, maybe it’s one with dinner and one later in the evening, or one while cooking and then the rest at the meal. It works either way.

This was the first crowler I ever purchased. It’s a rite of passage, for me, in a sense, in that it’s another step into a world of appreciation for the finer things. Like locally brewed and concocted beers and ales.

This crowler came courtesy of the fine folks at Full Boar Brewing in North Syracuse, New York. I have written about them before, in glowing phrases. They really do conjure up a great range of beers, from New England IPAs, to stouts and porters, American style pale ales, ambers, and so on.

This is their new “Imperial Cin,” an imperial oatmeal stout. This sucker clocks in at 10.7% ABV and 54 IBUs, and, IFBMCBB*, is “brewed with Cinnamon Sticks and Madagascar Vanilla Beans.” Fine choices, says I.

“Crowled” on December 21, in time for Festivus

I do drink a lot of stouts, so I figured I’d put on my researcher’s cap and determine what the difference is between a stout and an imperial stout. It turns out that in most modern cases, an imperial stout is just made in a fashion where the hops and malts are doubled or tripled during brewing, leading to higher alcohol content and more pronounced flavors.

This particular stout was delicious. I went in on a busy night just before Xmas and had a tiny sample of it to get a sense of the flavor, and then immediately decided to get a crowler to go.

This was, for me, my “gift wrapping” crowler, as I very deliberately knocked back two servings of it while wrapping all of the gifts that went under the tree for the family. A perfect mid-wrap quench, it was (they were).

Forgive the lateness of this post, our Xmas tree is now relegated to a big plastic bag due to January.

 

I will let the Prose-inator bring this one home. Happy crowlering, y’all!

“This beer tastes like what it would taste like if a

made love to a

in the middle of a

and then together raised a baby with their shared feelings of

and, finally, that baby cried

tears of

into a frosty pint glass.”

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Reports from the Wild: Stiff Mitten Spiced Winter Ale

After a long hiatus, we’re finally happy to share a new post from our intrepid field reporter Breezer Marieezer (follower her on Instagram here!), who gives a fine counterpoint to my own determination that winter beers are somehow all just 12 oz servings of reindeer piss.  Today’s review is the Woodcock Brothers’ Brewery Stiff Mitten Spiced Winter Ale.  Cheers, Bree!

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Winter Lager: The Unbearable Grossness of Being

Beat it, old man
Seasons change and so did I, you need not wonder why.

- The Guess Who, "No Time" (1969)

Living in the Northeastern United States, I am privileged to get a full on experience of all four seasons of the calendar. Unlike some other parts of our fair nation, which oscillate between “extreme summer” and “moderately extreme summer,” or “rainy” and “fuck off, so rainy,” we get clearly demarcated spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons here.

Sure, sure, I’m the first to admit, that in Syracuse, winter comes on stronger than a Bill Cosby date and lingers far longer into spring than I’d care for. This is a small price to pay, in my opinion, for a chance to live and enjoy the range of climate-related emotions.

It’s tough, for example, to find a place more scenic than upstate New York in autumn, when the colors are at the peak of change, and the foliage snaps in bright and forceful reds, oranges, and yellows.

Unless that critical eye is turned to the same place in January, after a fresh coat of pure white snow has blanketed the landscape, covering the world in serenity and beauty. It’s just like a postcard, I find myself telling others.

Spring, once it’s finished taking it’s sweet ass time arriving, is truly a time of rebirth, of newness, where we can rub the winter’s sleep out of our eyes, dust off our bikes from a winter of indoor-trainer/non-use, plant our gardens, and put the Eskimo layers away for a well deserved hiatus.

Summer? Well, summer takes me to the joys of my childhood, long days riding bikes in the neighborhood, swimming at the Rec Center pool, ice cream, baseball games. Laying out in the sun, eyes closed, on my desk and soaking up all of that vitamin D just there for the taking.

BUT WHAT ABOUT BEER?

Oh, for certain, every season brings its own delightful seasonal beers to be enjoyed. Like I needed another reason to look forward to summer or fall!

Well, not every season. I can’t really figure out if there’s such a thing as spring beers. I think we maybe should be drinking dandelion wine or just wringing out our mittens and hoping that something has fermented in them over the course of the winter. But aside from that, hell yeah! Seasonal beers!

Summer, to me, is the time to drink light, fruity beers, beers that go well with being outdoors and enjoying the warmest of days.

Fall? Well, that’s a good time for those delicious Oktoberfest lagers, brewed up for mid September and available for a good chunk of the autumn.

Winter is stout season, to me. Thick, high alcohol content, dark and delicious and filled with complex flavors.

However, there’s another trend I’ve noted in winter beers and from the title of this post I think you see where I’m going with this.

What the fuck is the deal with winter lagers?

More like what the moose left behind, am I right?

You’ll notice that over the course of this post, none of these beers are shown in my home, or in a pint glass, or a frosty mug, or, really, even unleashed from the bottles.  That is intentional.

When I started drinking beers a couple of years ago, with an eye for new flavors and textures, I sampled a number of winter ales, Christmas beers, and seasonal lagers.

 

 

Santa gives these to naughty adults

I noticed, very quickly, that they all share a common characteristic.

They are nasty.

I’m also not alone in thinking this.  I’ve heard these quotes offered up by Ceetar, my co-blogger here.

 

 

Oh, I know, pinecone flavored beer!

“There are times the Sly Fox feels like I’m eating a jar of allspice.”

” I’m not saying winter warmers necessarily taste like rotted pumpkins, but I’m not not saying it either.”

 

 

 

I personally will go one step further, and break out the all new negative prose-inator.

That’s right!  For the specific sole purpose of capturing the sheer grossness of drinking, in beer form, the first three random spices that fall out of my spice rack, I’ve come up with an all new random negative praise generator.  Let’s give it a spin, shall we?

“This beer tastes like the embodiment of the disappointment that I would imagine the parents of uber-celebrity

would feel if they knew that their child was consorting and cavorting with the likes of a totally unknown

instead of another celebrity of equal fame, value and prestige.”

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The Six Pack Commitment

 

Commitment is an act, not a word. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
Oatmeal – It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore™

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*.”

They don’t all fit under the Xmas tree, sadly

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.

Six heroes. Fighting injustice.

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).

I feel like we can make this work, oatmeal stout.

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>

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