Have you just left the package/grocery/drug store with a six-pack or maybe a case of that same beer you drink every night? Did you make a conscious decision when you reached into the cooler, or was your beer-brain on autopilot? Do you really like what you “always” drink, or is it just a habit? When was the last time you tried something new, anyway?
I try new beers all the time (it’s a tough job) and, although I commend loyalty and have my favorites, I think it’s one of life’s little adventures to pop open a new brew and see what’s inside.
So, without wanting to nag, here are a few of my more-recent discoveries to bust you out of your same-beer rut. You may have tried them already and, if so, good on ya! If not, though, give one a whirl. If you keep reading, you’ll at least know more about any of them than I did when I popped their caps.
For light-beer lovers, Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, New York) brought us “Eurotrash Pilz” for summer and clever readers will find a few bottles left. Made with two varieties of hops and two types of malts, it’s got the sparkling clear, pale straw color and the aromas of yeast and grain (almost dough) typical of most pilsners. The flavors are hop-forward, though, taking this pilsner to the next level.
The grain goes down your throat while the hops go up your nose, for an interesting taste sensation. It’s a dry beer, with lightly scrubbing fizz. I’ve drunk a lot of actual “eurotrash” in my day and I wouldn’t mistake Eurotrash Pils for a German beer, but it’s still very good — very chuggable. My taster-helpers called it “the amazing disappearing beer.” We liked drinking it by itself … a lot. I hope this hot-weather beer isn’t all gone, because the hot weather certainly isn’t. But if it is, look for it next year and prepare to make a new friend. (5.2 percent ABV; widely available on tap and in bottles.)
The only thing “Pere Jacques 2013 Belgian Style Abbey Ale” (Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, Illinois) has in common with Eurotrash Pils is they’re both targeting a European model. Otherwise, they could not be more different. This medium-amber colored beer has a definite banana nose — although a clean, fresh, not spotty-ripe banana. It’s got a malty palate with whiskey, nutty and woody flavors mingled with, yes, a bit of banana. It’s a striking and unusual combination, slightly sweet.
Pere Jacques is not a post-lawn-mowing beer. It’s rich; not a chugger. You could serve it with German chocolate cake or Boston cream pie, no lie. As autumn starts to creep in, you can bring this one out of the cellar. (8.7 percent ABV; available wherever Bud-Busch Distributing brings beer. The label says it will develop in the bottle for up to five years, for those of you who have patience.)
At the dark end of the spectrum I’ve discovered Bayou Teche Brewing’s “LA 31 Biere Noire Dark Roasted Ale.” Looking at its deep-black color, I initially dreaded another chocolate-coffee bonanza. (Not that I’m opposed to chocolate-coffee bonanzas, I just got a little tired of them last winter and wasn’t sure I could dive back in.) LA 31, however, tastes more of pure roasted malt — the actual grain — not coffee beans. It’s quite similar to Guinness, but with more roasted-grain flavor. Try them side by side and you’ll see that, despite its appearance, Guinness is really pretty light.
The only problem with LA 31 black ale is that, according to the tasting notes on Bayou Teche’s website, it’s meant to taste of black coffee. I don’t want to burst their bubble, but compared to, say, Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Victory at Sea (a Coffee-Vanilla Imperial Porter with real coffee in every pint), this beer doesn’t taste of coffee. I think it tastes better than coffee, to be honest. It’s made with three types of roasted (German) barley malt and one kind of (American) hops, giving you a clue that malt will dominate the taste.
Bayou Teche wins for having possibly the most interesting back-story I’ve found lately, which you can also read about on their website. It seems that after a lengthy military deployment to Germany, the future brewmaster returned home wanting to create a beer to pair with the Cajun and Creole foods of his childhood — a parallel to the way regional foods and beers throughout Europe complement each other. He taught himself to brew beer, tweaking recipes to better mesh with the foods he had in mind and, in 2009, he and his brothers converted an old railroad car into their farmhouse brewery. LA 31 is brewed and bottled at Mississippi’s Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, by the way. I wonder if they don’t have room in the trailer to make enough. (5.2 percent ABV; at better package and some grocery stores.)
Now to really bust out of your beer rut, try a beer that’s not really a beer: Stone’s “Ginger Joe” alcoholic Ginger Beer. It calls itself “refreshingly feisty” on the label, and it’s exactly that. A strong-flavored, full-bodied, quite gingery and sweet beverage — I liked its taste a lot, although it was almost too sweet and flavorful to drink with anything else (i.e., food). If you like intense ginger flavor, Stone’s got it. You won’t mistake it for “ginger ale,” that’s certain. Its roots claim to burrow all the way back to 1740 in London, where a greengrocer named Joseph Stone founded the “noble house of Stone” and began experimenting with ginger-based tipples. (This Stone is not to be confused with San Diego-based Stone Brewing Company, maker of Arrogant Bastard Ale and Ruination IPA, among other non-ginger beers. 4 percent ABV; made in London but available locally in bottles.)
There’s a lot of great beer out there, so get off autopilot and climb out of your rut!