The other day, Josh Short over at Short on Beer posted a very nice piece about the obsession with some craft beer fans about trying as many new beers as they possibly can, even to the exclusion of drinking what they consider their favorite beers.
It was a very interesting point of view on a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a while, although admittedly, from a slightly different angle. I was wondering how much (if at all) this continued activity of trying as many beers as possible impacts the everyday drinking habits of craft beer lovers. In other words, every craft beer fan has their favorite, go-to beers, but how often is that clique breached by any of the many beers we try in the name of variety. Do beers ever get called up to the big leagues from Triple-A, or are they all just a long list of forgotten UnTappd check-ins?
First, in order to lay this out I’d like to change the word “favorite” to “regulars”. I’m doing this for the purpose of this discussion because I want to address beers that you drink regularly because you really enjoy them. They’re easily accessible to you (either year round or seasonally) and you’re confident that you can walk away with one of your regulars visiting just about any liquor store near you, and not be hindered by things like distribution.
For instance, you may have had Pliny the Elder once, and it might be one of your all-time favorite beers. Heck it may be your favorite beer period. But out here on the East coast, unless you live in Philly or travel there on a regular basis, you can’t really call it a regular. You’re at the whim of the beer gods, waiting for them to see fit to allow you’re unworthy palete to cross paths with it again.
For the purposes of this post, I’m also going to refer to the long list of beers that we try as “one-and-dones”. Not really a flattering term but let’s face it, in reality that’s what a majority of the beers we try end up being. Drink. Enjoy. Next!
So with those concepts firmly planted, let’s ask the question, “Have any of the one-and-done beers you’ve had in your tireless pursuit to try every beer out there ever made it into your regulars?” And I’d follow that up with, “And if so, how often does it happen?”
In order to give some context to this question, and because, well, I asked it, allow me run down a quick list of some of my regulars as examples and then give a couple examples of one-and-dones that have successfully cracked their ranks.
First, the regulars:
Guinness – No surprise here if you’ve read my St Paddy’s day posts. And I’ll be honest, except for when I get an itch or if I find myself in a bar where it is the best option, that’s the only time I drink this beer. While that may seem to disqualify it as a regular, I still consider it such because it’s my stout of choice for St Paddy’s, if only because Murphey’s is so hard to find around here, and consider it my absolute go-to beer, especially in bars that don’t offer much in the way of craft beer.
Arrogant Bastard – Now we’re getting to a true regular. This is quite simply the “Wednesday beer”. Every Wednesday is pasta night at tDoB, which also means that it is wine night. However, I like to drink a beer when I’m cooking and save the wine for the meal, and this beer is almost always my choice. Oh, I’ll admit, sometimes I get led astray by some fermented shiny red ball that walks into the liquor store that sits next to the ACME, but for the most part I’m able to resist because I know what I’m getting when it comes to AB. The last beer that took its place was one of Stone’s Enjoy By beers, which now are beginning to strike me as rather annoyingly hypish. Besides, for the price of a shiny red ball, I can usually buy two Bastards. Winning. Over time however, I’ve become less and less shackled by the calendar and find myself picking up a bottle just about every time I stop at the ACME, which, because I have a 17 and 21 year old at home, is more often than I’d like to admit.
Delirium – I’m cheating a little bit on this one, because I’m going to lump two beers together. But regardless, Tremens is an absolute favorite of mine. Not only is it the beer of Halloween night, but whenever I got to Max’s in Baltimore or Jessup’s in New Castle it’s always the first beer I ask for. In fact, it has led to my overused joke, “Delirium is the beer I drink while I’m deciding what my first beer is going to be.” However, around Christmas Tremens may be replaced by Noel in some places which is fine by me as it is happens to be my Christmas Eve beer. Every Year. No exceptions.
Blithering Idiot – While I do shy away from it a bit in the summer, during the darker, cooler months this is a staple at my house, usually on a Friday night. Four Idiots slowly enjoyed throughout the evening always seems to be just what the doctor ordered. I also have it every time I come across it on draft.
And now, the one-and-dones that have become regulars:
Flying Dog Raging Bitch – I don’t remember when the first time I picked up this hybrid Belgian-style Pale Ale, but I’m sure it was for the same reason I picked up Arrogant Bastard, the name! How could you not try this?!? But what could easily have been another harmless* one-and-done, or long forgotten Untappd check-in has become one of the most welcomed beers in my fridge. I love this beer, and pick it up every time nothing else on the shelf strikes my fancy.
Twin Lakes Greenville Pale – I’m cheating again. Even if I didn’t have this genetic need to try every beer I can get my hands on, I probably would still have given this one a taste because it is local. Having said that, this jumped immediately to “regular” status due to its easy drink-ability and the fact that it just flat out goes great with food. Any time the grill is lit at tDoB, you can bet there’s a six-pack of Greenville in the fridge.
Brooklyn Brewing Sorachi Ace – This beer is probably the best example of a beer that I considered going in to my first glass as being a one-and-done and ended up being very surprise how fast it grew on me. Gary over at Lyrics, Libations, and Life was posting about a Saison he was brewing in which he used this Japanese hop because he found its “lemongrass” quality something he wanted to explore. I thought it sounded interesting, so when I came across this beer on draft at Two Stones Pub, I decided to give it a shot even though in a point of full disclosure, Brooklyn is not one of the breweries I tend to gravitate towards. What I found was a thoroughly enjoyable beer whose hop characteristics were indeed different from your usual Cascade/Simcoe/Chinook type ale that is overly common in the beer market. Sorachi Ace has taken on “Delirium” status in my list of regulars, when it’s on draft it is ALWAYS the first beer I have, usually in a Mug at Two Stones, and a few bottles have been known to sneak into my house from time to time. If they sold in it reasonably priced six-packs, it might have to sign a lease agreement for as much time as it would reside in my fridge.
So there you have it. I know, I know. Every one of my regular beers (except for Guinness maybe) started out as a one-and-done from my continuing search for different craft beers, as chances are so did yours. So there’s a lot of gray area to this topic of discussion depending how far alone you are in your personal craft beer pilgrimage. Guilty. But over time, as you try new beers, you do build up a core of beers that become your regulars, those you go to when you “just want a beer” (is “comfort beer” a term? CLAIMED!), and many of the one-and-dones that parade through your glass will never reach that lofty status. But some do.
What are yours?