I am notoriously indecisive – painfully so, according to my boyfriend. It’s not that I don’t care, but the opposite; some decisions require careful consideration. What to wear? What to eat for dinner? What to watch on TV?
While these classic conundrums can slip me up from time to time, they are no match for my most problematic regular decision – what beer to get?
I find myself in the same situation every time: I’m at the grocery and I’ve picked up everything else on my list except beer. Perhaps I save the beer for last, because I know the dilemma that awaits? No matter. I will hem and haw in the beer aisle for what seems like an eternity, even to me. I inspect every bottle that I’ve never seen before; I read the description, check the ABV and IBU, critique the label design – I may even google search the beer for ratings. And then finally after much deliberation, I pick up two six-packs, because choosing only one is impossible.
The first time I saw a “build your own six-pack” display at a store a few years ago, I approached with caution, understanding my propensity for waffling. But to my surprise and contrary to logic or reason, this increasingly popular store feature has helped me significantly reduce my time spent picking out beer. Instead of taking ages to make a selection, I can quickly once-over the bottled offerings, select six different beers and be on my way. Sure, one or two of the beers may not be great, but that’s OK.
The “build your own” phenomenon is great for beer snobs and newbies alike, with the ultimate benefit being that you can expose yourself to a variety of beers without the commitment of the entire six-pack. That being said, I’ve reviewed and ranked six different brews that I recently picked up at Viking Premium Beverage, with a “Christmas, but not Christmas Ale” theme in mind. The beers are ranked from least to most enjoyable
6. Shock Top Brewing Co., St. Louis, MO – Chocolate Wheat – 4.3%
The beer pours a dark black with little head on top and boasts a strong chocolate nose. The unfiltered wheat flavor is very present in front, but finishes too sweet and chocolatey. The chocolate flavor lingers and tastes artificial. I have to admit that I anticipated hating this beer, and I did; I might have liked this beer before I liked the taste of beer.
5. Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, MN – Winter Ale – 6.5%, 40 IBU
Dark brown but light in flavor, this beer drinks almost like a dark lager. It was a bit malty with a hint of spice, but not nearly the level of spice I expected. Perhaps this beer fell flat for me because it lived past its “enjoy by” date by six months.
4. Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO – Maple Nut Brown Ale – 4.5%, 20 IBU
With a medium brown-amber hue and a malty, lightly sweet, pleasant taste, Tommyknocker’s Maple Nut Brown went down easily. It is brewed with pure maple syrup, but surprisingly isn’t overly sweet. Recommended for introducing macro-brew drinkers to micro-brews.
3. Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, CO – White Rascal – 5.6%, 22 IBU
This unfiltered, Belgian-style white ale, pours very light cloudy yellow. Expertly brewed with coriander and Curacao orange peel, it is spiced just enough to be festive, without tasting like you ate potpourri. I would definitely buy this beer again.
2. New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO – Accumulation – 6.2%, 70 IBU
This white IPA is billed as “a direct revolt to the longstanding tradition of brewing dark beers for winter,” and doesn’t miss the mark. With a light, hazy, golden hue and smooth mouth feel, its citrusy hoppiness makes way for a kiss of wheat. Brewed with target and centennial hops, then dry-hopped with mosaic and amarillo hops. Yum.
1. Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma, CA – Brown Shugga – 9.99%, 51 IBU
This beer is a self-admitted failed-attempt at a barley wine that ended up tasting pretty darn delicious anyway. While difficult to categorize – as a barley wine or an American strong ale – one thing is for certain: this beer is dangerously good. It pours an amber-orange color, with caramel and toffee notes on the nose. The flavor is rich with toasted grains, malt and caramel sweetness. The high alcohol content is apparent but not overpowering, and with the smooth level of carbonation, helps balance the sugar. I love this beer.
All-in-all, I was pleased with my selections, and that’s the beauty of “build your own” – there’s something for everyone.
Viking Premium Beverage sits on King Ave, conveniently located between campus and the Short North, and has a nice selection of beer and wine. Additionally, it has a small bar (a newer feature) with 20 beers on draft and an outdoor patio area. All drafts are $3 during happy hour, 10am to 7pm, seven days a week.
Other local businesses, like Andy’s Carry Out, offer a “build your own six-pack,” as well as grocery stores like Whole Foods, Giant Eagle Market District and Kroger. Next time you can’t decide what you want, you can have it all.
About Kelly Rousculp
Kelly writes reviews and contributes articles to NID Magazine.