A Toast to Beer and Hoppiness

We all have that friend, the one who obsesses over microbrews as much as a hipster obsesses over obscure indie rock bands. And while I tune out most of their rants about why barleywine should be savored or why Bud Light doesn’t count, I do enjoy their vast knowledge on all things beer. I especially turn to these connoisseurs while enjoying a burger on a pub’s patio.

With all this warm weather going around, Minnesotans and Alabamians alike seem to be flocking to outdoor restaurants. Aside from a campfire, I can’t think of a better spot to enjoy a delicious craft beer. I know, some of you may be rolling your eyes – yes, I’m turning into that beer snob friend – but I can also enjoy a Coors light and I don’t judge others for doing so, too. All that being said, I decided to do some taste testing and give my two cents on some beers worth trying this season.

First stop, the local supermarket for a sampler pack. I love that liquor stores and grocers have started offering craft brews by the bottle. This way you can put together your own tasty six-pack. I stood in front of the shelves for quite a while, trying to create the perfect variety. After some help from a self-proclaimed vagabond (his glazed eyes were suspiciously half-closed, but he gave good advice nonetheless), I made my final selections:

 Wild Blue, 8% Alc.

Blue Dawg Brewing, Baldwinsville, NY

Jamison and Geoffrey were not excited to see this bottle among the rest. For some reason, they have an aversion to fruity beers. Because Blue Moon was one of the first beers I liked, I’ll probably always have an affinity for them. However, be prepared when trying Wild Blue – do not expect a beer taste. At all. While delicious, Wild Blue almost tastes like grape juice with a slight beer aftertaste. This beer would be great, ice cold while sitting next to a lake. Although, I wouldn’t recommend it for any drinking games.

Samurai Rice Ale, 5.10% Alc.

The Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, CO

This American Blonde Ale was quite refreshing after trying Wild Blue. It has a clean, crisp aftertaste and would go splendidly with seafood (so the bottle says). Even better, this rice ale is nice to have on hand for any gluten-free guests that may stop by.

 

Long Hammer India Pale Ale, 6.5% Alc.

Red Hook, Portsmouth, NH

Because I’m not a fan of a really hoppy beer, I let Jamison taste this one. And because his review can be summed up with two words, “It’s good,” I turned to the Internet for assistance. According to Red Hook’s website, the Long Hammer goes through a dry-hopping process to give the beer its signature bitterness and piney citrus aroma and flavor. I’m sure that’s what Jamison meant to say.

Spring: Vinyl, 5.1% Alc.

Magic Hat Brewing Co., South Burlington, VT

One of my favorite things about this beer is the label. Being that this is Magic Hat’s spring seasonal beer, they run with the theme. The label is loaded with pastels (which are so in right now) and features a cute, but devious little fairy. The label drew me in, but the taste kept me sipping. This delicious amber lager is just sweet enough, and not too hoppy. The perfect beer to drink on your favorite rooftop patio.

Bell’s Amber Ale, 5.8%

Bell’s Brewery Inc., Kalamazoo, MI

Bell’s also makes an amber ale that is quite tasty. I shouldn’t be admitting this, but after taste testing three beers with hefty alcohol levels, I wasn’t prepared to take on another. Let’s just say, Jami and Geoffrey were giving me strange looks as I took notes with sunglasses on in the kitchen. I also found America’s Funniest Home Videos to be more hilarious than usual that night. So I’ll let Bell’s explain that this “Amber Ale deftly balances a mixture of toasted grain & light caramel notes with a range of floral, citrus and herbal hop notes.” I completely agree.

Naked Pig Pale Ale, 6% Alc.

Back Forty Beer Co., Gadsden, AL

Lastly, an American pale ale from my Alabama home. For those of you who don’t like extra hoppy beers, Back Forty’s Naked Pig Pale Ale is much more drinkable. As you probably guessed, I didn’t taste test this beer either, but I’ve had it before and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As for where to drink it? I’ll leave that up to Back Forty’s recommendation and your imagination, “Get naked, and enjoy.”

While trying new beer is always enjoyable, one of the best parts of sampling craft beer is discovering what the locals drink. Avondale Brewing Company is a favorite among Birminghamians, as well as the Good People Brewing Company. If you ever happen upon these beers, I would highly recommend them – specifically Avondale’s Spring Street Saison. Delicious! And being a Minnesotan at heart, I can’t neglect some of the stellar beers that come from the northern tundra. Almost every Surly beer I’ve tried is great, I especially love the citrusy Surly Furious. I’m also a big fan of Finnegans Irish Amber and Lift Bridge beers. All exceptional Minnesotan brews.

I’m far from an expert, but I hope you feel a little more enlightened when it comes to craft brews and that I’ve proved you don’t need extensive beer knowledge to enjoy a glass. So here’s to trying new things and to the beer snob in all of us. Cheers!

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