Beer Drinking Report: Craft Beer On A Budget

It’s finally over. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love American Craft Beer Week as much as the next beer nut. But it got expensive trying to drink a different craft beer every night of craft beer week, as I had pledged to do.

Still, it was fun. You see, I’ve never pretended to be a beer connoisseur. I just like to drink it. And one of my favorite things to do is try new beers. And while I did drink some old standbys during craft beer week, I also sampled some new ones.

My only regret from craft beer week is that I once again failed to get a taste of the Portsmouth Brewery’s fabled Kate the Great stout. It used to be there was only one day a year when you could get Kate. But then a couple years back, they started releasing dribs and drabs of the stuff during ACBW as well. They did that again this year, but I wasn’t around to get any. At this point if I ever do try it, I’m bound to be disappointed due to all the build-up. If I have to jump through hoops to get a beer, I don’t care how good it is, I’m most likely just going to go down the street and get a different beer.

Anyway, back to my ACBW experiment of trying a different craft beer every night of the week.

As I mentioned in my initial ACBW post, I started off the week with some Brooklyn Lager on Sunday night. Ever since I started drinking it about 3 years ago, it’s been one of my favorite beers. I like almost all Brooklyn, in fact. They’ve yet to disappoint me with one of their beers, unlike so many other breweries, which tend to have at least one miss even if the rest of their beer is fantastic.

On the second night, I went to another of my favorite beers — Harpoon IPA. I’m a big fan of Harpoon in general, and over the past couple years I’ve become a big IPA drinker as well (along with the rest of the world). What I like about Harpoon’s IPA is its got a bit of a flowery flavor to it, and very little of the bitterness that is the trademark of most IPAs. In other words, it’s a very drinkable IPA. Just don’t drink too many, or you’ll wind up with the dreaded IPA hangover — which once knocked me out for the better part of a day.

On night three, I went to one of my favorite watering holes with He Who Shall Not Be Named. I asked the bartender for a suggestion, and he pointed me in the direction of Smuttynose’s Vunderbar, part of their Big Beer series. It was good — too good. I wound up having three, when I had originally planned on doing one and done.

11.2% alcohol? Oof.

11.2% alcohol? Oof.

For the fourth night of craft beer week, I decided to get a little adventurous. I went out to the package store and picked up a couple of big bottles of craft beer. The first was Shipyard’s Double Old Thumper, which was actually recommended by one of the BDR’s Facebook followers, who may or may not work for Shipyard. It was very good, and also very heavy (11.2% alcohol). Definitely more of a sipping beer.

On Thursday night, I again went for an old standby, picking up a 6-pack of Redhook’s ESB. It came in their cool new redesigned grenade-style bottles. They’re a little bit smaller than a regular beer bottle, and a little bit bigger than Red Stripe’s bottles. As always, the ESB was very good. I swear it even tasted better in the new bottles, though as you can tell from my canned beer posts, I’m a sucker for packaging.

Friday was time to try out the second big bottle of craft beer I had picked up earlier in the week, something called Dean’s Beans from Berkshire Brewing Co. I had picked it out randomly, mostly because it was pretty cheap. It was a coffeehouse porter, but still I wasn’t prepared for what I got when I took my first sip. The coffee flavor was extremely strong, but fantastic. I’ve had other coffee flavored stouts before, but this one was incredible. Now I love coffee. So much so that I’m probably more qualified to write for a blog called the Coffee Drinking Report than the Beer Drinking Report. And this was a near-perfect blend of my two favorite beverages.

On Saturday, the final day of ACBW, I again went to an old stand-by — Magic Hat. Now I like Magic Hat #9 well enough, but it’s not one of my favorites. What I really enjoy is their seasonal 12-packs, which typically include one or more rotating flavors. I was happy to see that they still have the Blind Faith IPA included in the summer pack, as well as the Wacko summer ale. The new one was called Single Chair, which I guess they’ve brewed before, but I’ve never seen in the summer pack. It was also supposed to be a summery brew, and while it was OK, it wasn’t something I’d ever buy on its own.

So I successfully made it through craft beer week, and I’m still here to tell about it. Now the only tough part is that Boston’s craft beer week, capped by the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston on June 4, is only a week away. At least I’ve got plenty of practice!

Mr. X is a contributor to the Beer Drinking Report.