Over the last few years, I have become a rather unwavering beer snob. I know this may be an annoyance to some of my friends, but frankly, I don’t care and I wear my badge proudly. I can’t help it. It’s not about pounding beers and getting wasted, it’s about flavor. I don’t care that it’s cheaper and you can buy twice as much beer. What good is having twice as much if it’s watered down and the little flavor it may have isn’t even that good? Also, I have a bit of disdain for ‘sellout’ beer companies. Budweiser and Goose Island both fall into that category. I used to drink Bud before I knew what really good beer tasted like and even Goose Island has a few beers that I would probably still drink on a hot day – if it wasn’t an InBev company. When a company throws the integrity of the beer out the window for profit, then regardless of what I thought of that company previously, I just won’t spend money on their beer.
Well, that’s slightly off subject, so let me get back to it. I always like to try ‘new to me’ breweries and beers and I do have a handful of favorites that I like to try to keep on hand every once in awhile, but then there are those few companies that I consider my ‘fallbacks’. You know, they are the beers that you don’t hate, but they’re not your favorite, so if nothing else that you like better is available at the bar, then you’ll get one of these. This has always been the case in my area, but is recently getting better. Too many times have I found myself saying, “Well, OK, then I guess I get a Dortmunder” simply because everything else was Bud, Miller & Michelob. Don’t get me wrong, Dortmunder is a solid beer that deserves it’s place, but I’m a fan of dark ales with a hoppy bite, so it’s not going to my personal first choice.
Great Lakes itself has been a thorn in my side for awhile because I’ve been waiting for craft beers to hit so many different places, but then when they start, it’s always Dortmunder and Christmas Ale. There’s not any real compromise in this. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to look for a different choice and knowing that the first different choice of the majority is something you’ve had hundreds of times before.
Sam Adams is another company that I have had a similar issue with. Boston Lager. Yep. Oh, in addition to your InBev choices, you also have Dortmunder & Sam Adams? What Sam Adams do you have? Oh, just the Boston Lager? Ok, I guess I’ll have the Dortmunder. Sometimes, I just can’t win.
Lately, though, I have been seeing a change in both of these companies. While others seem to be focused on a handful of their flagship beers, I’m seeing more small batch stuff coming out from both Great Lakes and Sam Adams. Not to mention that this past winter’s batch of Christmas Ale was fantastic. It has been pretty inconsistent in the past and some years has had an overwhelming amount of ginger in it, but this year was well-balanced and was actually a beer that I was looking for at some places. I also tried a pecan maple porter by Sam Adams at one of my local beer stores and was so impressed with it, that I grabbed a growler to go. Last year, when some friends came to visit from Chicago, we took them over to the Great Lakes brew pub and tried a couple of their pub exclusive beers and I wasn’t disappointed by a single one. And yesterday, I grabbed a 22oz bottle of Sam Adams Merry Mischief gingerbread stout and it was delicious -maybe not as hearty as I tend to like my stouts, but still flavorful.
Both of these companies seem to have stepped up their game and started focusing on the quality of the beer and really acting more like craft beer companies again, rather than just breweries and that is (at least in my mind) separating them from the others (like Goose Island) that are willing to sell out for profit.
Well done, gentlemen. keep up the good work.