Getting into a rut is easy when you’re not challenging yourself. And what could be less challenging than months of staying home, overeating, and mumbling to your family? That’s why winter is known as “The Coward’s Season.” But as we shamble into spring — or something resembling un-winter in the Northeast, anyway — it is now time to shake off the cobwebs of the safe and familiar, and proceed into the great unknown. With beer. And now, here are 1.25 dozen new, exciting beers you should be trying sometime soon if you hope to continue your development as a human being.
Angry Orchard Easy Apple
For every beer I drink, but especially when it comes to brands or styles that are not destined to be instant critical darlings, the first thing I try to focus on is whether it accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish. Did it surprise or disappoint? Did it deliver? Once I tackle that, I can move on to whether I had a personal affinity for it, or if it made sense in the market, or whatever. But the first thing to figure out is if the people who brewed it were able to take a sip off the production line and say, “Oh, yeah. We did it. Hooray.”
So when I review a wheelbarrow full of malt liquor, I’m very consciously not comparing Busch and Colt to the best of Evil Twin or Ballast Point, just like I’m not pitting a chocolate stout against a chocolate milkshake. That doesn’t mean they can’t be failures, of course, as so many of those garbage potions were. But saying something tastes like it’s from hell is meaningless without context.
So when Angry Orchard, a label I feel like I’m constantly apologizing for liking, puts out a light cider that’s supposed to be “juicy,” “slightly hazy,” and “easy to drink,” then that’s what I’m looking for. And in that sense, Easy Apple is an NBA Jam “Boomshakalaka!” slam dunk. It’s not watery, it’s not overly sweet, and it didn’t give me heartburn. If you want anything else, just drink a regular apple. Or eat it, whatever.
Ballast Point Red Velvet Nitro
Sierra Nevada Sidecar
This might be the only Sierra Nevada I could actually recommend drinking all day long, and I still don’t know if it’s necessarily good. It’s oddly muted, and the orange flavor feels more like essence of orange or orange zest than orange juice. I guess that’s what happens when you put orange peel in the kettle. I didn’t go to orange peel college, but it makes sense to me.
Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo
If you’re deciding between two new-to-you Sierra Nevadas in the beer aisle, well, first of all — life is pretty good, right? I mean, I don’t know it for a fact, but my understanding of Chaos Theory (the Jeff Goldblum version, anyway) leads me to believe that while you’re standing there in the nippy fluorescent glow of the Stop & Shop motion-sensing lamps, mouth agape, fondling a few identical brown glass bottles, there’s probably some guy up a tree getting yelled at by a bear. So, it could be worse.
But those of us with the privilege of not being treed by a massive, bipedal meat grinder are meant to believe the Tropical Torpedo has been devised with the help of Sierra Nevada’s “one-of-a-kind” Hop Torpedo dry-hopping chamber, which I guess is probably true. And according to the marketing materials, the “lush aromas of mango, papaya, and passionfruit” are prominent in the bouquet, which is a claim you’d probably need a chemistry degree and keycard access to a Bond villain’s lab to verify. Imagine the person who would claim to tell the difference between the aroma of a mango-papaya medley and a papaya-passionfruit mix, then pity them. Because they have been driven insane by scents.
I like Tropical Torpedo better than the Sidecar, but it’s a higher ABV. Sorry, I mean plus it’s a higher ABV. It’s got better depth of flavor and a more satisfying mouthfeel, plus…nit’s a higher ABV. So there’s more booze in it.
Victory Kirsch Gose
Easily the best pink beer I have ever tasted. I’m not going to gild the lily here; just try it for yourself. Much, much better than Dr. Fingleduddy’s Magical Rainbow Elixir No. 9 or Asshole Brewing’s ill-advised short-run gimmick ale “Two in The…” from 2009.
Aloha Traveler Pineapple Shandy
Has anyone ever taken a big gulp of pineapple soda, then, using their hands to communicate while their mouth is full, prompted you to open your mouth, and then extruded the decarbed and spit-addled syrup into your trembling maw? Something to think about before trying this one.
Catawba Peanut Butter Jelly Time
“Hey,” you must be thinking to yourself, “I know people love eating fruit in the spring, but drinking it? That’s wild!” Well, look, we just found out it’s apparently very easy to drink fruit. Against all odds, the process having only recently been revealed to not require an expensive, proprietary, internet-connected countertop albatross and its compulsory juice-satchel delivery scheme extending into infinity. So we’re in a fruity mood. Also, no, this is not a fruit beer. It’s a fruit jelly beer. With peanut butter. Happy?
Well, I was when I drank this beer. My wife recoiled at the smell when I wafted it in her direction, however, and not just out of habit, either. If you’re not expecting a PB&J sandwich to manifest itself in front of your nose when testing this one, you’re going to make a stink face about it. But I knew what I ordered, and relished every sip. The raspberry notes are especially delightful, as is knowing that I’m essentially a world-class athlete while I’m drinking this beer.
Noble Cider Village Tart
In my notes, I wrote that this light and hoppy little number was, perhaps, “the Miller Lite of farmhouse ales.” But you gotta understand, I really like Miller Lite. I also really like Prairie Standard. In fact, here’s my new pitch for this beer: “Smoother than a baby’s sandpapered ass.” Feel free to email me for licensing details.
Blackstone Strawberry Picnic Summer Ale
Leinenkugel’s Canoe Paddler Kolsch-Style Beer
The only Leinenkugel I can remember actually enjoying. It’s plain, and reminds me of toast. Terrible label. Actually I hate it now. I talked myself out of it.
Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer Watermelon
The can is arguably the most interesting part of this one, with its sleek matte finish and bold, eye-catching iconography. This is kind of a yoga beer. A healthy beer! Good and good for you. (*Not a healthy beer; not good for you.)
Guinness Rye Pale Ale
I’m guessing people don’t exactly rush to the store for armfuls of Guinness when the flowers start to bloom. But that’s their loss. And it’s your loss, too, if you go into the Rye Pale Ale expecting something like the other Guinness spinoffs (bland, confusing, frustrating) because it’s head and shoulders above the Blonde and Black Lagers. Guinness was originally an ale brewery, by the way, so maybe we should just go back to the way things were in the 1700s. Not me, though. I really like hot dogs and memory foam pillows.
New Belgium Dayblazer Easygoing Ale
This American blonde ale tastes like what I imagine the morning beer from that old SNL skit would taste like. C’mon, you don’t remember AM Ale? I think about that gag probably four times a week. Which is normal, by the way. Anyhow, Dayblazer is smooth, bready, and sweet. Hey, kind of like cereal!
Elysian Space Dust IPA
Here’s some more inscrutable, irreproducible marketing flibber jibber for you, from the official Elysian tasting notes: “The hopping is pure starglow energy, with Chinook to bitter and late and dry additions of Citra and Amarillo.” Whatever that’s supposed to mean, I’m not buying it. To me, this is a terrifically adequate IPA until you account for the fact that it boasts an 8.2 percent ABV and tastes nothing like the bitterly metallic competitors that populate the segment. Space Dust packs a punch, but it’s a sucker punch.
There. Now those oughta keep you busy ’til summer! Or at least pretty buzzed.