How is your memory? Mine’s really pretty good… I still remember the special birthday oh so long ago, the one that brought along with it a rite of passage; that is legal age. I have enjoyed the adult alcoholic beverage we call beer ever since. I guess that’s not so surprising; beer, after all, has been around for quite some time and I’m pretty certain it will be around for quite some time going forward. It was way back in 1587 (I assure you I was not there) that colonists first brewed beer here and then 20 years later the first shipment of beer arrived here from England. (They must have been quite thirsty by then!) In 1609 there was a massive and frantic job search in London for brewers for the new Virginia Colony and in 1632 the first brewery was built (are you kidding me, it took until 1632?) in New Amsterdam (NYC). Actually this was not even the beginning for beer on this continent as beer had been brewed here long before this period in time by Native Americans. (They were smart; not waiting for the brewery to be built.)
Jumping ahead in time, there are now more than 1700 breweries in this country and this is certainly testament to the fact that so many people enjoy the beverage just as I do. Whether you are enjoying a frosty beverage after a hard day’s work, or while watching a sporting event with friends, or even pairing a pint with tonight’s dinner, beer is a beverage that is enjoyable in many different social settings.
I have been selling and drinking beer for many years and I do feel at least slightly qualified to offer some bit of beer drinking advice. My first piece of advice is moderation (and it’s sound advice indeed). My second piece of advice (but also quite sound) is try drinking variety. You may be like many people who love Coors Light, Bud Light or Miller Lite and drink nothing but that particular brand. My suggestion is to please try something else even if you only do it every now and then. After all, with 1700 different breweries out there, that means there are plenty of new and different varieties to try. A great tip: When traveling always ask your server what local favorites they offer and when at home look a little to the left and then right of your favorite beer when you step up to the cooler… there are so many beers out there just waiting for you to give them a try.
I’d like to mention a few local options available not too far from a Price Chopper possibly near you. In Troy, New York, Brown’s Brewing (http://brownsbrewing.com), began operation in 1993 in a 19th Century Warehouse on the shore of the Hudson River. They brew a number of unusual styles, but I suggest you try the Oatmeal Stout and you’ll be glad you did; it is dark, silky, smooth, and oh so rich. It’s no wonder they won a Gold Award at the 2004 World Beer Cup and you’ll be as surprised as I that they haven’t won another since. This beer is a perfect pairing with a hearty winter stew or a rich Salmon dish, but also so versatile that you can serve it with your favorite chocolate dessert (OK, I will admit I had it for dessert at least once).
Heading East to Massachusetts (where Price Chopper also has locations) is the home of Harpoon Brewery (http://www.harpoonbrewery.com). Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary founded the brewery in 1986 after completing college and traveling through Europe. (After tasting their beer I’m convinced they were both brilliant students.) In 1992, they brewed a Summer Seasonal IPA that was so popular that it became their flagship offer and was renamed Harpoon IPA. It’s a medium bodied beer with floral notes and a long clean hop finish. The finish is created by using a technique called dry hopping; that is adding fresh hops to the beer during the conditioning process. If you wish to serve Harpoon IPA with a meal you need not feel many limitations. It pairs well with grilled seafood, spicy chicken dishes or sharp cheeses.
Traveling north to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, we have the Smuttynose Brewery (http://www.smuttynose.com), which was founded in 1994. They make a great Winter Ale and it’s reminiscent of a Belgian Abby Double. It is characterized by fruity aromas, balanced by soft crystal hops and you’ll note flavors of caramel and toffee with just a hint of chocolate. Enjoy a glass in front of your fireplace on a cold winter’s evening or serve it with braised beef, or well aged creamy cheeses like camembert.
Reversing our trail, heading west back to New York, let us highlight the Long Trail Brewing Company (http://www.longtrail.com). It was founded in 1989 in Bridgewater’s Corners Vermont and moved to its scenic riverside state of the art brewery in 1995. Their Long Trail Ale is a German Alt-bier style (means old beer). The top fermenting yeast produces an ale that is both clean and crisp making pairing with food is quite simple. Try it with smoked meats, sausage, hearty soups or even pizza.
Each year we try to find popular up and coming new brands to stock in our Price Chopper Beer Coolers, but if you have your own favorite please let us know as it may just end up in one of our coolers soon.
Last note, I believe there’s no such thing as a bad beer; some are just better than others. Just think how much fun you can have looking for that next great beer! I hope to see you on the trail; in hot pursuit of the next great beer! Remember the search started long ago and we have no intention of ending it any time soon. CHEERS!
*Please remember to always drink responsibly.