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Chat Leftovers: By the Case, IPAs, Beer Training

For fans of locally made IPAs, Clipper City in Baltimore makes some big hoppy ones to try, including Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale. (Clipper City Brewing Co.)

Was it my column on Sam Adams and the definition of craft beer, or was it the lure of two free $95 tickets to the sold-out Savor event? Whatever the reason, yesterday's Free Range chat brought a slew of beer-related questions. Here are three I didn't have time to get to:

Capitol Hill: Greg, like you (I am sure) I love trying new beers, but I also routinely pick up a case of beer I really like so I have some "old reliables" on hand. For this purpose, I gravitate to beer that's reasonably local, relatively light, and it's a big bonus when they print the freshness date on the cardboard case. Here are my beers by the case: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Indian Brown Ale, Victory Prima Pils, Bell's Two Hearted Ale and Brooklyn Lager. What are your criteria for beer by the case and some of your favorites?

I usually buy beer by the six-pack or even single bottle when possible, because there are so many brands on the market nowadays, and I'd like to try as many as I can, even if it means paying a higher markup. Obviously, if you're going to buy beer by the case, it should be a brand you know and like, because you'll be stuck with it for a while. If it's a high-alcohol brand, like a barleywine, it will keep for a long time and even improve with age. But if it's of normal strength and you allow it sit around, the flavor will deteriorate. You're right to look for a freshness date. (Alternatively, you might swap six-packs with friends.)

I enjoy all of the brands you mention. I also like to shop around for mixed cases that will give you four six-packs with four different brands.

One brand I have bought by the case when I'm visiting relatives in Pennsylvania is Yuengling's Lord Chesterfield Ale, which retails (up there, anyway) for considerably less than smaller craft breweries' brands and is a nice, hoppy pale ale (albeit brewed with corn adjuncts) that I can quaff on a regular basis.

Washington, D.C.: I'm a big fan of craft brews, and while I love that they tend to be very local and not travel far, that also means those few memorable tastes I've had from far away can reside only in my memory unless I get to travel there again. In particular, McTarnahan's ales in Portland, Ore., and a St. Andre Vienna Lager I once had in Toronto were quite special. Locally, I'm a big fan of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Troegs HopBack. Any other local IPAs you'd recommend along those lines?

Tupper's Hop Pocket Ale isn't officially called an IPA, but it should please all lovers of complex, hoppy beers. After a long absence, it should be returning to local taps (and sold in bottles as well) by June. It's now being made by St. George Brewing Co. in Hampton, Va., which does a very nice IPA of its own.

Another IPA worth trying is Southampton IPA from Southampton Ales and Lagers in New York. It's contract-brewed at the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., so it should arrive here very fresh. It tries to strike a balance between huge, hoppy West Coast IPAs and the more subtle English IPAs, and I think it hits the mark, with a nice caramel malt background balancing the hops.

I also enjoy the big hoppy IPAs from Clipper City in Baltimore, including its Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.

Flavored Beer: For years and years I've tried to train my palate to like the taste of beer. I went to college. I love going to baseball games. I love pizza and crabs. Most everyone I meet can throw back a cold one and seem to actually enjoy the taste. I really would like to participate and wonder if there is some secret trick to training my taste buds. Smirnoff Ice's label does say it's "Flavored Beer" but I don't think that counts. Thanks for any help. Ordering mixed drinks is not helping me in this economy. I'd like to be a cheap date every now and then.

First of all, there is no such thing as the "taste of beer." Different styles vary dramatically in taste: an aggressively hopped IPA is nothing like a malty German doublebock, and neither bears any resemblance to a Belgian lambic (an ale spontaneously fermented with airborne yeast). You probably won't like all beers equally (I certainly have my favorites), but there is such an enormous spectrum of beer flavors that you will find something you like.

It's all a matter of trying different things (some of which will dramatically alter your notion of what beer ought to taste like). I'd recommend attending a few beer dinners or tastings. Next week is (unofficially, at least) D.C. Beer Week, and you can find a list of upcoming events here. Maybe I'll see you at one of them.

-- Greg Kitsock

By The Food Section  |  May 21, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Free Range, Greg Kitsock, beer  
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Flavored Beer lets return to the mid 70's when they had flavored malt beverages like Hop N Gator a really awful beverage that kind of tasted like Hawaiian punch and Nattie Boh mixed together. There was also a couple other similar disasters out there.

It did works its magic high school honies.This stuff was really nasty when it came back up.

Flavored beer try what the Brits drink mix beer and Sprite/7 Up.

Some people don't like beer dont worry about that's why God invented untaxed corn liquor and Mason jars.

Now what you need to do Greg is compare VA untaxed corn liquor to the same stuff from NC, TN, KY and WV. No it won't kill but you
may need to contact the Going Out ladies for a recommendations for a wax job.

Posted by: sheepherder | May 21, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I used to be the same way - I couldn't even finish a bottle - but now I can actually enjoy a happy hour! I agree with Greg, try a bunch of types, and just keep at it, and you'll figure out what you prefer (hard cider was a gateway drink for me, and then some girly beer with lime and agave nectar). And the advantage of having an unsophisticated beer palate is that I can be just as happy with a miller light or red stripe as with a delirium!

Posted by: lizlemon | May 21, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Another good relatively local IPA is the Northern Lights from Charlottesville's Starr Hill brewery. Smooth and well-balanced, it's now my "go-to" beer when I'm taking a 6-pack to a party.

Posted by: truamerican | May 21, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

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