It pains me to say this as a beer enthusiast, but I need to admit it: Most beer stores these days have too many choices for the average consumer.
It’s not that choices are inherently bad, or that there aren’t solid-to-excellent beers nearly everywhere you shop now. But there’s a lot of bad beer, too, and the time and effort to select something that’s fresh, not warm, contains just the right hops, and isn’t, unbeknownst to you, wicked sour or brewed with marshmallows, is often overwhelming.
That may seem like an anti-beer take for someone who writes a regular column on the subject, but it isn’t meant to be. By writing this column I’m an advocate for both beer and consumers, trying when I can to give readers an honest take on the next 4-pack they might buy.
Below are my thoughts on three beers and two ciders you may be seeing on a shelf near you.
617 Lager, Lord Hobo Brewing Co. A big release from the bold Woburn brewery, 617 Lager is the second installment (there’s also a hazy IPA) in Lord Hobo’s area-code inspired 617 series. After going all in on aggressive hops with beers like Boom Sauce, Lord Hobo has flipped the script here, brewing an easy-to-drink lager with just one hop variety and one kind of malt. 617 Lager looks golden and effervescent in the glass, with a thick frothy head. The mouthfeel is well rounded, with a fairly pronounced sweetness. I prefer my lagers a little drier, but this is a welcome addition. 5.5 percent ABV
Granita Weiss, Night Shift Brewing Many breweries now release their beers by series, and the latest in Night Shift’s Weiss series is Granita Weisse. Brewed to mimic the icy Sicilian dessert treat, the beer is made with real fruit, in this case blood orange, guava, and pineapple. I like the guava flavor best, and that the brew is a little tart but not too much so. 6.4 percent ABV
Bourbon Barrel Aged Devil’s Debt, Untold Brewing Co. One of the best afternoons I spent this winter involved sitting in the tap room of Scituate’s Untold Brewing Co. with a couple of small pours in front of me and gray winter light slanting in through the windows. When I closed out I took home a bottle of Devil’s Debt, a barrel-aged stout now in its third iteration. This is one of those classic winter sipping beers, with booze and charred wood on the nose and rich, decadent chocolate and dark fruits when you sip it. 10.7 percent ABV
Unfiltered, Stormalong Cider This Sherborne cidery makes consistently good (and accessible) products. Unfiltered is a new release featuring apples sourced from New England orchards. On the company’s website the cider falls between medium dry and medium sweet on the scale, and that’s exactly right. The unfiltered nature of the cider really lets the apple shine, if you don’t mind the sweetness that comes with it. 4.5 percent ABV
The Shake, Shacksbury Cider Wanna get funky? Shacksbury’s ciders are usually on the drier side, and this one, made from a blend of wild foraged and orchard apples and aged in WhistlePig Whiskey barrels, is very crisp. There’s a touch of maple syrup added to the drink, but you wouldn’t know it; what you get is tiny bubbles and boozy wood and a hint of moldy cheese in the best way. This is the kind of relentlessly interesting cider I’d happily drink all the time. 6.8 percent ABV