Friday, August 22, 2014

Drinking order philosophy: Go Big

Al and I going big at Great Taste.  
On the path of beer geekdom, most of us have read the same advice for tasting samples: drink light to dark. In theory, sampling light to dark will allow a drinker to not blow out the taste buds by starting with the double IPA. For years, I slavishly followed the advice.

I changed my drinking order philosophy after a short night at Spuyten Duyvil in Brooklyn. With a small but legendary draft list, there we're several that I wanted to try. We settled in and I ordered a Chelsea Blizzard IPA, which was disappointing, and then moved up to La Merle, a saison from North Coast. While a good visit, I had been eyeing a barleywine on the board (that I can't remember the name on now). If you haven't been to Spuytin Duyvil, it's a pretty sketchy walk through Brooklyn. And, in our search for an affordable hotel in New York, we tried a hotel in Jersey, which required a late night train transfer. The combination sent us packing to the subway before I got to the beer I was most interested in drinking.

Not a catastrophe, but enough disappointment to make me re-think my approach, especially on vacation. Now, I go big early and drink whatever looks best on the menu regardless of style or size. This approach will often get me a quizzical look from fellow drinkers when I order the 10% plus barlewine or triple IPA for the first draft. Working through a rack of samples, I will still follow the light to dark guideline (leaving samples that are unimpressive half full or more—another change). But, when ordering drafts, I go big early and drink the best I can find.
First draft and biggest on the menu that
day at Hammerheart Rune Stone Stout

I'm happy with my new philosophy over the last six years since Spuyten Duyvil and our recent trip to Lagunitas is a good example of the approach. Drinking for clear reasons, I started with their IPA because it was 57% of sales (info from the tour) and I couldn't remember it's taste. Then, we jumped right into a sample tray of all the special beers, including some big barrel aged offerings. As a result, we found the fantastic Rye Barrel Aged Gnarley Wine that we were delighted to drink it in spite of the 100 degree day.

This philosophy does have a downside. It will inevitably reduce the overall number of beers you can drink before heading home, whether driving or not. To drive home, a single beer before water and dinner might be required. At the most recent Great Taste, Al and I started with a 16% barleywine and a couple of bars later I ordered New Holland's Pilgrim's Dole wheat wine that comes in a 11%. Even taking a bus home, the big beers slow down the night pretty fast. While this approach takes some discipline and may not be for everyone, it's gotten me to better beers faster and improved my beer stops by simply stepping off the trodden path.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. If you only have time for one, go with the one you want the most. If you have the luxury of having the time for a few of course a 10%+ should probably wait its turn. Sometimes you just have to make those tough decisions. :)