Philadelphia's "Joe Sixpack" (a.k.a. Don Russell) had a column last Friday in which he suggests that a lot of craft beer fans have "this yearning for something basic - a beer that is simply refreshing, with a flavor that doesn't completely overwhelm the palate." With that, he launched a discussion of the concept of "the go-to beer": "Everybody's go-to beer is different, and it may even change over time. It may not be your favorite beer, for that's something you'll save for special occasions. But it's not dumbed-down, either."
Do you? Frankly, I don't. When I've done or read polls asking this question in the past, I've found that roughly 50% of craft beer fans I come across profess to have a favorite or two--one that they buy by the case, always have in the house or Kegerator, and woe to them if they run out.
The other half or so--of which I'm a member--apparently believes variety is the spice of life, and seemingly ask "huh?" at the above proposition. When I'm looking for a beer, three principal factors guide my selection aside from "I'll probably have to write about this beer for my MABN column/articles":
*Is it a new or different beer from either a reliably good brewer, someone new to the market/my area, or just something oddball and innovative?
*Is it a great beer at a good value for the money? (Look at the sale shelf at Wells or the "clearance" bottle specials at Max's Taphouse as examples. Extreme real-life examples: Thomas Hardy's Ale for $5 a bottle at a bar or $2 retail; Sierra Nevada Bigfoot for $2 a tumbler; Heavy Seas Loose Cannon firkin free for the sampling.....)
*If neither of the two above apply (say I've been taken out for dinner at a restaurant with a so-so beer list), is there anything I'm in the mood for or that would match the cuisine, atmosphere, etc.?
I very rarely make it to the last one. The first two usually rule the day. And I normally don't go into ANY bar where I can't find something at least up to the standard of a Dogfish Head 60-Minute, a Resurrection, or the like.
And I also don't have standard "go-to" dishes in my kitchen or on my travels. On the road, I'll look for whatever fits my mood and wallet at the moment, and often that's dictated by whatever advertised special or coupons I see: 2 for $2/$3/whatever burgers, subs, etc. Or I'll seek out the local cuisine, fish shack, BBQ joint, or whatever. Once I get the sushi, BBQ, Indian, lobster, Thai, steak, pizza, or whatever kick taken care of, I'm good for weeks or months. My daily drink is a gallon of "tea of the day"--whatever random compilation of cheap tea and flavorings I pull together at the moment, and between my tea chest and spice rack almost anything can happen, including hopped tea. (As I type: loose-leaf Eastern Shore Tea Co. Black Raven blackcurrant-flavored tea atop cheap tagless tea bags.)
So let me ask: If you have a "go-to beer," do you also have a go-to "comfort food," musical group (yes, brewer with 210 cuts of Blur on his iPod, I'm looking at you), TV show, or anything of that ilk? Are those like me who "play the field" or play "name that beer" at Max's Taphouse suffering from promiscuity or attention-deficit disorders? Why do those of you who want a Yuengling Porter or Victory Prima Pils or Dogfish 60 every day or regularly want the "same ol' same ol'"?
(Of course, you can just do what Joe Sixpack's readers/commenters did and just name your "go-to" beer in order to "represent," but I'm looking for more in-depth discussion.)
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