Discerning beer drinkers don’t always have the luxury of boutique craft shops or well-stocked food stores, particularly when travelling.
What, then, are consistently worthwhile – while also generously manufactured and distributed – selections that might be found amid otherwise lacklustre choices at a big, chain supermarket? – Or, if you’re lucky, at your local petrol station?
We asked some of America’s top craft brewers to select a couple of their favourite six-pack brews that are produced in large enough quantities and distributed widely enough to be considered a quotidian imbibe in their areas.
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1. Firestone Walker Pivo Pils
Tim Adams of Maine’s Oxbow Beer, says: “Firestone Walker Pivo Pils is not only one of the best pilsners in the United States but also one of the most widely distributed, making it a top pick for those looking to get a Euro-hop blast in a pinch.”
A noteworthy endorsement, considering that Adams’s love of pilsners led him to throw a beer festival called Pils & Live via his brewery last year, hosting all the world’s best examples of the style.
“[n Pivo] look for pronounced grassy and floral hop notes supported by a crisp and refreshing pilsner malt base in this canned crusher.”
2. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
As for his favourite widely distributed seasonal beer release, that’s easily Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.
“Celebration is a dank and resinous, ruby-red, old school, West Coast hop-bomb that welcomes the holiday season with fresh American hops and rich specialty malts,” Adams says.
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3. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the perpetual choice of Matt Levy at Threes Brewing in Brooklyn, New York, seconding the love for the de facto godfathers of American craft.
“I was recently travelling through the craft beer desert that is Utah and was reminded of the pure joy of drinking a 12-ounce (340-gram) bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale,” Levy says.
He says this beer has served as inspiration to a generation of brewers to ensure that process is valued.
“Still bottle-conditioned and hopped with selected whole-cone hops, these details show their commitment to doing things not the easy way, but the right way,” he says.
4. Allagash White
While hazy juice-bombs are all the rage in contemporary, hyped craft brewing, Levy is quick to remind that the Belgian-inspired wheat-based Allagash White was one of America’s first unapologetically turbid examples.
“A beer way ahead of its time,” Levy says. While he finds Allagash’s more experimental limited-edition sour beers inspiring, Levy says he “would happily give those up for a lifetime supply of cold bottles of White on the beach”.
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5. Rainier Beer
What do craft brewers tend to drink to “tune out” and punctuate a long day of making their own beer? Colin Lenfesty, of Seattle’s Holy Mountain Brewing Company, says: “The staff [here] drinks a lot of Rainier Beer. Call it throw-back or nostalgic, but the big red ‘R’ [on the can] will always be a part of Seattle’s history.”
Holy Mountain’s meticulous focus is generally in producing complex barrel-aged beers, but sometimes, something simpler is apt.
With a hop presence more noticeable than in other macro-lagers and a slight corn and sweet-malty presence, “it’s a very social beer between everyone at the brewery”, Lenfesty says.
“We drink these icy cold, so we usually don’t have time to even think about it.”
6. Big Wave Golden Ale
If a barbecue is planned, Lenfesty will generally go for a little more for flavour and pick up some Kona Big Wave Golden Ale.
He says: “[It’s] easy drinking, with a big burst of Galaxy and Citra hop additions at the end. Slightly sweet but not overpowering honey character.”
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7. Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter Pale Ale
When Ed Marszewski, of Marz Community Brewing, out of Chicago, finds himself picking up prescription drugs at stores such as CVS or Walgreens, he will usually “do some quick shopping as well and grab a four pack of Half Acre Daisy Cutter [Pale Ale] to wash down with a bag of Vitner’s Crunchy Kurls or regular Bugles”.
This West Coast-style American pale ale from his brewing neighbours is “floral and grapefruity, balanced and crisp”, Marszewski says.
“Daisy Cutter is what an American pale ale should taste like.”
8. Revolution Anti-Hero IPA
In the event that Marszewski finds himself at a petrol station, he’ll still generally go for something produced locally.
“The last time I stopped by to fill up for a camping trip in Michigan, I saw 19.2-ounce (540-gram) cans of Revolution Anti-Hero on the shelf.”
It’s a fruitily aromatic IPA that boasts a blend of Citra, Crystal, Centennial, and Chinook hops.
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9. Saison Dupont
“If I’m in a beer desert, the first thing I think about is the fact that [a bottle] may have been sitting on the shelf for months,” says Joe Grimm of Brooklyn-based Grimm Artisanal Ales.
Although he’s perhaps best known for producing hop-forward beers best consumed as fresh as possible, he has a soft spot for the charmingly rustic, musty flavour found in older bottles of perennial Belgian classic Saison Dupont.
“The flavour is resilient; if you can find one, go for a green bottle, instead of brown,” he says.
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10. Lindemans Cuvée René
When Grimm is on the road, he looks for a beer that has been bottle-conditioned, meaning one packaged to re-ferment with additional live yeast for natural carbonation.
“[This] helps the beer age gracefully; and I look for something that doesn’t have too much in the way of hop flavour, because there’s nothing worse than oxidised hops.”
Another bottle-conditioned Belgian gem that Grimm loves is Lindemans Cuvée René, the famed lambic brewery’s unsweetened gueuze (a traditional Belgian style of blended lambic beer aged in oak for one, two, and three years).
“It’s tart, complex, and leathery,” Grimm says and adds with a warning: “Just steer clear of their sweetened fruit beers.”