I recall a dinner party several years ago when we came to the conclusion that it’s good to be suspicious of any wine that has an animal on the label. That might seem silly, but given the wide selection at your typical liquor store (let alone some of the really big stores), sometimes it feels like the label is as good as any other criterion for trying (or not trying) a particular bottle. After all, do I really want to go through the checkout line with a wine called “Cupcake” or “Mommy’s Time Out”? On the other hand, a tastefully understated label will look nice on the dinner table and won’t embarrass me when I bring it to the checkout clerk.
So I am perfectly capable of making judgments on the basis of extraneous factors that are unrelated to the flavor of the beverage inside, and on that basis I haven’t ever been tempted to buy beers from Shipyard Brewery, even though they are in the top 20 craft beers by sales, because the label art always struck me as garish. I’m not sure what changed this month, other than the continuing search for variety, but for the sake of interest I brought home a mix pack of four Shipyard IPAs.
The big picture, in my opinion, is that I was right to judge this book by its cover. Like the label art, these beers were all in your face with very little in the way of subtlety. The Black IPA pictured here had an abundance of both hops and smoky dark malts, the flagship IPA was fine but not special, and the Monkey Fist struck me as a pretty standard West Coast style IPA.
If there was a winner here, it was probably the XXXX IPA, part of “Pugsley’s Signature Series.” (Pugsley is the brewmaster, not the character from The Addams Family.) This was easily the most balanced of the four beers in this pack and had a flavor that would be worth enjoying on its own as well as with a meal.
Good friend Steve brought a few of his usual beers to share over our annual round of rehearsals (for a Christmas caroling group) and pot-luck dinner parties that fill up our November Fridays. These included Killian’s Irish Red Ale (which isn’t really all that Irish–the name was sold to a brewery in France that is owned by Heineken and Coors purchased the rights to use the name in North America), Yuengling (a pretty standard American lager), Michelob Amber Bock (which was fine but didn’t really have the usual alcohol content of a bock) and Beck’s Dark (which I remember from my youth when “dark beer” was something exotic).
Four beers from Shipyard and four random beers brings the tally up to 146. I’m bringing a couple of interesting beers to our Thanksgiving weekend and will probably encounter a few while I’m visiting. Cheers!