Building your own six-pack can be rewarding

Sometimes, making decisions is hard. Especially hard decisions like “which beer deserves a place in my fridge?”

When space is taken into consideration, the decision gets even harer. Buying a six-pack is an investment in beer and space - what if the beer is horrible, or, even worse, undrinkable? If that first one sucks, all you have is five more to fight through.

Enter the “build your own six-pack,” an exercise in choice and sampling, the cross-brewery example of the sample pack. The two types - either individually priced bottles or “any six for $8.99” - allow the average beer fan to break free from expectations and embrace the confusing nature of inhibition-free drinking. You get one shot at each beer - go crazy!

While “build your own six-packs” can be a little more expensive than the average six-pack, it’s also much more rewarding. Even better when you can place the onus of choice on someone else. Case in point: as an experiment for this column, I sent my wife, Kerrie, out to grab six beers I’ve never written about. Most of the beers she came back with were beers I’d never order at a bar, let alone purchase a six-pack.

The results of that experiment are below.

The Lineup

  • Breckenridge 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout
  • North Coast Pranqster Belgian Style Golden Ale
  • Anchor Brewing Humming Ale
  • Wasatch The Devastator Double Bock Lager
  • Summit Old 152
  • North Coast Red Seal Ale

Breckenridge 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout 72 Imperial does a good impression of a chocolate cream stout, but after recently downing an Odell Lugene I can’t help but think this concoction is a little too sweet for my tastes. If you like your chocolate stouts on the sugary side, this might be for you. As a bitters and malt guy, this is too much chocolate and too much sweetness. Also: WAY too much carbonation - this was much better as it warmed and settled.

North Coast Pranqster Belgian Style Golden Ale One of my favorites of the style, my only complaint is that North Coast beers aren’t instantly recognizable as a brewery thanks to their mismatched labels and lack of brand standards. Pranqster is what you want in a Belgian-style ale - floral and fruity and from a generation far in the past - but I get really frustrated the lack of brand cohesiveness from beer to beer. (This, of course, is proof I’m a weirdo.)

Sew a common thread between these beers, brand wise, and you’ve got one of the most revered and popular brands in brewing today. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize when they’re drinking from North Coast.

Anchor Brewing Humming Ale What a weird beer - bitter in a way I wouldn’t expect, flowery to a fault. I like it, but it makes my mind take too many jumps in logic; I don’t know whether I should focus on the floral notes or dive into the bitterness, my definition of ale being dashed against the same rocks that Humming’s anchor probably once stood.

With all of that in mind, you’ll also notice that this beer is fizzy. Super fizzy. Like a seltzer. So weird. I have no idea what to think. The description talks about history, which makes one begin to forgive the overall package. I wouldn’t seek this one out ever again, but it’s interesting enough that I wouldn’t hate it if it showed up in my glass.

Wasatch The Devastator Double Bock Lager My history with double bocks (dopplebocks, as the cool kids call them) is limited, but the last one I had - the very good Double Vision from Grand Teton Brewing - was paired with a traditional Bock from Schell’s. That pairing highlighted the thickness and boldness of a double bock. Double Vision was delicious. This one, The Devastator, is thin in comparison, and much too sweet for my developing taste.

I’ve fallen in love with the subtlety of German lagers, and this has no subtleness - it’s sweet and caramel, but this caramel is more “caramel in a candy bar” than it is “rich caramel malt.” I’ve had two beers from Wasatch now, and though they make good craft beer as compared to the traditional American corporate beers, they aren’t my favorite brewery.

Summit Old 152 If there’s anything I’m proud of in my journey from brash beer fan to blossoming beer taster, it’s the fact that I can determine the level of rye in any beer I taste. It’s high in here, and that’s why it’s wonderful: spicy and earthy, Summit’s Old 152 exemplifies what I expect from their special series of beers: daring flavors and bold statements.

I’ve had Old 152 a few times. I’ve never felt the need to order more than one, but I’ve also never hated it. It occupies that weird area of “very good beer” but not quite “beloved beer.” I love that I got to try it again.

North Coast Red Seal Ale And North Coast nails it again with Red Seal Ale, a redish amber ale that I love, despite the fact that it’s barely distinguishable from a traditional ale. That’s a knock on the style itself, as the beer is well made and tasty. Malty and hoppy, and beautiful to look at.