The best beer under $10

I live in country.

Although I mostly write about craft beers, premium German imports, and microbrews, it’s important to remember that the beer economy rides on a wave of North American megabrewery lager. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I drink it too.

For my money, the best mainstream American Lager is still Genesee. Call it regional pride if you want, but I’m all about the Genny. They’d all but given up the ghost in the national market, but the brewery is primed for a resurgence.

Plus, hipster dudes, Genesee has the virtue of being every bit as ironic as your trucker hats, ’70s T-shirts, clunky glasses and oversculpted cowlicks. Next time you’re out, try one instead of the PBR you’re otherwise going to order.

-Mark

Make a splash on New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is a funny night. People celebrate a transition; a passing from the old to the new. Yet we do so with the same old, tired routines year in and year out. We go to parties. We watch the ball drop on television. We have a champagne toast at midnight. Zzzzzzz.

Why not change it up a little and really make a splash? Instead of champagne, toast with beer!

Not just any beer; what could be more depressing than a crystal flute full of Coors Light? Fortunately, the country of Belgium brings us several choices that could easily replace champagne and cast you in a very sophisticated light to the ladies. Try one of these:

These beers do not taste like beer from other nations. They’re more effervescent and complex, with that Belgian floral character so many North American breweries fall short of replicating. The lambics, flavored with fruit, are especially popular with the fairer sex.

So this New Year’s Eve, introduce people to a new range of tastes, score some sophistication points, and enjoy the flavor of some of the world’s most unique brews. You just might spare yourself that champagne hangover in the process.

In with the old, out with the new indeed.

-Mark

Michael Shea’s discontinued

I hadn’t realized it, but has been oficially discontinued by the High Falls Brewing Company.

Hey, Shea’s wasn’t a great beer, but it did have the virtue of being introduced to the market around the time of my 21st birthday. I was young and financially challenged, and a twelve of Shea’s was a decent value for the money. Plus, it was tastier than (of course, so is greyhound vomit).

Of course, when Shea’s was introduced, craft brews were extremely rare on store shelves. As the craft brewing industry grew, poor Michael Shea’s was eclipsed by high-quality reasonably priced pale ales from brewers like F.X. Matt (Saranac), Otter Creek and Magic Hat.In bars, Guinness has been flexing its marketing muscle, throwing up Harp and taps left and right. The poor Rochester brew got squeezed out of its own market.

Maybe this weekend, we’ll have a good pseudo-Irish wake for this mediocre pseudo-Irish beer. I’m sure we can still scrounge up one of the few remaining cases.

Or maybe I’ll have a Smithwick’s instead.

-Mark

Temperature

“Europeans drink their beer warm.”

How many times have you heard that statement? How many time have you uttered it? This is one of those misconceptions that drives some of the more…strident beer geeks crazy.

Some ale styles need a higher serving temperature to release all their flavors. By contrast, lagers taste better when served a little colder. American light lagers can be chilled to near freezing if you want…it’s not going to make much difference.

Realbeer.com has a brief guide to proper serving temperatures. Believe me, it makes a difference.

Getting the band back together

You heard it here first! There’s change a brewin’ at the High Falls Brewing Company.

You can expect the Rochester regional (maker of J.W. Dunedee, Honey Brown, and Genny Cream Ale) to refocus on what used to be its core brands: Genesee Beer and Genny Light.

These working-class beers built that brewery into the fifth-largest in the country, but have fallen by the wayside over the last decade as the company’s sales philosophy changed. The success of Yuengling and Pabst Blue Ribbon among young, hip drinkers, however, is spurring a relaunch of these stalwart American beers.

Expect an upgraded brand image, new art and packaging styles, and the same old American adjunct lager taste. Hey, it beats the hell out of Budweiser. Remember, “Geneseeing is Believing.”

-Mark