We’ve all imagined having our own draught-house with a couple hundred choice brews on tap and a few thousand more available in bottles. We could have any beer we want at any moment, and might even be willing to sell a pint or two to our discerning patrons (after they’ve passed a twenty-five question beer exam to prove their worthiness). The problem with that little dream scenario is that it’s too simple, too all-encompassing, and hence not Conundrum-worthy. There’s no challenge in having unlimited taps and unlimited fridge space. You’d just stock everything you’d ever want and that would be that. No, friends, the real challenge comes with having limitations.
Imagine you have a little corner American bistro in whatever city/town you call home. You have a liquor license, fridge space to stock a few bottles, and four beer taps. As the owner/operator, you get to decide what you’ll stock/serve, including keeping the kegerators full of cold, delicious fermented malt beverages. So, Aleheads, enlighten us: What would you have on tap at your bistro?
To make this a little more challenging (and to keep it diverse), your taps are limited to breweries that distribute to the area where you live. If you’d like, you can tell us what you’d have on tap seasonally on ONE of your taps, but the other three must be year-round beers.
LORD MASHTUN COPPERPOT
First of all, Beerford, if I ever owned an eating/drinking establishment on the corner, I would not dub said establishment a “bistro.” Please. Way too Parisian. Why don’t you just call it a “creperie” and serve Heineken to the exclusion of all other beers?
I now live about 17 miles north of Boston, which means distribution is plentiful. I can’t get some of the better west coast brews, nor can I get Terrapin (don’t cry for me Brother Barley). But let’s face it. The selection is vast.
I’ve chosen to go with something light, something dark, something in between, and something Belgian. Safe, I admit. But I’d rather not go out of business.
Something Light: Ithaca Brewing Company’s Flower Power
If you haven’t had an opportunity to sample this glorious IPA, do yourself a favor and pull up a stool at my creperie. True to its hippie appellation, the beer hits you with a pungent mixture of hops, weed, and grass clippings. It’s light, refreshing, hop-forward, and beautifully balanced.
Something Dark: Moylan’s Dragoons Dry Irish Stout
I thought about the Ten FIDY for this slot, but decided that given its ABV and its consistency, my patrons wouldn’t order more than one of them before they were completely hammered/full. So, catering to the substantial Irish population in the area, and knowing how much Guinness is revered here, I’m offering Moylan’s Dragoons. It’s a dry Irish stout just like Guinness, only it’s much drier and has much more flavor. Do me a favor. Try this beer with a bunch of friends, and see if anyone can resist saying: “Tastes like Guinness, only better.” Not happening. Someone’s definitely saying this, and they’re damned right.
Something in Between: The Bruery’s Rugbrod
Just read what the good Doctor wrote about this rye beer, accept that he speaks the truth, smile and enjoy.
Something Belgian: Allagash White
One of the few American breweries that have mastered the Belgian ale, Allagash is the best Maine has to offer. If you’re one of those people who’s on the fence when it comes to Belgian beers, I recommend the White. It may be the most accessible Belgian beer in the world, and the one I credit for sparking my renewed interest in Belgian ales.
SIR MAGNUS SKULLSPLITTER
I have long dreamt of opening up Sir Magnus Skullsplitter’s House of Suds and Law: Where the Beer is Cheap and Delicious, but the Legal Advice is Free and Terrible. I always thought a bar offering free legal advice would do quite well. After all, who needs legal advice more than a bunch of drunks?
Anyway, as much as I detest Lord Copperpot for subjugating the Skullsplitter clan for hundreds of years, he has the right idea. A nice variety of good beer. Of course, because he’s Lord Copperpot, his choices are simply all wrong. Here’s the proper way to do it.
First, in New York City there are plenty of distributors. We may not have some of the Pac Northwest beers, but we do get a pretty sampling of stuff from all over the country. Therefore, why not have the best? My 4 taps:
- Founders Centennial IPA. I need something hoppy, so why not get the best?
- Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold. At 6%, this Belgian Pale Ale isn’t going to knock anyone over with its ABV, but it tastes excellent and is locally sourced, which means I can get it as fresh as possible. Plus, that’s an awesome name.
- Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier. Need something for the ladies. And, to tell the truth, me. This is damn good beer. For the record, however, there will be no lemons or oranges anywhere near my bar.
- My rotating tap. I’d use this as a rotating tap of Brooklyn beers. Oktoberfest in the fall, Black Chocolate Stout in the winter, and hopefully I could get some of the other experimental Brooklyn beers, like the Detonation DIPA, for the Spring/Summer.
So, there you go. A couple of taps of local, a couple of taps of the best beers of their style. Add in a menu with some Skullsplitter Chili and Skullsplitter Burgers and you’ve got yourself the perfect bar. If you need me, I’ll be in the back room dispensing free legal advice.*
Disclaimer: As noted above, Free Legal Advice is terrible and could lead to greater legal trouble. Advice will decrease in logic/effectiveness/safety as the night grows later.
COMMANDER PINT O. CHUG
As Commander of Aleheads Central Command, I feel obliged to offer strictly Beers of the Midwest. (I count Yuengling as a Midwestern beer even though it’s from Pennsylvania. If it’s good enough for Calamari’s Tavern, it’s good enough for me.)
True to that vein, here’s what’s on tap at the Commander’s fictional alehouse:
- Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
- Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout
- Founders Red’s Rye PA
- Great Lakes Nosferatu (fall seasonal)
And if I die in the Midwest, I’d also like to be buried with the above. (In Calamari’s Tavern, if possible.)
BROTHER BARLEY MCHOPS
Beerford’s regional restrictions truly handcuff me on this Conundrum. As I have described on numerous occasions, my current home (‘Bama) is one of the most draconian states in the country when it comes to beer. The distribution laws here are laughably backwards and the restrictions on ABV and container size greatly limits my access to some of the best beers this country has to offer. Add to that the insane rules pertaining to breweries (must be in a historic building, must be in a county where beer was brewed before Prohibition, can not sell beer on premises, etc.) and you’ve got yourself one of the true beer wastelands in the US. While things are slowly changing (agonizingly slowly) thanks to some forward-thinking, grassroots organizations like Free the Hops, the truth is that if I were to open a small pub here (and it’s “pub”, Beerford, not “bistro”), my taps simply wouldn’t stack up to what my fellow Aleheads could offer to their patrons.
That being said, I’m not about to leave a Conundrum unanswered. I’ll simply have to do the best I can with the hand I’ve been dealt. One quick caveat…Lord Copperpot decided to forego the delectable Ten FIDY because he deemed it “too strong” for his limp-wristed clientele. The grizzled patrons at Brother Barley’s have no such limitations.
The three permanent taps represent the Imperial Spectrum:
- Imperial Pale Ale: Bell’s HopSlam – One of my all-time favorite Imperial IPAs and one I would gladly consume every day of the week and thrice on Sundays.
- Imperial Red Ale: Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster – A masterpiece by the brewers in Athens, GA. Rich, luxuriant…the perfect balance of malt and hops.
- Imperial Stout: Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti – There are some amazing coffee and/or chocolate-forward stouts out there…but if I’m only having one ‘Bama-available Imperial Stout, it’s the toasty, roasty Oak-Aged Yeti.
Thankfully, Beerford gave us an “out” with our rotating fourth tap. It’s my Belgian tap, of course, and it will change seasonally:
- Spring: Ommegang Hennepin – Perhaps the best American-made Saison. Refreshing, spicy, and uber-complex.
- Summer: Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour – I’m cheating here in that the Monk’s Cafe is not an American beer. While Beerford didn’t specify that our responses HAD to be US-made brews, I like to buy local. In the case of the Monk’s, while it’s technically made in Belgium, it’s contract-brewed and named for a venerable Philly drinking establishment. It’s the perfect summer beer…sour, refreshing, and light. And it’s Wifey McHops’s favorite brew, so it has to be on tap for at least part of the year.
- Fall: North Coast Brother Thelonius – You knew this one would be on the list. My favorite American Dubbel and the ideal brew for when the nights start getting longer and cooler.
- Winter: Avery The Reverend – One of the few American Quads available in ‘Bama, the Reverend is highly drinkable for the style, but it’s definitely a rib-sticker that will keep you warm on the coldest Winter nights.
Perhaps it’s not the perfect pub, but what do you expect from a tiny dive in ‘Bama with only four measly taps? If our limited selection doesn’t draw you in, I’m sure our surly, sociopathic bartenders will. Plus, we’ve got Chex Mix. And it’s not just the regular kind…it’s the Bold Party Mix…the one with the black label! Mmm!
OK, fair enough, you can all call your corner spots whatever you want. Mine’s still going to be an American bistro, confusingly named McBrewin’s Ruin because I expect to accidentally burn it down some late eve while playing with the gas burners in the back after one too many pints of delicious beers (really, I should never have free access to four excellent kegs full of beer without vigilant supervision). And, since I asked, those four excellent taps will be pouring:
- Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA – An excellent and somewhat unusual double IPA that Brother Barley did a nice tasting note for. A great beer from a great up and coming brewery.
- Deschutes Obsidian Stout – The first stout I ever fell in love with, and one that I still have in my fridge on a regular basis. Dark colored, medium-bodied, plenty of roasted malt and a bit of coffee in both the nose and the flavor, and a hint of hop bitterness on the finish. This is as well constructed a stout as nearly anything else out there.
- Hopworks Velvet ESB – This excellent brew out of Portland’s Hopworks Urban Brewery will be my session option. Nice malt sweetness, solid hop bitterness, and a dry finish. Pull up a stool and drink this one all night.
- Laurelwood Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale – It seems like it’s not cool to like pumpkin beer these days, but I’ve always been a fan, and this Laurelwood offering is definitely a good one. A perfect spicy pint to warm your insides on the way home from work on a blustery Northwest fall evening.
- Ninkasi Sleigh’r Dark Doüble Alt Ale – I hesitated to go with two beers from the same brewery, but between the awesome name and the tasty brew I just couldn’t help myself. Strong and robust enough to keep you from worrying about the howling wind outside, even if it’s dropping Douglas Fir limbs on your roof, with a little Belgian funk to keep things interesting.
- Upright Brewing Seven – An unusual golden-orange saison with a thick white head, citrusy spicy nose and tart, fruity, bready, funky flavor, this spring selection will have you looking forward to the fruits that summer harvests will soon bring forth.
- Vertigo Razz Wheat – I’m personally not a huge fan of wheat beers, but I need something to bring the camisole-clad Northwest beauties in the door during the summer months, and this is a tasty option that will more than do the job. Brewed with whole raspberries, the fruit is present but not overwhelming, and there’s enough grain complexity to make this a very drinkable summer brew.
I should point out that I restricted my list not just to breweries who distribute to Oregon, but to beers actually BREWED in Oregon. It was still incredibly tough to whittle this down. Rogue has plenty of excellent options , as does Bridgeport, and really any number of other solid ale factories (additional note: if Bend Brewing’s Outback X was available beyond their brewpub, it would absolutely have made the list). But for better or worse (better), this is what is going to be available at McBrewin’s Ruin…. at least for the first year. So come on down, grab a seat, and…