Ever since my now-husband and I started dating almost 13 years ago, my family's party line when we get together for a meal is that we'll crack open a bottle of wine "…and a beer for Dan." It's always been the addendum to the conversation—that since he's a baseball-loving, road-tripping, all-American guy, my husband is a de facto beer drinker, and his artsy, food-focused wife sticks to wine.
Let's set the record straight once and for all. I'm Casey, a food writer who, yes, loves wine. (And cocktails!) But these days, it's beer that truly excites me. Just as my interest in food has grown from a hobby into an all-consuming career, my relationship with craft brews has likewise blossomed from a flirty crush into full-on love. I'm bowled over by the creativity of craft brewers taking a centuries-old tradition and giving it new life in the 21st century. And I'm ready to share my love for beer with you here in a biweekly column.
To me, beer's charms are unintimidatingly accessible; sure, the world of brewing has its own terminology, but you don't necessarily have to know that Trappist ales are brewed strictly under the purview of monks any more than you should learn the history of gin and the British Navy before you drink a gimlet. All you need to know is that it tastes unbelievable—whether you're into a raisiny, spicy Dubbel; a piney, floral West Coast IPA; or a coppery, malty amber ale.
And though I want to try every beer by every brewery in the world, from the crazy popular to the obscure, I've always got a few standby bottles and cans on hand at home. As an introduction to my personal palate, following are my five regular house beers. Stop by and I guarantee there'll be a cold one in the fridge waiting for you.
Casey's 5 House Beers
- Dogfish Head, Festina Pêche: One of Dogfish Head's quintessential summer seasonals, this tart peach take on Berliner Weisse exemplifies my love for sour beer. I've been burned by too-sweet apricot and blueberry ales in the past, but this reminds me so much of the best dry ciders that I even drink it in the dead of winter.
- Maine Beer Company, Peeper Ale: Somehow this small brewery from Portland has managed to distill the Pine Tree State into a 16.9-oz. bottle. I don't mean that it's overly sprucey the way that some hopped ales can be; I mean that it tastes like the very essence of back roads winding through the woods, rocky coastal cliffs, and fresh sea breezes. Yes, with a little bit of hoppy backbone too.
- Pittsburgh Brewing, IC Light: if you're from western PA, as I am, chances are you too grew up with "Arn City" (that's Iron City to those of you who don't have a 'Burgh accent). It ain't fancy by a long shot, but it's deeply nostalgic, since it's the beer I was raised on (wink, wink). Keep your Rolling Rock; when it's Sunday afternoon and I'm watching the Steelers throw down, I've got one of these in my hand.
- Carton Brewing, Boat Beer: Carton Brewing's base of operations is a stone's throw away from where my husband grew up on the Jersey Shore, so it's with hometown pride that we keep this citrusy, low-alcohol IPA stocked in our fridge. My in-laws keep us well-stocked with growlers filled from the Carton tasting room, but I'm just as happy to grab 4-packs of cans to change the minds of friends who say they've never been into IPAs.
- Goose Island, Sofie: Some people keep Prosecco stashed in the refrigerator for unexpected celebrations. Me, I like to always have a bottle of Sofie on hand for when I need a little pick-me-up. Apologies to Miller High Life, but this fizzy, wine barrel-aged ale really is my Champagne of beers.
So, welcome to Tapped In — and tell me: what kinds of beer should we talk about this year?
(Image credits: Casey Barber)