We’re generally a friendly lot over here at DRAFT HQ, but on a recent Friday, we decided to mix in a bit of competition. Editor-in-chief Erika Rietz and associate editor Kate Bernot (that’s me) dreamed up a summertime six pack challenge: With $20 and 20 minutes to shop at the local Total Wine, who would assemble the best mixed sixer? We put our helpful colleagues to work as judges and fed them brownies and cupcakes for their trouble.
Here’s what we learned during our Supermarket Sweep-type shopping trip: 20 minutes really isn’t that much time if you don’t have a plan. I thought it seemed more than adequate to allow me to wander and browse, but I felt the crunch as the time wound down. Also, $20 does limit your options. I thought I wanted something along the lines of an intro oude brun or Flanders red in my sixer, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice $6 of my budget for a small bottle of Duchesse de Bourgogne. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s hard to gauge others’ tastes. Erika and I work alongside our coworkers every day—talking about beer!—and I still debated whether they’d find a crisp American pilsner boring, or whether a Habanero Sculpin would be too much heat for some palates.
Before I reveal what we chose, a quick and friendly note to the Total Wine on 16th St. and Camelback Road in Phoenix, Ariz.: Please check your inventory. (We’re being friendly; breweries won’t be so kind.) I appreciate the stickers you use to identify when beer hit your shelves, but I don’t appreciate realizing too late that my can of Maui blonde had been sitting there since Dec. 13, 2013 (!!!). [[Editor’s note: After this article was posted, Total Wine called to clarify its labeling system: the date on the label reflects the date that the bar code was first created in Total Wine’s computer system and has nothing to do with the freshness of the beer.]]
OK, on to our line-ups. Erika and I went with different strategies; she chose all-Arizona beers (…show off) to highlight the quality of local breweries and to perhaps give her a leg up on freshness. I chose mine somewhat autobiographically—each brings back a pleasant beer-drinking memory from a different point in time. We poured samples for our tasting panel and gave a brief explanation as to why we chose each beer. Here’s how our sixers shook out:
Mudshark Full Moon Belgian white ale
Four Peaks Kilt Lifter Scotch ale
SanTan SunSpot golden ale
Borderlands Noche Dulche vanilla porter
Huss Magic in the Ivy pale ale
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA
Founders Rubaeus fruit beer
Maui Brewing Bikini Blonde
Ballast Point Victory at Sea imperial porter
Goose Island Sofie Belgian ale
The winner? Kate’s six pack. I’m inclined to think it was because I was able to pick crowd-pleasing beers without limiting myself geographically, but it might also have something to do with the fact that I’m the one who baked the brownies. So I’m curious: What’s your six pack strategy? Do you think about a variety of styles or do you go with a theme? Leave your thoughts in the comments. And if you have a suggestion for another challenge, we’d like to hear that, too.