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DRAFT’s editors face off in six-pack challenge

With $20 and 20 minutes to shop at the local Total Wine, who would assemble the best mixed sixer?

Photo by Adrian Baird for DRAFT

Photo by Adrian Baird for DRAFT

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
Lumberyard IPA
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
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
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.



Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]

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  • Ken Megal says:

    I avoid the ‘build-your-own’ six pack selection at my beer stores for the same reason you pointed out. A check of packaged/best-by dates usually reveals that the beers in this area are old and past their prime. I’m a freshness freak and always check for freshness dating and avoid old beer.

    However, if the beer was fresh I’d be focused on APAs, IPAs, DIPAs and barrel aged. A tall order with a $20 budget for sure. I was happy with what you put together though. Cheers!

  • Peter says:

    A limited budget to impress with craft beer and neither of you ended up with any Lagunitas? That’s a shame. They are hands down the best value in craft beer.

    • Mark says:

      Explain value.

      They don’t use whole flower hops, they aren’t a majority of bottle conditioned ales.

      What makes you think they use all top quality ingredients? They share the same price with some of those listed above so unless you just like they way they taste above others, your statement of “Hands down the best value” seems obsessively subjective.

  • Kim says:

    Next time try Whole Foods. I love the Pick Six and they have most things they carry in six pack available as a single. Plus beer doesn’t hang out on the shelf. Yeah it might cost more to do it that way but sometimes you feel like mixing it up.

  • […] With $20 and 20 minutes to shop at the local Total Wine, who would assemble the best mixed sixer? […]

  • Joe says:

    I like to use the pick six to try new beers in styles I’m unfamiliar with. I get to try it out without committing to a six pack. I also make an effort to select brews with prices, for a sixer, higher than the pick six price.

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