Merry Christmas to all from The Ferm!

I was pleased to see at my local grocer a new progressive beer product, the "Pick Six" beer sampler. The a la carte beer buying technique gives the power to the consumer to assemble his or her favorite beers without being locked into six of 'em (or multiple six packs to satisfy varying tastes). As I offered before, I prefer to stay on one beer for more than one when enjoying multiples, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to try this out. After all, I'm a sucker for beer gimmicks.

Upon deciding to try it out once, I immediately gravitate toward things I haven't tried and may not like or things I know I like, but don't really want to go for the full six. After much consternation, I go with this lineup.

1) Kona Longboard
2) Sam Adams Black Lager
3) Guinness
4) Sapporo
5) Smithwicks
6) Spaten-Oktoberfest

Each has its reason...
1) I'd been dying to do a blind taste test b/w Longboard (a beer I vow to love) and St. Arnold Lawnmower (a beer I typically avoid, but had one saved in my fridge for just this reason). Results coming later in the blog, stay tuned.
2) I really like the Sam Black, but it's tough to drink more than one, perfect filler here
3) Guinness is always great on tap and they try the fancy little pellets, etc. to make it the same, another good add.
4) Love Sapporo when eating Hibachi grill or Sushi, just don't need six of 'em.
5) Solid beer, one of the better options.
6) Oktoberfest (which I own via the 2nd overall pick in the "Anything Mock Draught") has obviously come and gone and my taste buds stayed with it, but it was an Okt that I hadn't tried (or remembered trying). Getting one definitely a must in case I don't like the flavor.

I was mildly surprised at how much trouble I had filling out the six. By the time AB, Coors, and Miller products are eliminated (despite some tricks of theirs to make beers look like independent labels) there were a handful of imports or "meh" choices, stuff I try and enjoy all the time (some St. Arnold products, Fireman #4, Shiner, etc.). But I was happy with my six and all were enjoyed the following days. The Guinness was the biggest disappointment, the capsule thing sure didn't provide much carbonation, and it tasted flat. Nothing like the smooth flavor out of the draught. The rest were as advertised, enjoyed as something I don't usually get!

Before I move onto the second very loosely related part of the blog, a quick cost analysis shows that the "Pick Six" is not a bad deal. Each beer was priced at $1.49, so that's $8.94 for the six of them. If I were to buy a six pack of any of those, they were between $8.49 and $8.99. So the premium price paid for each is less than 10 cents a bottle, not bad in the grand pricing scheme (less than one cent per ounce).

As a follow up, I tried another "Pick Six" a week or so later, this time focusing on all German beers. I really had trouble finding much interesting and probably disliked half of what I picked. The next time I stopped by the aisle, the novelty had worn off and there wasn't much I really wanted to try that was new, and what I liked I'd prefer to get a sixer anyway. So there is a diminishing return associated.

So as for the taste test, I frequently execute home, blind taste tests, using a couple of sampler glasses and a coaster marked underneath with each. Most of the time to test myself rather than the beers, can I really tell the difference b/w two similar products of the same style.

While looking away, move the beers around in circle on their coaster enough times that my mind can't recall how many. Most times, I don't look at the beer before sampling, as hue or other visible factors might give it away.

So for this bout, in the Red Corner, we have the Hawaiian Puncher, the Lei Lager, the Pacific Rim Pilsner...Kona Longboard Lager!

In the Blue Corner, we have the Houston Hopiness, the Texas Titan, the Bayou City Beer...St. Arnold Lawnmower!


Blue Corner
Red Corner

And the winner was honestly a tie. During the test I could barely distinguish, and after about four rounds, I guess which was which only half the time. Now I'm not a connoisseur by any means, purely amateur. But I'd say going forward I could buy either. This surprised me, I thought I'd be able to pick the St. Arnold flavor that is pervasive throughout their beer line, but I couldn't.

One disclosure regarding the test, the Longboard in your mainland store is brewed up in Oregon as I understand it. I first tried Kona from taps on Maui, brewed locally and (at least in my mind), vastly superior. Of course when drinking a beer in 80 degree sun on a Lanai with the beach a stone's throw away might have affected my mind! I also really prefer the Fire Rock Pale from Kona, but it gives me hangovers (and I usually don't get those) so I have to avoid. I've also tried the Wailua Wheat, which has a hint of passion fruit and is worth a try if you can find the seasonal spring brew.

J.R. Enjoys Kona Draft in various Maui bars

The "Pick Six" is a great way to do your own blind taste test, or try things you might not otherwise. I'm hoping my grocer mixes up the options a bit more frequently, or I'm probably not going to go that route very frequently. But all in all, a victory for beer drinkers, just having the option!