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The Local Versus The Large

February 26, 2016

In an attempt to visit all the magnificent taverns throughout the Capital Region, I created an Unofficial Yelp Event where we go to a different one each month. And the process has been fascinating.

While taverns may have great wings, beer, and mozzarella sticks, at some it can be challenging to find great beer. And that’s a pity for a few reasons. One, this kind of food was built on beer. Would anyone have created the buffalo-style chicken wing had it not been for a beer-fueled need? Two, the availability of great beer in the Capital Region is fantastic.

But taverns represent the food of the people, so it would make sense that they would pour the beer of the people too. Around here that looks like Budweiser, Miller, Coors, and their respective lightweight counterparts. The top of the tap varies. At some places it might be Yuengling. Sam Adams is quite common, and you can sometimes get lucky and get a seasonal variation.

At our recent visit to Smith’s Tavern in Voorheesville, there was a tougher choice, and the people at the table were divided.

It came down to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Davidson Bros. IPA. One is a much larger brand with national distribution, and the other is the small local brewer. So, when given a decision between these two, knowing what you know about my preferences and predilections, which one do you think I would choose?

For me it’s a no brainer. It’s the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. That’s a delicious beer. And it’s one that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Largely, I think, because of the brand’s size and the ease which it can be found.

When I lived out in California, Sierra Nevada didn’t seem special to me at all. It was like the air we breathed. It was the beer that was always around. Old reliable.

But one day I met a fellow who was so enthusiastic about the brew, that I reconsidered my stance. So, I tried to taste it again with new eyes and a fresh perspective. Man, he was right. There was a bright fruitiness to it. It’s crisp, with a notable presence of hops to give it structure, but restrained enough to keep it refreshing. It’s truly delightful.

Going back to my first review of Smith’s Tavern about eight years ago, it seems I was equally excited about them having Sierra on draft. It’s always fun to see these deeply held opinions hold up over time.

I’ve always wanted to like the Davidson Bros. IPA. It’s made in the Capital Region, and I love drinking and supporting small local businesses. I’ve just never enjoyed this beer itself. And I have given it more than a few chances. To me it’s always tasted murky and unpleasant. Perhaps there’s a beer in the brewery’s portfolio that would appeal to me more, but I haven’t found it yet.

At the end of the day, it’s important to drink what you enjoy. Sure, you should occasionally try new things. But there has to be a point when it’s okay to stop trying things you dislike over and over again, and get back to those things in which you take pleasure.

So ideologies be damned. There’s good beer that’s brewed in larger quantities around the country. There’s also good beer that’s brewed in small batches locally. Don’t succumb to labels, preconceived notions, and snobbery.

Drink a Sam Adams every now again. Get out to Rare Form and give those guys a go. Pop open a can of PBR and see if you can figure out its hipster appeal. Get up to Common Roots and learn what they are all about.

It’s a big beer world out there. And the local guys could always use some love. If it turns out you don’t love ‘em, that’s okay. But you should give them a chance

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2016 11:05 am

    They have a few Genny signs/mirrors hung up. The even have a 12 Horse one! I always wished they would put some on tap. Seems fitting.

    Also, I partly blame Sierra Nevada for the current IPA craze. They are the OG IPA peddlers. I do admit a fondness for their product though… Sometimes I buy the “Torpedo.” I think it is over 8% ABV so I like to call it, “the high gravity beer for people too embarrassed to buy Steel Reserve.”

  2. David Nardolillo permalink
    February 27, 2016 3:16 pm

    I really like the theme of this post. It is perfectly acceptable to let your own tastes and preferences be a guide, but be open to at least trying some of the stuff outside of your comfort zone.

    I am an enthusiastic drinker of craft beer, and appreciate the reflections and suggestions of many voices in our local community, but I do not hear much about people participating in double-blind taste tests, in which the identity of the beers selected for the taste test are unknown to the tester. Why does this not happen here? I think more events like that would be illuminating. It would also help protect against unfair influences, and might quell some unnecessary put-downs. Who knows, some of the out-of-fashion names might do better than you think.

  3. EPT permalink
    March 1, 2016 9:37 am

    I’m an avid IPA guy. Give me a Dogfish Head 60 or even better 90 minute IPA and I’m happy. But you can’t go wrong with Six Point Resin, Victory Hop Devil, Ithaca Flower Power, etc.

  4. albanylandlord permalink
    March 6, 2016 3:00 pm

    Initially I got caught up in local beers like all the other craft beer lovers. Then I realized I was drinking a lot of OK and bad beer while searching for the rare gem. There ARE local gems out there but it isn’t worth wading through everything else when I can easily get the beers I love. When I am out I will try local brews, especially on a recommendation, but mostly I just enjoy drinking the best beers in the world.

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