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Trader Joe’s house-brand beers. Part One: The drinkening of the first three

My dear friend Melba gave me some terrific news. Trader Joe’s is selling beer! Yes, rest of America, this may be old news, but New York has some crazy-ass laws regarding who could sell what in regards to beer and liquor. (Trivia King Bonus Hint: Check out Seinfeld in syndication and you’ll surely see that episode where George wears the Gortex jacket and breaks a bunch of wine bottles in the liquor store. There’s beer in that liquor store, too. But there wouldn’t be if it were filmed in New York, because, unlike California, and I assume any sane state, beer cannot be sold in liquor stores. But I digress…)

There’s a couple of great features about Trader Joe’s selling beer. They sell their own house-brand, and they allow you to mix-and-match beer in a six pack. And the six packs are $5.99! Wow, that’s like half of what a Sam Adams six pack is! Coincidentally, they had six different types of house beer, so I got one of each, for $5.99! I’ve tried three so far.

I tried the Bohemian Lager first. It took me back to my days of purchasing cheap Löwenbräu, during the days when it was brewed by Miller Brewing. I think most American beer drinkers would be relatively comfortable with this style. It’s crisp and not strong in either spiciness or bitterness. It’s no Coors Light, thank goodness, but it’s no Pilsner Urquell, either. It hits a nice spot for a very inexpensive beer. The label indicates that it has 5% alcohol, which I appreciate being noted for a beer sold in America, and 18 bitterness units. I have no idea what bitterness units are, but I bet they’re more subjective than Scofield Units.

The Hofbrau Bock is mildly barley-flavored. It’s the sweetest of the three that I’ve tried, reminded me of a Kilians or a Yeungling, but much cleaner, with none of the mushroomy aftertaste that I find in less expensive American brands. I’m assuming that Trader Joe’s does not brew with adjuncts, and the label states that the beer is brewed with three different malts. It’s a bit light in color for a bock. It has 7% alcohol–take note desperate alkies on a budget–and a 22 on the bitterness scale.

Summer Brew is a mild Kölsch-style beer. If it is really brewed like a Kölsch, it’s top-fermented, in the style of an ale, but then cold-conditioned, like a lager. That sure is interesting. Unfortunately, it’s the most interesting thing about this one. It tasted like a mild IPA. There wasn’t much beyond a very slight hoppy note. Although it’s a 25 on the bitterness scale, and 4.8% alcohol, there really wasn’t much there. Not horrible, by a long shot, but with the other choices, it wouldn’t be one that I’d buy again.

Next I get to try the other three, a Dunkleweizen, a Bavarian Hefeweizen, and a Vienna Style Lager.

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