Monday, August 25, 2008


(Note: I totally messed up, and have since corrected, this post when it was first published. I plum forgot my #1 favorite of the macro micros – BLUE MOON BELGIAN WHITE, made by none other than the Adolph Coors Corporation. I’ve tried to belittle and knock down this beer, and every time I’ve had it, especially the two most recent times, I’ve found it to be fantastic. Correction noted on 8/27/08).

More often than not, beer dorks like me find themselves in situations that call for a beer to be purchased or chosen, yet, for whatever reason, there are no Trappist ales nor double IPAs nor wood-aged quadruples anywhere in sight. In these times, desperate measures must be put into play: either abstaining from beer entirely (come on!!!), or scanning the list of options to find the least objectionable “macro micro” available. What is a macro micro, you ask? Well, it’s usually a beer that once began from humble origins, usually a craft brewer who, with a little success, made it his/her company’s flagship ale, and through cunning, taste and marketing, or some combination thereof, has brought said beer onto the grocery shelves and tap handles of hundreds or thousands of establishments. The beer is ubiquitous in its region, state - or, like SIERRA NEVADA PALE ALE or FAT TIRE, the entire United States of America.

What of these macro micros? What does the discriminating beer dork do upon encountering one standing proudly in a sea of mediocrity, as he so often does? Let me guide you through my opinion of those that are most freuqwntly encountered in my neck of the woods (Northern California), and the ranking I’ve employed in my head to help me decide when to pull the trigger, or to simply stay abstinent from alcoholic enjoyment for the evening:

1. BLUE MOON BELGIAN WHITE – You think I don’t know how “controversial” this mass-produced ale is in the beer dork world? I don’t care – I love it, once I take the orange out. The best mass-produced Belgian-style ale ever made outside of Belgium. Great bursts of flavor and even spices, redolent of the best refreshing white ales & wheat beers from Germany and Belgium. 8/10.

2. NEW BELGIUM FAT TIRE AMBER ALE – Admit it, you know this is a very good beer, one that you’d support with all your heart if it wasn’t sweeping the United States like the Macarena or the Achy Breaky Heart dance. A classic malty amber that I’ll reach for just about anytime it’s the only decent thing on tap, which it so often is. 7.5/10.

3. ANDERSON VALLEY BOONT AMBER – Once my favorite beer in the world, this has become so average that it’s dropped below FAT TIRE on my depth chart. That doesn’t mean it’s not still good – another malty, somewhere fruity amber that’s a clean and smooth as Walden Pond. It’s a macro-micro where I live, but I understand it may not be where you reside. 7.5/10.

4. PYRAMID HEFEWEIZEN – I still like this one better than just about anyone I know. I’m not sure the 8/10 I gave it in this review has quite stood in the subsequent times I’ve had it, but it’s a delicious American wheat beer that I’ll throw down for anytime. 7.5/10.

5. ANCHOR STEAM – "Old reliable" never really seems to get better or worse, does it? It always just tastes good, and has saved numerous ballgames, weddings and dive bars from the sad sight of me drinking ice water. 7/10.

6. DESCHUTES MIRROR POND PALE ALE – Another one deservedly hitting the ballparks and tap handles all around California. I wrote a review of it here. 7/10.

7. SAMUEL ADAMS BOSTON LAGER – There always seems to be something better than Old Sam on tap just about everywhere these days, so I haven’t had it in a while, but I always felt he did his job well. 6.5/10.

8. LAGUNITAS IPA – Never got into this quote-unquote IPA; it’ll do in a sweaty club or in a real pinch, but I might just get a gin & tonic or a free cup of water instead. 6/10.

9. SIERRA NEVADA PALE ALE – I’ve kind of soured on this one. Sooo boring. So mass-produced, and starting to taste like it. 6/10.

10. WIDMER HEFEWEIZEN – Really just not a go-to beer anymore, if it ever was back in the 90s. I can't remember that far back. 5/10.

See? That probably matches your own rankings perfectly, doesn’t it? Whaddya say?


Anonymous said...

In Northern California, my old standby is Racer 5.

Anonymous said...

I find that to be an interesting line about Fat Tire - that it's a victim of its popularity. I hear that a lot. I totally agree with you about the quality of Sierra Nevada Pale but in a lineup of Fat Tire or Sierra, Sierra wins most every time. There's something about Fat Tire that tastes muddy to me. A friend of mine swears it has to be had super fresh through squeaky clean tap lines but how often does that happen? I wish it could be a different New Belgium beer that was everywhere because I think they do some really cool things (both with their beers & their approach to business) & I feel good supporting them. Same with Firestone, I love their pale ales but Double Barrel (by far the most available at bars) is in the same boat as Fat Tire for me. But maybe I'm just not a malt guy. Of the list above I'd probably go for either Deschutes beer.


seanrude said...

Here in the NYC/NJ area, Sam Adams is the choice micro, though you'll often see something from Brooklyn Brewing. In my very immediate area, the local microbrewery, Cricket Hill, is making some inroads. Their Hopnotic IPA is a standard IPA and is decent enough, and I always order it to support the local guys, though anyone from Northern CA, the Pacific Northwest and/or Colorado would probably scoff at it.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea for a post. Although you've given both the Boont and the Fat Tire the same score, I don't think Fat Tire can shake a stick at Boont, just my two cents though, the malt character on the Boont is just heads above per style and otherwise. The ONLY thing that I recall changing about Sierra Nevada over time is the Perle signature that made it stand out. Alas it has been deminished from what I can tell. A brave list, prost!

Anonymous said...

In Manhattan I'll stand by Brooklyn Lager as the best macro micro.

Increasingly Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold is also become ubiquitous which is awesome.


piercival said...

I agree with most of your ratings except-

1)Fat Tire I give a 6; the recipe has been watered down and it's become rather insipid, although some of their other styles are quite excellent.

2) Pyramid Hefe - a 5 at best, very bland stuff and unfortunately they don't have other greater styles to offer. It is better than Widmer however (my father in-law, a devout fan of Bud Light says Widmer is the only craft beer he can stomach - how is that for an underhanded compliment?).

3) Mirror Pond Pale - I think merits an 8. In an industry still intoxicated with extreme hop bombs, the balanced beers are often overlooked or even eschewed. MPPA is an extremely well crafted product that begs for a second and third serving. Best US Pale for my taste.

I think you nailed the rest of this list pretty well though.