Craft beer on a budget

10 Mar

Self employment has its advantages and disadvantages.

One disadvantage; Income Insecurity.  Sometimes I’m floating in cash (ok, not really, but it can feel like it comparatively) and sometimes I’m telling my kids to suck it up and eat pasta again because I don’t have any money to go grocery shopping.

Mostly we’re in between somewhere.  But I tend to be pretty miserly because of this income variation. Still a passionate foodie (or gourmand more accurate, h/t @burghgourmand for the distinction) I’m always looking to answer my desire for great food and drink without breaking the bank.

There are a ton of really good beers around the $30 a case mark and I’ve been exploring my local distributors selections for cases that fit my miserly tendency but make my beer loving soul purr. However a recent spate of  brokeassedness sent me looking for more economical options.  Enter Ithaca Brewing Company.

Can you see that price tag???  I was actually a little worried to try this thinking “you get what you pay for.”  In this case that turns out to be false.  All four beers in this case of Ithaca Beer were a delight and at $20 a case (?!?!?!) it’s cheaper than Budweiser. The variety pack includes a Nut brown, a Belgian style wheat, a hoppy red ale, and an apricot wheat.

The nut brown was fine, though its hard for me to offer a rounded critique as it isn’t my favorite style.  I did notice though that when I finished the first case I didn’t end up with a pile of nut browns at the end, which is usually what happens when I’m really ambivalent about a beer.  And the Cold Front Belgian style was wonderful.  But the other two sent me back to stockpile cases of this beer.

My first apricot beer was Magic Hat #9 about 15 years ago in Burlington VT, before it was widely distributed. It was love at first sip.  Oddly, over the years, I have found the apricot in #9 to fade. Maybe I’ve become accustomed to it, but I’d be wary of insisting it still has apricot–though I cant imagine it doesn’t.

Not so with this beer. Ithaca Apricot Wheat wears its fruit front and center. I Love It.  I’d have to do a side by side comparison, but I think it very much resembles #9, the main difference being the easily identifiable nature of Ithaca’s fruit. If you like fruit beer and apricots, this is a MUST TRY.

*I’m also firmly convinced that the best beer to carry fruit is a wheat beer. Nothing quite marries the beer to the fruit so well in my mind.

The other stand out in the case for me is the hoppy red ale. At 7% its a hearty brew with lots of lovely hops and a great balancing sweetness.

I cannot imagine why the case is bargain priced, maybe the brewer is trying to establish a foothold, maybe its presence here is a short lived fluke.  The combination of quality and price makes this the runaway favorite in my recent string of variety case taste testing.  I actually bought several cases to stockpile in case it goes away and at $20 a case, that was more than doable.

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2 Responses to “Craft beer on a budget”

  1. mike March 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    We visited Ithaca brewery quite a few years back before I really got into beer. Thoroughly enjoyed everything they had (though if you are in the region, you are there for the wine…not the beer). They even had pretty excellent root and ginger beer for those who don’t imbibe adult beverages.

    Of late I’ve been buying mixed six packs rather than whole cases of beer. Even with sampler cases or something I like a lot, I tend to get tired of it by the end of the case and I regret buying it. For $15-20 you can hand select a sixer (at various bars around). For me that’s money better spent. If you miss on something you are only out $3.

  2. Burgh Gourmand March 10, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Nice article! And thanks for the mention 🙂

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