There are good bottles shops and there are bad bottle shops.
You have stores where the owner stashes the good stuff behind the counter for his regulars and those that put everything out. There are spots where the staff is chatty and knows their shit and others where the guy at the counter gives you a blank stare if you ask him what local beers are good. There are the stores that emphasize fresh beer and others that charge full price for an IPA that has been sitting on the shelf for a year.
The bad shops have some value, actually: There’s no pressure to buy anything when you are being ignored by the staff and you never worry about there being a line.
But, when you find a good store, you hold on to it and keep going back. Even when you are an out-of-towner, you keep visiting because you know that there will be something good waiting for you each time you visit. One of my favorites is in Syosset, N.Y. My sister thinks I travel to Long Island to see her, but I really visit so I can get to Shake Shack, grab some water ice, and visit Syosset Beverage on the Jericho Turnpike.
I stopped to fill my trunk while on my way out of town so I could load up with local beers unavailable in Upstate New York. The Empire State’s three-tier system becomes complicated by the laws of supply and demand. The state is divided in two – New York City and everywhere else – and out-of-state brewers must provide enough supply to those areas to meet the demand. Chris O’Leary at Brew York explains it quite well.
While heading to the checkout, I grabbed a can of Old Fashioned Lemonade IPA, an Evil Twin/Omnipollo collaboration and this store reminded me of why it is one of my favorites. The woman behind the counter started giving me directions. 'You grabbed this? You really should get this too. Have you had this? We just got it in this morning.'
Sipping one of these with your eyes closed can give you the illusion of summer.”
With the can of Old Fashioned Lemonade IPA, she pointed me towards the rack and said, “Go get a Pink Lemonade IPA, a second joint effort of the two breweries. Everyone who bought both said that the Pink was better. Look at how much regular we have left compared to the pink.” There were twice as many regular cans on the shelf.
I followed her instructions and was glad that I did.
This isn’t to say the Old Fashioned Lemonade was bad, but there was something phony about the flavor. You know how you can taste the difference between real lemonade made with water, lemon juice, and sugar and the powdered stuff? Yeah, well, the Old Fashioned Lemonade had all the character of powdered lemonade.
Meanwhile, the Pink Lemonade IPA was well above average. Advertised as an IPA, it rolled across the palate more like a sweeter sour beer. The lemon offered a slight bitterness, while the added raspberry flavor brought a sweeter, more tart complexity to the beer. The nose followed with aroma of fresh lemon, while a moderate amount carbonation enhanced the lemon and some tingle to the mouthfeel, which was otherwise neutral. A moderately bodied beer, it was orange and cloudy to the eye with no head and light lacing.
It’s a shame that Evil Twin and Omnipollo waited until late in the summer to release its Pink Lemonade IPA as this would have made for a great poolside beer during the hot summer months. At the very least, sipping one of these with your eyes closed can give you the illusion of summer, and take the edge off autumn’s march and winter’s approach.