Variety, as the saying goes, is the spice of life. Those of us who are fans of craft beer appreciate having choices.
This extends to the home. Once upon a time, I didn't even buy packaged beer, reasoning correctly that it could get expensive. Then, later, I might have a single six-pack in the fridge. But as I tried different styles of beer and came to realize the myriad of flavors craft beer has come to offer, one style in the fridge no longer offers enough choice.
Certain styles of beer go well with certain foods (say, a Kolsch with seafood) while some don't (a malty English ESB and Mexican food — beer pairing FAIL). And it gets boring drinking the same style.
The ultimate is to have a beer cellar/garage where you can age and store a wide selection of beers (the same principle as a wine cellar), but many of us don't have the space.
So, prompted by a discussion on The Hopry, a Midwest beer blog, I offer my thoughts on the necessary ingredients for a well-stocked beer fridge. Individual taste may differ, but I think these guidelines are pretty solid:
Something hoppy. When the mood strikes, nothing replaces the delicious juice of Humulus lupus. Accept no substitute. We're blessed in the Western U.S. with many wonderful American-style India Pale Ales. My favorites for this category are Ska's Modus Hoperandi IPA, Avery IPA and Oskar Blues Gordon (a very hoppy red ale soon to be renamed G'Knight for silly legal reasons). Find something with an IBU rating in the 50-70 range. This sort of beer pairs well with spicy foods like Mexican and Thai.
(An aside on Modus. Excellent IPA. Midwesterners, however, are slobbering over it like it's a Chicago dog and deep-dish pizza combined).
Something dark and malty. Particularly in winter, this sort of beer feels appropriate. The humble porter is excellent to satisfy this craving, and Ska Ten Pin Porter and Santa Fe State Pen Porter are as good as any and easy to find here. Also worth mentioning: Dolores River Brewery just began canning several of its beers (a four-pack of 16-ounce cans runs $8 at the brewery), and the tasty dry stout is currently holding down a corner of my fridge.
Something Belgian. Once you go Belgian, you appreciate the astonishing things yeast can do. Belgian beers are as varied and interesting as any in the world. Fortunately, Avery Brewing, based in Boulder, does Belgians as well as anyone in the U.S. I'm a huge fan of The Reverend (a big, dark Quadrupel) and Salvation (a tasty Belgian-style golden ale). Not every liquor store in Durango carries Avery's bombers, but Wagon Wheel tends to have them.
Ska also has its True Blonde Dubbel, and DIFF, a Belgian-style witbier, will be coming out soon.
Or, go authentic. Star Liquors has some really, really good Belgians like Duchess de Bourgogne and Orval.
Something versatile. Sometimes, you just want a mellow beer that doesn't dominate your palate or overpower the food you're eating (Note to self: "Dominate," "overpower." Sheesh, this is beer, not the NFL playoffs). Something like Ska Pinstripe Red Ale or Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale.
Something special. It's good to have a few beers you're kind of afraid of — big beers that you can share with others. I'm thinking of strong ales like imperial stouts and barley wines, which are plentiful in these winter months. I've had a bottle of Deschutes The Abyss 2009 in my fridge for more than a year now. When you crack open a beer like that, it's kind of an event.
Following the above suggestions should give you a pretty well-stocked and versatile beer selection at home. What do you think? What beers are staples in your fridge?