“There is no such thing as a bad beer. It’s that some taste better than others.” ~ Billy Carter

It’s that time of year. Celebrations are everywhere. Whether it’s with family, friends or co-workers, you are bound to be asked an important question … “What are you drinking?” I have put together a list of excellent beers that you can order for yourself or for a friend who you are trying to bring along on the craft beer adventure. The question of “What are you drinking?” will soon be directed to you and your glass.

Alagash White (5.0% ABV)
This is my “gateway beer” ~ my beer of choice to get someone who usually drinks mass-market beers into craft beers. Alagash Brewing Company describes this beer as …”Our interpretation of a traditional Belgian wheat beer. Brewed with a generous portion of wheat and spiced with coriander and Curacao orange peel, this beer is fruity, refreshing and slightly cloudy in appearance.” It is the highest rated beer in its category, even including the Belgian beers on which it was based. It’s brewed in Maine, has a familiar flavor and is not disliked by anyone I have met. Give it a try and don’t be afraid to buy a round of it.

High and Mighty Beer of the Gods (4.5% ABV)
Here is another suitable choice to use as a “gateway beer.” It’s made right here in Massachusetts and is only distributed here. It is as light and refreshing as any mass-market lager but with a few more hops to let you know it’s different. The hops used are of a German variety, which means they are gentler than their citrusy, brash American cousins. This makes for a smooth drinking experience for those with the most delicate palate, yet it’s appreciated by craft beer aficionados.

Mayflower Pale Ale (5.1% ABV)
Do you like Bass Ale? Here is a lighter version of the same style. English malts, hops and a house yeast make this beer lighter in color and mouthfeel but with a malt backbone and earthy hop presence similar to the finest English pale ale. I think it’s kind of ironic that such a fine English pale ale is brewed in Plymouth. This is fine beer and an excellent conversation starter. If this particular beer is not available, any of this brewery’s offerings are good choices.

Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (8.5% ABV)
Please make note of the high ABV. I found this beer to be the most drinkable of the bunch. Sometimes, farmhouse ales, or saisons as they are sometimes called, can be sour, funky and full of flavors resembling a horse blanket. This is a smooth, slightly peppery and citrusy example that is incredibly drinkable. It has a light body and a smooth flavor that is well balanced.

Berkshire Brewing Coffeehouse Porter (6.2% ABV)
This beer is brewed in South Deerfield and uses coffee from New Salem. Are you thinking that coffee and beer don’t go together? If so, you should give this a try. It is an incredibly well-balanced beer. No one ingredient outshines the others. Coffee, chocolate, dark fruit and toasted bread are the flavors that shine through. If the mouthfeel or perceived bitterness of dark beer make you shy away, do yourself a favor and try this one. It will change your mind.

Ithaca Flower Power IPA (7.5% ABV)
This is the one IPA of the bunch, and it is fast becoming one of my favorites. This New York brewery uses an assortment of hops and adds them at various times during the brewing and fermentation process. Tropical notes come through the second it is poured. Pineapple, melon and assorted citrus fill the air, giving you a preview of what is to come. It tastes as it smells, with just enough of a malt backbone to let you know this is a complete beer. There is an abrupt finish with a slight lingering of the tropical hop goodness.

All of these beers have something in common. They all have a story to tell when you hand someone one of them. Share the stories and, most importantly, share some great beer. Cheers!

By Kerry Cyganiewicz