Slim Pickens!

A little while ago I read a few different blogs about different writer’s go-to breweries.  They took this to be the breweries that they will always trend towards when they are at the store.  If the brewer releases a new brew, they are sure to pick it up.  This past weekend I got thinking about a similar concept but with a little different angle.  Saturday I spent the day at my friend’s house brewing a Belgian Blonde beer using all-grain.  It was interesting getting to look at a different style of brewing, as I have only really used the extract brewing technique.  Anyway, I brought some beer for consumption throughout the hours of brewing, and he had some of his previous homebrew and other things to share as well.  We managed to consume most of it throughout the brewing hours, and we had nothing left to really consume as dinner approached and our wives got home for dinner.  Not really looking to make an extended beer run, we stopped at a store right near his house which he told me didn’t have the best selection.  Since we were looking for immediate consumption, we decided to head straight for the cold aisle.  This is where my post idea came from.  What do you drink when good beer is “slim pickens”?

Everyone has at one point been put in a similar situation.  You end up at a bar that seems to be run by every big beer company in existence, or your only option is a store that sells singles of Hurricane.  What are your go-to breweries for something good? Saturday I had a few different options, and I think it is this experience that has really shaped my view on my go-to breweries.  We obviously walked by everything containing Miller, Bud, or Coors, but there were other options that had far more appeal than others.  They were my go-to options.

1. Boston Beer Company: Sam Adams does one thing right, they flood the market with every type of beer they create at that particular point in time.  The majority of people I talk to are not a big fan of Boston Lager, but especially now, you can go to a store and find a whole plethora of other options that are readily available.  I know Sam Adams walks a fine line between big beer and craft beer, but in a pinch, they may be your best options for a beer you won’t hate yourself for drinking later on.

2. Sierra Nevada: I almost went with Dogfish Head on this one, and in my area, they are definitely an option that you can stick in this particular category; however, Sierra Nevada seems to have a slightly larger reach than Dogfish Head does.  They are a similar company that tends to toe the line between big beer and craft beer, but they also do a good job of creating a wide variety of readily available beer that is pretty good.  Plus, especially when I’m out at a bar with limited selection, I’m always happy to pick up their standard pale ale.

3. Yuengling: There are a few beers I will tend to always drink because they are beers I drank early on in my venture into the world of beer.  For me, the beer I drank most throughout my earliest drinking times was Yuengling.  I went to college in PA, and Yuengling almost dominates the majority of the state.  Of course there are other really significant craft beers there as well: Victory, Troegs, Yards, etc…; however, Yuengling is really popular where I grew up in NJ as well.  It was the first beer I ever drank, and in a pinch, I am sure to make certain that I always go back to it.  It reminds me of home.

4. Local Brews: Saturday we ultimately decided to go with a beer out of Flying Dog.   This isn’t a brewery that is going to be available to everyone all over; however, in this area, you are sure to find a lot of their stuff in pretty easy to get to locations.  Thankfully around here Dogfish Head, Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, and a few others can be found even at a corner store in DC.  Therefore, a fairly good craft beer is never too far away.  In DC now, you can definitely even find a DC Brau at most restaurants when you head out.

Like I said earlier, I had this thought due to the circumstance I found myself in on Saturday. However, it made me realize that there is almost never a really good reason to resort to a lot of the big beer companies.  Unless you are on a camping trip where everyone only brought a Bud product, you should be fully capable of finding something slightly better.  Even if it means resorting to a beer from America’s oldest brewery.

What are some of your go-to brewery when the selection is slim pickens?



  1. Great post. I find myself in this situation less these days but will occasionally hit a restaurant that has a weak draft selection. I follow similar guidelines to find a beer that I won’t hate myself over.

    1 — Go local if I can (in South Jersey this might mean Flying Fish)
    2 — Go “macro” craft. Sierra Nevada or Anchor (usually in bottles)
    3 — Go “mega” craft and find the ubiquitous Sam Adams Seasonal
    4 — When all else fails have a whiskey

    I tend to avoid Yuengling mostly because it is everywhere in the PA/South Jersey area and I have probably had more than enough of it over the years but I wont refuse one if handed a frosty pint/bottle.

    • I like the way you broke that up into different size breweries. Yeah when I lived in that area I got really tired of Yuengling, but now I have been away so long it’s nice to revisit now and then.

      • I will confess that I am less of a beer snob depending on the venue. For example, while diving in the Caribbean the boat captain handed me a Bud as we cruised back to shore. The beer geek in me said no way but the rest of me did the math and said YES Please!

        Simple beer math:
        Caribbean + Sailboat + Any beer = GOOD

      • This is a good point to make. While in Costa Rica I loved drinking Imperial and it definitely was the Bud of Costa Rica

      • Amazing how the environment can change your taste buds and brew priorities. Like if I was on a beach St. John and Charlize Theron walked up, naked, and offered me a Bud Light Lime … would I turn it down? … no way!!

      • Yeah I know, I can remember when I was in Spain. I would just say beer and whatever they brought I drank!

      • LOL, on a recent cruise we sailed into the Grand Caymans. I walked into the Margaritaville there and gladly ordered a Caybrew when I found out it had very limit distribution outside of the islands. It’s what you’d expect of an island beer, but it was working at that moment.

      • Yeah I’m going to Jamaica at the start of this month. I’m sure I’ll drink whatever they put in front of me for sure!

  2. “Slim Pickens” – I like that title.

    In my area, it would have be, of your choices; Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, and then Yeungling. It’s good to have a decent brew to choose if your favs are not available.

    Brewing all grain is a blast. As you know, there are many more choices with that method.But, there’s less room in some areas for error. 🙂

    David Ivey
    Black Bucket Brew Inbox Magazine Editor

    • Thanks, I was trying to think of a title and it just came to me. Appreciate your faithful readership and commenting lately.

  3. In Missouri, we have two good craft breweries in Schlafly and Boulevard. They’re available pretty much anywhere. I go for them when the Pickens are Slim.

    • Schlafly is a great one to have in your neighborhood. I don’t believe I have had anything from Boulevard, but I am now interested.

      • I don’t think Boulevard is around us, yet. They are in Massachusetts, oddly enough. But I read that they are expanding their capacity and are going to get their Smokestack Series into more East Coast cities. A friend brought back their Long Strange Tripel and Double Wide IPA from a trip to Mass…based on these, I wholeheartedly encourage Boulevard to come to the DC-area. Zac is in an enviable position.

      • Well I hope I get to see them around now!

      • Yeah, those Smokestacks are something else. People go wild for the Saison Brett which is maybe the best example of how to infect a beer properly. Their regular beers are somewhat pedestrian, but that may have more to do with the limitations of the styles. The Single-Wide IPA is a great stand-by.

  4. DFH, Troegs, Flying Fish or Yuengling tend to always be around when the selection is limited.

  5. New Belgium is becoming rather ubiquitous around the DC-area. And with New Belgium and Sierra Nevada now setting-up shop on the East Coast, I expect they will become an even better fall back option (possibly with even more selection).

  6. Great topic! Sam Adams seasonal is usually the top end tap in a bar with low end beers in my area. Although Ragin Bitch and Yard’s Brawler are starting to show up.

    In a package store I can usually find SN Pale Ale or Torpedo, a good selection of DFH and of course Sam. And I’m one of those odd ducks who happen to really like Boston Lager so even if they don’t have a great selection of SA I usually don’t have to walk out of any place empty handed.

    • I need to try more from Yards for sure. I was in Philly last month, and I definitely didn’t have enough of their stuff before I left there. I guess I’ll have to try it the next time I’m up!

  7. […] days I really don’t have a review ready, so I get a different type of topic ready to go.  Slim Pickens holds the record on the site for the most comments, 21, out of any post this year.  It just helped […]

  8. […] Evidently Sam Adams has been running the Longshot contest since 1995.  Jim Koch is perhaps the best example of a man with a dream to make good beer making it really big in the end.  We’ve probably all heard about how he personally went around selling his beer to different bars.  Clearly he managed to make it big in the end; however, people who love craft beer seem to always wonder if we call it craft or big beer.  Regardless of whether you think they are craft or not, it doesn’t really matter.  We who brew beer all want to be him, and we’re extremely happy when he uses his status to bring some light to the little guys.  Plus, you know you’re always fine to have a Sam when you’re stuck in a situation that is slim pickins! […]

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