First, the good news: We’re deep enough into the month that we can all agree to finally drop this “sober January” charade. It was cute while it lasted, and it may even have saved a couple brain cells here and there, taken a few millimeters off the odd waistline, but it’s time to get back in character. We’re drinkers, you and me. And hurray for that!
But now the other news: Just because we’ve put our high horses back in the barn for another 350-day nap doesn’t mean our wallets have recovered from their year-end holiday hangover. So it’s time to get thrifty, which means it’s time to hit the Trader Joe’s beer aisle.
Every smart shopper knows Trader Joe to be a top-notch purveyor of frozen burritos, mini peanut butter cups, and forced pleasantry — Why thank you, kindly cashier, for validating my choice of mini eggroll flavor! What time do you get off work, and do you have a microwave? — but not all are brave enough to sift through the store-label beer aisle to separate the drinkable from the otherwise.
Fear not; that’s what I’m for. The following six selections represent the best of the good Trader’s multi-dozen-deep beer portfolio.
Mission Street IPA. This 5.8-percent alcohol-by-volume IPA doesn’t wow you with a showy explosion of fruity new-world hops, but it displays nice grassy, earthy, biscuity, old-school aromas along with some spicy caramel and candied lemon peel. $6.99 per six-pack.
Stockyard Oatmeal Stout The oats add a soft, creamy texture to complement the bitter espresso, dark chocolate, and toasted almonds flavors in this legitimately good stout that’s worth buying even on payday. $6.99 per six-pack
Boatswain Twin Screw An 8.4-percent ABV double IPA with notes of light lemon, toasted nuts, caramel, and brown sugar. It’s certainly not special, as imperial IPAs go, but it’s plenty good enough for $2.29 per 22-ounce bottle.
Mission Street Hefeweizen Clean, unfussy interpretation of the classic German wheat beer, with prominent banana, clove, and citrus flavor. $6.99 per six-pack.
Providential Golden Ale This 7.5-percent ABV Belgian strong pale ale is brewed under contract by Quebec’s esteemed Unibroue. Bready malt, honey, and tart fruit augment the traditional Belgian yeast esters. $5.49 per 750mL bottle.
Vintage Ale 2015 This year’s rendition of the annual holiday release, also from Unibroue, is a 9-percent ABV Belgian dark ale redolent of clove, cinnamon, light chocolate, and dark fruit. $5.49 per 750mL bottle.