Building a foolproof KC sixer leaves me drunk on the possibilities
It’s a moving target, that threshold separating “fledgling adult-olescent” from “functional grown-up who opened a Roth IRA (while drunk),” but I suppose I’ve crossed it. I know this because I’m now expected to contribute to family holiday get-togethers. But I don’t feel like balancing a casserole on my knees for a five-hour car ride, so my version of fulfilling this duty means that I bring the beer.
Don’t think this gets me off the hook. In an age of punishing variety, no two drinkers share the same taste (perhaps especially when they share a name). IPAs are as contentious as tax policy, and there’s always one Coors-or-bust relative ready to loudly decry the lack of “normal beer.” There’s no pleasing everyone.
The closest you’re going to get? The mixed six-pack, suitable for family dinners and ideal for a lazy hostess gift. Whether you’re bartending Christmas dinner or picking out a present for the beer snob in your family, the best way to project style is simply to play up the hyperlocal angle. Luckily, KC’s craft-beer scene is still enjoying an extended moment.
My self-imposed rules: Each beer must be from the KC area and available in 12- or 16-ounce cans or bottles (sorry, bomber fans). I seek a mix of styles and flavor profiles. I love a novelty beer as much as the next human garbage pail, but I don’t want to drink cloying chocolate porters and sugar plum–infused seasonal hop syrups just because it’s December, and really, neither do you. Here, then, is what my family can look forward to:
Martin City Radical Candor. There’s no better cure for seasonal affective disorder than this cheery double IPA, which comes wrapped in a tie-dye label cribbed from a Grateful Dead tour poster. The finish is as bright and bold as the packaging. Though the beer clocks in at just under 9 percent alcohol by volume, it’s neither especially boozy-tasting nor offensively hoppy. There’s an effervescent bitterness, sure, but the hops don’t smack you in the face like a bunch of demon skunk acorns. Big ups to the bright citrus flavors, which add a sweet and fragrant orange note without skewing sour.
Boulevard Collaboration No. 7. Yeah, yeah, this came out in August. But the 12-ounce longnecks have made their way to Boulevard’s mix-six wall, which is the ideal way to sample this oak-aged lager. This is the beer for your uncle who puts ice cubes in his white wine. It’s light, it’s fruity, it loves Phil Collins, and it sips and tastes like Welch’s White Grape Peach. (This is a compliment.) Maybe a lemon wandered its way into the mash at some point, but it moped right back out again. If no one bites, pour this into your Christmas-morning orange juice for the loveliest brass monkey you’ll ever down.
Torn Label Monk & Honey. Belgians are the stinky cheeses of beer: You either love that funky afterglow or you’ve forever forsworn it. But never say never. Torn Label’s local honey–infused Belgian singel delivers the expected yeasty goodness and subtle undertones at a modest 6 percent ABV, pouring cloudy but sipping sweet (behind a nose of clove, tea and star anise). Bring this for your snooty brother-in-law who pronounces gose by crank-shifting through eight different vowel sounds.
BKS Artisan Ales Holstein. If you can dream up a milk stout, I’ll try it, but the one that truly lives up to my fantasies is BKS’s Holstein. The fledgling brewery has already mastered the style: roasty, toasty flavors commingled with a slight bitterness that deftly cuts through the creamy, silky texture. Oddly Correct coffee can be assertive, but the El Salvadoran beans in this brew add a strong aroma without too much acidity. BKS sold out of the cans quickly at the first soft opening, so plan ahead.
KC Bier Co. Dunkel. When your family’s beer tastes seem irreconcilable, shut up and play the hits. KC Bier Co.’s Munich-style brown lager is easy and malty, with enough heft and hops to ground the sweetness. Flashy it’s not, but this is a faithful representation of the style with a smooth profile and no off (or overly bready) flavors. It’s a well-worn baseball glove of a beer: soft, brown, comfortable.
Piney River Brewing Co. Aux Arcs. Piney River breaks my rule by not being altogether local — it’s a long drive from KC to Bucyrus, Missouri. But if you’re angling for some hipster Midbest cred, find some of this. Aux Arcs is a cracklingly dry saison with a smoky nose and a clean-lined bitterness: all of the raisin-y goodness you want, but none of the aromas of a rain-soaked sourdough starter. This is the beer for the special person in your life who appreciates the finer things but isn’t a total goddamn wang about it. It’s interesting and complex but still digestible (more Ulysses, less Finnegan’s Wake). I like it better than Tank 7 — and I really, really like Tank 7.
Back-up plan: If you can’t imagine the holidays without a sweater-patterned label on your beer (or if BKS is sold out of Holstein), grab a bottle of Boulevard Snow and Tell. It’s a thin, clean Scotch ale with an oaky finish, and it pours the color of chestnuts. It’s also the rare winter seasonal balanced enough to drink year-round