I think that Craft Beer Variety Packs are one of the best ways to explore a brewery’s beer offerings without too much of an investment or risk.
Even cats seem to think beer variety packs are cool!
I was up in Vermont again (which cranks out a lot of great beer) and noticed that almost many of the bigger Vermont craft brewers had a variety pack available for sale. Long Trail, Harpoon, Wolaver’s, Magic Hat and Otter Creek were the ones I saw the most of.
I knew I wanted to pick up at least one Vermont beer variety pack to bring home, but which one? Here was my thought process as I tried to answer which variety pack offered the most bang for my buck.
Price didn’t really come into play. All of the variety packs were about $14.95 except I did see them on sale at the Manchester, VT Price Chopper for $12.95. That’s a touch over $1 per bottle – a very good price. Still, I bought mine at Manchester Discount Beverages who has an impressive selection of craft beers in stock, so in hindsight I went out of my way to pay more!
Familiarity with the brewery. I like Long Trail, and their Brewmaster Series has been a real treat. But, I’ve already tried most of their beers and nothing in their variety pack would have been new to me, so I scratched Long Trail from my list. Magic Hat and Harpoon have been less impressive to me, so Otter Creek and Wolaver’s organic beers came away the favorites in this area. (Technically, its the same people who make Otter Creek and Wolaver’s, but we’ll leave that for now.)
Limited Time or Specialty Beer in the variety pack? This was the clincher for me. Included in the Otter Creek box was 3 bottles of their winter limited-release beer ‘Alpine Black IPA‘. I’m not a huge IPA drinker, but I’ve never tried a black IPA and this kind of sealed the deal. I just wanted to try it!
I know that at least half of the Magic Hat beers are limited-release too, so on sheer number calculation Magic Hat should have come out on top. It didn’t because I wasn’t thrilled with most of the beers in the last Magic Hat variety pack I tried. Beers like Wacko stay with you.
So, it ended up that I bought an Otter Creek ‘Vermont Sampler’ that had 3 bottles each of the Alpine Black IPA, Pale Ale, Stovepipe Porter, and their Copper Ale. None of which I’ve tried before.
The risk of having a beer I didn’t like was lowered because of the variety and that’s a good thing. Also, variety packs are a great way to sample a few different beers from a given brewer, and sometimes they even throw in a beer that can only be found in the variety packs! (Sam Adams does this all the time.) Its kind of fun actually!
So, next time you see a variety pack from a craft brewer, consider trying it out! You’re bound to find something new that you like, and it might even open your eyes to a brewer that you’ve been hesitant to try because you didn’t want to have to buy whole six packs of everything. (I’d be pissed if I had bought a six-pack of Wacko!)
What about you? Do you buy craft beer variety packs? Why?