Beer of the Week: Boozing on a Budget

A change of seasons offers opportunities for the beer lover. In most of these columns I’m writing about beers that are fairly high end. $10 for a six pack doesn’t seem like a high price anymore and in terms of a bomber, that’s a middle-class price considering what’s on the shelves. Is it possible to be a beer aficionado and not put a major dent in your finances?

Like many things, it’s about timing. I generally only stock one or two different kinds of wine, and buy by the case. You always get that case discount, 10% off but you do have to buy and store 12 bottles at a time. Some liquor stores offer a discount, usually more modest, if you buy a case of the same beer. Ask and you shall receive.

My local Total Wine does have occasional sales, and they offer wine at the same discount as the case so you don’t have to make the major investment. As for the beer, getting that discount isn’t as easy to do but it’s possible.

That’s where the seasons come in. There are certain styles of beer that you usually see only in seasons, what with your session style beers in the spring and summer, Oktoberfest in the fall, and dark stouts in the winter. As you’ve probably noticed, the seasons kind of cheat. I just found one of my favorite summer beers that tend to disappear from shelves before September. You’re going to see your pumpkin beers in late summer, and your winter beers before Thanksgiving. It’s in those transition times that you can save a few bucks.


At my local Total Wine, conveniently located around the corner from my new job, they stock a lot of wine and beer. They can’t sell it all in a timely fashion. As I was about to check out, I noticed that some of my winter favorites were on sale at 30% off. I picked up a six-pack of Bell’s Cherry Stout, usually a high-ticket item at $15 a sixer for closer to $10. I grabbed another six-pack of Sweetwater’s Happy Ending, which is a happy medium between a dark stout and a hoppy IPA, for $6.

If you’re worried about beer going bad, you’re probably safe. Most bottled beer is good to drink for at least a year and these days you’re going to see a “drink by” date on the bottle. Winter beers are some of my favorites so I’m going to keep an eye out.

I do buy mostly in the six-pack format, but you can save some money if you buy 12 at a time. As I mentioned before, my summer fave Abita Strawberry is back in stores and I got a 12-pack for $14.99. If you’re more of a hop-head, you can grab a 12er of Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale for around the same price. The Abita Strawberry has another advantage of having less alcohol so it’s a Sunday afternoon kind of brew.

Another seasonal beer that you need to get your hands on is the Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. I discovered this beer around the time that I was in my Corsendonk Dubbel phase, with the cork and cage giving an extra measure of coolness. When I first discovered this beer, that’s brewed by Unibroue, it was a big find and at $5 a bomber, a good value. The price went up to $6 last year (I found one TJs in town that had the old price and almost sold them out), and I’m going to keep a couple of bottles for the long term. I have two from 2014, and maybe by the time the 2016 vintage comes out I’ll have one of those vertical tastings that all the kids talk about.

Note: a vertical is when you drink multiple years of the same beer at the same time. It takes patience which I have almost none of.

Next on beer of the week: Can you consider beer collecting a hobby when it mostly collects in your gut?

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