One of the most horrifying things I can imagine is only being able to drink one kind of beer for the rest of my life. I’m a fan of monogamy in relationships, but not when it comes to beer. Life is too short. Even having to narrow my beer choices down to just one specific beer for an entire evening makes me hyperventilate a little. What if I buy a 12-pack of a particular pale ale, but then three beers in, I start craving a brown ale? What if?!
If I’m going to put my liver through all of that work, the least I can do is keep it interesting, right? Enter the variety pack, where breweries load a 12-pack of beer with a few different beer styles in it in order to provide the customer with, well, variety. I find myself gravitating towards those variety packs more and more, but not all variety packs are created equal. Here, we pick five of our favorites that are on shelves now.
Winter might be coming, but it’s not here yet, and Sierra Nevada knows this so they’ve put together a variety pack that eases you into the cooler weather. The pack still has one foot planted firmly in summer, with the Pale Ale and Hoppy Wheat IPA, and one foot dipping its toe in fall with a Vienna style lager and an Autumn brown ale. The Hoppy Wheat is exactly what you’d expect from a beer called “Hoppy Wheat:” it’s light as a feather but loaded with grapefruit on the nose and palate. Vienna is on the nose in terms of style as well, with a bready malt backbone and a dry finish thanks to the whole-cone hops from Europe. With Tumbler, we’re full into the swing of fall with a brown ale that’s full of the roasted malt flavors you want from a beer when the weather gets crisp—chocolate, bread, smoke…It’s fall in a glass.
21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die IPA anchors this 12 pack (a fine beer on its own), but then things get interesting with an imperial IPA, Mexican lager and a spiced ale. Consider El Sully, the Mexican lager brewed with flaked maize, your goodbye kiss to summer, while Fireside Chat, the winter spiced ale, welcomes fall. The beer is full of cocoa notes and a little bit of Christmas spice in a 7.9% ABV, rich package. And then there’s Blah Blah Blah an Imperial IPA, a new beer that debuted earlier in the summer. It’s an India Red IPA that’s hopped to the bejeezus with Mosaic, Citra and Idaho 7, and dry-hopped to the rate of two pounds per barrel. Fragrant is an understatement.
If you’re looking for a box of beer that simply oozes fall, look no further. You get the staples with Northern Lights IPA and Whiter Shade (a white IPA that blends a Belgian wit with an American IPA), but then it gets completely seasonal with Basketcase, an American-style Helles lager that’s super crisp and bready. Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale puts you neck deep in Fall flavors. Take a rich, English brown ale and add maple syrup and you get a smooth-drinking, malty masterpiece with maple on the nose and vanilla in the sip. Put your flannel on and grab the rake. It’s fall.
Asheville, North Carolina-based Green Man Brewery is celebrating their 20th anniversary with a mixed 12 pack that kills it. The beers don’t necessarily scream “fall,” but they’re a good intro into what Green Man is up to. You get two IPAs, an ESB and a pilsner. The ESB is Green Man’s flagship—a malt-forward amber ale that’s all about the caramel and a sweet finish. It’s as fall as this pack gets. Of the two IPAs, Wayfarer is the standout; it’s easy drinking with plenty of citrus notes all over. Sunseeker Pils is what you’d expect from a solid pilsner—crisp and bright with just a little bit of cracker underscoring it all. This 12 pack might not have any seasonal gems, but it’s got the variety you want from mixed box.
New Belgium’s standard Folly Pack is top notch, and offers one of the best varieties out there, but in August they released a special edition of Folly focused entirely on IPAs. First, you get a trio of New Belgium’s year round offerings, Ranger (IPA), Rampant (Imperial IPA) and Citradelic (tangerine IPA). That list of beers alone is worthy of the price of admission, but this year New Belgium added Belgo, a Belgian-style IPA. The new beer delivers hints of banana, pepper and even bubble gum from the Belgian side of things and tropical fruit notes from the American hops. It’s citrusy and crisp, and really rounds out this box of beer.