Just How Boozy Should Your Beer Be?

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The very convenient truth about beer is that, if used as directed, it will often get you drunk. Thank god. There are so many great things that don't get you drunk: socks, coffee, shuffleboard, you name it; if its name isn't "alcohol," it doesn't get you drunk no matter how otherwise excellent it may be.

See how I switched it up on you there, though? Started off talking about beer, and then a couple sentences later I was referring to this whole other thing called "alcohol." This could be confusing for some of our louder modern beer advocates, who may be thinking, "Whoa there, looks like the Drunkspin guy's a little foggy this fine Monday, ha ha, he must have been on the gin last night, only possible explanation for conflating beer with intoxication."


This is because there are certain weird circles of the Craft Beer Movementâ„¢ that refuse to acknowledge that one of the primary motivations for bending the old elbow is to get at least a bit of a glow going. And these buzz-deniers exist at both ends of the preferred-ABV spectrum. There are the session-beer zealots who insist that as long as your beer is below five-percent ABV, it is basically just extra-invigorating water that can be safely drunk round the clock. (These pushers of pilsners, lighter sours, and traditional Irish-style stouts have apparently never seen a college-bar bathroom midway through $2 Bud Light night.)

Then there are the tough guys who mock the session-beer pansies for their inability to hold their liquor and/or control their intake. They just happen to prefer eight-plus-percent beers for the wider range of flavor, and also maybe because after a long day of toiling for the Man, it feels good to grab yourself a six-pack of something with "imperial" in the title; soon as the whistle blows and Fred slides down the dinosaur's back and into the liquor store, he's on his way to being Emperor of His Own Evening, so he might as well rule the couch with a mighty double IPA. To be savored slowly and thoughtfully, of course, because drunkenness is unseemly for the true craftsman.


This is all a bunch of bullshit, and if you're a normal person, you might be lucky enough to wonder what the hell I'm even talking about. OF COURSE you drink to get drunk. I mean, that's not the only reason you drink, which is why you're not just shotgunning Four Loko while you wait impatiently for your life to fall apart. A more tasteful journey to Drunksville certainly brings its own rewards. But so does the destination, no matter how you get there. The aforemocked Bud Light pukers are often derided as people who drink just to get drunk, and while I agree with that assessment, I don't think there's anything inherently shameful about it. That's a pretty good reason to drink!

I'm cursed with being a bit pickier, so I like the way different styles and brands of beer spark different memories or pair with different activities, but I very rarely abandon the mission of working up a buzz along the way. I tend to side with the session guys on the weekends, when I have the time to suck down enough beers for high-ABV'ers to cause more trouble than usual. I started drinking yesterday at around 1:30 in the afternoon and stuck with it until 7, while also working in some dart-throwing and knife-wielding, so I kept my beers between four and 4.3 percent.

But even though I'm perfectly content paying for good beer with that relatively low potency, I draw the line at about 3.5-percent ABV. A local brewery was pushing $7 pints of two-percent Berliner Weisse this summer; I'm sure it was fantastic, but I'm just not ready to be out $21 (plus tip) before I've got a Dogfish Head 60 Minute's worth of liquor in me.

I don't really have an upper ABV limit for beer, though I think things tend to get a bit farcical once you get into double digits. I'm all for a nice double IPA, though, especially on a Monday, when I've got less time to invest in the project. If I've got one complaint about this massively hoppy, massively popular category, though, it's that most of them have been tasting very similar to me lately. I seriously think there could be more variance among well-made craft pilsners. The "West Coast Imperial IPA" style has been so finely honed that I suspect Budweiser could reverse-engineer a credible version to call ShockTop San Diego Double Sunshine, which we'd all sneer at and secretly enjoy.


Coronado's 8.5-percent Idiot IPA fits snugly into that same-old-double category. This isn't an insult, because it's in good company. You know how when you go to the farmer's market these days, there are like 50 different varieties of apple, but once you move past Red Delicious, McIntosh, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp, you have a hard time remembering which of the other 46 is which, because there really isn't that much difference, but that's OK, because they're all good? So let's call Coronado Idiot a Macoun (or a Cameo or a Braeburn or who knows, it doesn't matter, they're all fine).

It's super-hopped with Nugget, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Columbus. It opens with a characteristically strong caramel malt aroma, with a light brown-sugar edge, then the hops take over, first with a not-ideal soapy lemon note, but then the good stuff shows up: light pineapple, apricot, grapefruit, then lemon-pine bitterness to close it out. It's good; it's an $8 bomber of imperial IPA from a quality Southern California brewery, of course it's good. But it's nothing special, so good thing just the one big bottle will get you buzzed.


This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.

Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.


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