Welcome to “Ask a Beer Pro,” a monthly feature where we ask Greg Engert—the craft-brew maven behind D.C.’s Birch & Barley and ChurchKey, as well as the forthcoming Bluejacket brewery—to help us discover new suds to try. Got a question? Tweet it @churchkeydc and @firstwefeast.
What do you think are the most underrated craft beers, or perhaps more to the point, the ones that get unfairly overlooked just because they're everywhere?
As craft beer continues its astounding ascent, the move toward the rare and the obscure is becoming all too often the dominant concern of beer geeks across the U.S. While innovation and experimentation have come to characterize the very spirit of craft brewing, the higher volume production of a handful of standby recipes truly fuels the industry.
A sort of belt-notching mentality—one that myopically focuses on the new—disregards the achievements of the past. And just because a beer has become ubiquitously available does not necessarily mean it has become any less flavorful, nor nuanced. In fact, one could argue that many of these usual-suspect brews have become widely available, and brewed with greater volume, based on their delicious merits.
There is a balance to all of this, and one I seek when crafting beer lists at each of our properties—I am consistently striving to rotate in the impressive one-offs, all the while maintaining a number of classic, go-to brews on tap and in bottles. I take this approach to my own beer buying and drinking as well, and more and more I find myself most impressed when revisiting old favorites.
What follows is a list of some of my favorite now-classic craft brews. Each is consistently alluring, exceedingly affordable (another hallmark of ubiquity), and among the most reliably fresh—beers brewed and sold with volume refuse to linger as long on the shelves, and it is no surprise that many of these brews tend to employ packaging or best by dates.
Ultimately, the sales of these beers are the life-blood of the industry, and they provide the financial basis for all of the wonderful experimental, small-batch brews we should also continue to love, rather than covet.