I’ve followed the craft beer world for a lot of years, as a former beer columnist for the Philadelphia Weekly, a writer for HomeBrew Talk, and just plain as an enthusiast for varied taste experiences. Over the years, I’ve encountered many beer gift boxes and/or monthly beer clubs. You know the ones I’m talking about. Seemingly random mix packs at your local beer shop, or Beer of the Month clubs that send you an array of beers in the mail each month.
To be frank, most of the time these mix packs are kind of awful. The beers are often old, the selections are lousy (and are likely made up of overstock rather than by choice made by discerning craft beer geeks), and they’re just not worth the money.
So when the folks at Half Time, an online beer shop based out of New York, reached out to me about trying one of their Variety Boxes, I have to admit, I was skeptical. I can’t remember the last time I had a great experience with one of these gift boxes.
But when I surfed over and took a look at their options, I was surprised. These were themed boxes with a wide variety of craft beer selections. Even better, they weren’t all just assortments of various IPAs! Huzzah! (I like a good IPA as much as the next craft beer aficionado, but come on breweries, can you make something else, please?) Fruity beers, hefty stouts, dessert beers, and even craft lagers (yay!) — and yes, IPAs, too, for you hops lovers. Right off the bat, I liked what I saw.
I went with the Sours Variety Box. A week or two later, it arrived at my door, and what did I find?
Okay, this is a hand-picked selection of beers rather than a Whatever We Have Too Much of In the Warehouse box! I had an array of new-to-me sours, almost all of them from my region (bonus, since I like to support local), and all of them quite good. Included in mine was:
- Toppling Goliath Dragon Fandango
- Oodles of Oodles by Interboro Spirits and Ales
- 14th Star Raspberry Vermonter Weiss
- Finback Brewery’s Closer to the Equator
- La Puerta De La Discoteca by King County Brewers
- And Mast Landing‘s All the Way Up
The fact that I could drive to almost all of these breweries was a nice bonus — again, I like to support local — though the real joy is the fact that they were all good and different enough from one another that I felt like I was getting a treat with each can I opened.
For example, Closer to the Equator is a sour made with cinnamon and habanero, a combination I’ve not seen before. The beer had a great nose and a crisp, tart snap to it that made it great on a warm day. As a hot pepper grower I’d have liked some more prominent habanero heat in it — I detected close to none — but the cinnamon went surprisingly well with the zesty sourness. I’d love more of this in the summer.
Grapefruit lovers have got to hunt down La Puerta De La Discoteca, because this beer was basically grapefruit juice, but unlike the fruity IPAs that dominate many shelves, this had a mouth-puckering tartness that was just divine. (Too few sours lean into being mouth-puckering, as far as I’m concerned.) The alcohol in this 4.5% ABV beer was barely noticeable, making me suspect this would make a killer base for some summertime beer cocktails.
The Raspberry Vermonter Weiss by 14th Star was a bit mild for my taste but would likely delight those who are new to both fruit and sour beers, as both aspects of this beer were dialed way back to be more approachable than more puckering sours. I enjoyed this while tend to my strawberry garden, and it was a perfect accompaniment to some quiet time outdoors.
My favorite of the bunch was Dragon Fandango. With a blend of the aforementioned dragon fruit, mango, and passion fruit, as well as Citra hops to give it a citrusy splash, this beer was kind candy in a glass, with just enough tart snap to satisfy and big, bold fruit flavors. Imagine some Now & Later candies in beer form and this is what you can expect — and as far as I’m concerned, that’s high praise. I love it! I am FULLY on board with hunting down more of this! And the cool can design make it a great accompaniment to my epic Dungeons & Dragons session.
Meanwhile, All The Way Up and Oodles of Oodles are waiting patiently in my fridge for this weekend, when they will highlight one of the first relaxing backyard days of the spring.
All in all, if this variety box is an indication of what Half Time’s Beer of the Month clubs are like, I don’t have a hard time giving them a recommendation, as long as you’re okay with the price. This truly feels hand-chosen by people who know beer, and the fact that every beer was a little different than the last is exactly what I want from variety packs. After all, “variety” should mean something!
My thanks to the folks at Half Time for their generosity in sharing this with me.
Full Disclosure – This mix pack was provided to me for free in exchange for a fair and honest article. My opinion was not influenced in any way, and my contact was through a third party, not directly with Half Time themselves.