The Clog’s guide to choosing the right beer at the grocery store

Photo of beer aisle
Ewan Munro/File
(Ewan Munro from London, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.)

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Being older than the age of 21 has many perks, the least of which is being able to buy alcohol at the grocery store. Here are some tips to get you started on elevating your beer game from low-grade Coors Light to much more enjoyable lagers, citrus India pale ales, stouts and more. 

Check out their logos

This strategy has never failed me. I am by no means smart enough about beer to be classified as a beer snob. Oftentimes I find myself curing indecisiveness by picking a six-pack with a seriously cool design on the packaging.

Examples: Sierra Nevada Variety Pack, Racer 5 IPA, Voodoo Ranger

Back to basics

You could also stick with tried and true brand names. There’s a reason labels such as Heineken, Coors and Bud Light are American classics. If they’re popular nationwide, they evidently appeal to a wide audience which could very well include you if you’re new to beer. Many of these brews are light and refreshing and lack the punchiness that makes some newbies pucker up. 

Examples: Sam Adams Boston Lager, Michelob Ultra, Coors Banquet

Support local businesses

With the recent rise of smaller-scale breweries, you can find many beers produced right here in Northern California on grocery store shelves. If voting with your dollar is your thing, Safeway’s selection has no shortage of beers produced locally. 

Examples: Lagunitas (brewed in Petaluma), Drake’s IPA (brewed in San Leandro), any Sierra Nevada (brewed in Chico)

Explore types on the rise

It seems like everyone is on the IPA train nowadays. IPAs are noteworthy for their bitter hoppiness and woody flavor profiles. Personally, I think some of the stronger ones can be unpleasantly bitter, and I’m suspicious of anyone who says their favorite style of beer is IPAs — truly a chaotic neutral choice. However, with the addition of citrus IPAs, you can try beers with flavors that are complemented by hints of grapefruit, orange and lemon. Stouts are also becoming popular and are not for the faint of heart as they have extremely strong notes of chocolate, coffee and flavors that are heavier on the palate.

Examples: Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, Elysian Superfuzz Blood Orange, Guinness Extra Stout, Dragon’s Milk stout

Venture outside of beer

Ciders, hard kombucha, seltzers — there’s a whole world of carbonated alcoholic beverages out there. All of these are more fruity and juicy than beers, making them easier to drink and surefire crowd pleasers. These are a great option if you don’t ever see beer becoming your thing or you just want to switch things up a bit.

Examples: Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider, Travis Scott’s Cacti Agave Spiked Seltzer, any hard kombucha

You’re now armed with a litany of strategies to take on the seemingly infinite selection of beer at Safeway. Once you’ve done so, might I recommend trying out a shower beer. I tried one for the first time after finals last semester, and the warmth of a hot shower coupled with the refreshing feeling (and effects) of an ice-cold beer was a newfound relaxing experience. But however you choose to enjoy your beverage of choice, have fun — and drink responsibly!

Contact Abhi Varma at [email protected].