A Flight of Beer Will Help You Wing It 

The thing about writing a column about drinks and drinking is, to put it bluntly, who cares? Taste is a personal thing, wrapped up in not only your palate and your nose, but also the context in which it's consumed. For instance, drinks are always better at a friend's wedding and, for some reason, in war zones. The fact is that tastes don't always translate because we can't really put our finger on why we like something. We just do.

Despite the (very) subtle brilliance of my opinions, you need to go out and hoist a few unknowns on your own. Cheap beer tends to chase the same flavor profile, and the really interesting stuff tends to be pricey, which is why we tend to gravitate to a short list of favorites. I know a few people that will "drain pour" out a beer they don't like, but I'm not one of them. It's like a first date: Even if you know off the bat it isn't going to work and you'll never have another, you've got to stay till dessert.

Once, when I was working on a book about craft beer and I kept getting full pours of some brewer's pet project, the results were mixed but the bottom line is that I gained 15 pounds in about six weeks. Which is where the beauty of a beer flight kicks in — a rainbow of two- or three-ounce samples to taste without a full-beer commitment. It's like speed dating for your palate. They're available all year round, but the best time to order a flight is during a seasonal change. That's when brewers start rolling out fresh selections.

click to enlarge Flight of fancy — the full spectrum is on display at Boscos.
  • Flight of fancy — the full spectrum is on display at Boscos.

I took the charming Mrs. M to Boscos for a change-of-the-season flight of eight beers. Or at least I had a flight. For those, like my wife, who prefer a light beer, what you get when you order a Flaming Stone Beer at Boscos is sort of the theoretical golden ideal of a Bud Light. And much better, obviously.

This time of year, Boscos serves up their Oktoberfest — another lager — but it's a toasty, malty thing. Also from Germany is a Sticke Alt beer, an old-style brown ale that is different but in the same neighborhood as their year-round, English-style, Midtown Brown Ale. Which one you like better, I suppose, says something about where you stand on the Brexit issue.

Boscos TIGUrS SMaSH is a true local brew, made from Cascade hops picked at the U of M. It's hoppy and bitter and leaves you slightly confused as to what's going on with the typography.

Boscos is also serving an Ice Age Pale Ale, which is light and very mild, due to its use of the Glacier hop variety. It's light, less hoppy, and very good — like the Muzak version of Boscos standby Bombay IPA. I finished the flight with the Isle of Skye Scottish Ale, which has been a favorite of mine for years. If nothing else, it tastes Scottish.

I won't order all of them again, but none of them were bad. If you do this enough, you'll almost always get something you don't like, but that's the point: Now you know. And more importantly, you are part of the process. Remember that a crucial (if unsung) ingredient in brewing up something innovative is occasionally screwing it up. As a drinker of locally created beer, being part of a brewer's feedback loop is important. They need you to test their new ideas and, to be honest, keep their weirder inclinations out of your glass. Brewers call it a "feedback loop" because it's more dignified than referring to their customers as "lab rats."

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