More than half a year behind the cutting-edge curve set by this very Web site, the Associated Press ran a story this week about how Americans are still drinking as much as they ever have but are buying cheaper booze. I addressed this very topic back in July, focusing on beer and giving a couple of recommendations for what I call recession specials. (OK, so maybe the recession's technically over, but does it feel over to you? It doesn't to me, either. So I'm still trying to cut the bill for my swill.)
Last summer, I touted Narragansett and Simpler Times as my cheaper-beer favorites. I'm still a fan of both, but I've also discovered (thanks to my friend, Eric, a genuine beer expert) Trader Joe's Vintage Ale at...well, Trader Joe's. Brewed by the very good Unibroue brewery out of Quebec and licensed under the Trader Joe's name, Vintage Ale is a semi-spicy brew that's great for the winter but doesn't give me that Guinness feeling of having consumed a liquid bowling ball.
I bought six bombers (those big bottles with the corks in them) of Vintage Ale at TJ's back in December and still have a couple left. A word of caution here: I'm not sure how much Vintage Ale Unibroue made or whether it's still available. I haven't been to TJ's in a while. (The sheer volume of booze I brought home before Christmas would have made an English soccer hooligan blush.) If it's possible to find Vintage Ale, though, it's worth picking up a few bottles. Oh, and while I don't remember exactly how much a bottle costs, it's very inexpensive. That is kind of the whole point of this post.
One brief note on the AP story I linked to above: The story says that vodka accounts for nearly one-third of sales of spirits (that is to say, I guess, just about anything other than beer and wine) in the US. Are we a country of alcoholics, or what? Odorless and colorless, vodka is the closet alcoholic's best friend. (It's sometimes the sport fan's best friend, too, for those November football games. I should have sneaked some into Fenway for that college hockey game last month. But I digress...again.) Seriously, alcohol abuse is obviously a massive problem in this country, and while it's possible that folks are buying mass quantities of vodka because they really, really like martinis or want to pretend to be James Bond, my guess is that it's a sign of pretty widespread hard-core alcoholism. And that's tragic.
But I don't want to end this post on a downer. It's way too early for me to be thinking about Vintage Ale at this point in the day, but maybe I'll crack one open tonight. It'll be a nice accompaniment to the shepherd's pie my lovely wife's parents made us the other night (thank you, Jon and Nell) and should be an excellent prelude to a restful winter night's sleep. In fact, I'm getting tired just thinking about it.