What’s Your “Safety Beer”?

I was faced with a choice last night.  I was in Lewiston, Idaho and like the Idiot I am I forgot to bring beer and whiskey with me.  I usually do.  So I had to go to the grocery store and hope for the best.  I made my way to Safeway after a very mediocre Chineese dinner and was actually encouraged to see the overhead sign above the aisle said “Craft Beer”.  I began to think about all sorts of wonderful beers like Oscar Blues, perhaps a Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, maybe a nice Washington brew as I am only about 2 miles from the border.

When I rounded the corner I was reminded I am in Lewiston.  Let’s just say they don’t put the “craft” in the Craft Beer aisle.  My selections were a bunch of Macro beer knock offs like Blue Moon, Shock Top, etc.  They did have Stone’s Arrogant Bastard, but I wasn’t in the mood for a face melting IPA.  They also had something from Redhook that was in an opaque bottle, the obligatory NewCastle Nut Brown, and Guiness.  Then down the line there was this.  The Sam Adams Octoberfest, and I thought there we go…I can get behind some Sam Adams.  Plus I had heard some good things about this brew…It was a good choice.  It was very malty in a lager style that poured a golden amber with about a one finger off white head.  Its flavor was very good.  Lots of malt up front with a lager flavor on the back side that tasted so much better than those fizzy yellow things.  It was quality and I enjoyed every sip.  Actually as I drank a few the malty flavor built up making the last taste even better than the first.

I began to think about my choice.  I had other options that may have been good, including Sierra Nevada Pale Ale which is great, but I wanted something a little more evocative of the season.  The Octoberfest I thought would fit that bill, but moreover I knew that Sam Adams wouldn’t let me down.  And I was right, it delivered.  It is a safe choice when you want a good brew but aren’t really sure about your options.

So I know I’m not the only one who thinks about this.  What are your “Safety Beers?”  I like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada brews for my safe choices.  What are yours?  Let us know in the comments.



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30 Comments on “What’s Your “Safety Beer”?”

  1. Angela Arp
    September 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    if the selection is lacking I’ll hit anything from Odells, but it really depends on where I am. I was in Laramie at an Albertsons.. didn’t feal like any OB beer, so in that case I will choose something like Teton brewing.

    • Don
      September 10, 2010 at 10:29 am #

      Teton makes some tasty stuff. Will be picking up their Bitch Creek ESB today. Odells obviously isn’t available everywhere, especially out west, so our safety beers tend to be more ubiquitous.

  2. Bill Bennett
    September 9, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    I love the Sams Octoberfest. It is one of those beers I cut my teeth on as I was growing up into craft beer. I still look for it every October and genuinely think it is one of the best Octoberfest beers you can get. Perhaps this is because so many craft/micro go the pumpkin route in fall. The Octoberfest is a much under produced style by craft brewers.

    By the way this is how I used to answer all of my essay questions in college. Take the theme or idea of the question context, and go on any rant I wanted. Apologies for not answering you actual question, but…. I did well in school and old habits are hard to break 🙂

    • September 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

      That’s okay, Bill. I think I’d guess Sierra Nevada for you, or at least for Elena.

      Speaking of Fall beers, how’s your autumnal treat coming along?

      • September 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

        We’ll see this weekend. It is on tap but were not pouring yet, has some more carbonating to do. It may be ready for a taste on Sunday, Brewday!

        • September 9, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

          I hope it turns out, Bill. I’m pretty sure it will.

      • Elena
        September 10, 2010 at 9:18 am #

        good guess for me, I’ll never turn down a Sierra Pale Ale!

  3. September 9, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    Out East here, Sam’s Boston Lager is usually the best you can do on tap, unless there’s a Sam’s seasonal, but those are usually tapped out quickly. So I’d agree that Sam Adams is a great safety beer.

    I’d also say Brooklyn Brewery out here, as their stuff is available in many places that don’t carry a wide selection of good beer.

    • Don
      September 10, 2010 at 10:34 am #

      Brooklyn is a great safety beer. I have never had anything from them that I didn’t like. But they aren’t really available out west. For a regional safety beer I’d go with Deschutes Brewery. Good solid beer no matter the style.

  4. Liz
    September 9, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    It obviously depends on the city. If I stop at a bodega in NYC on my way somewhere, it’s usually a Brooklyn Brewery beer or a Sam Adams beer — always good brews, always a safe choice, and not too much money since at parties people tend to mooch a beer out of a 6-pack they did not bring.

    • September 9, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

      Wise picks, Liz.

      Or if you’re in Brooklyn, there’s always PBR, the Hipster’s Choice!

      • Don
        September 10, 2010 at 10:35 am #

        That would bee a good choice for Liz, becaus if people were mooching beer off of her, she could get a six pack for herself, and a sixer of PBR that way she could give the hipster moochers the PBR and drink the good stuff herself!

  5. September 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    In the most barren of places a plain old Sam Adams Lager works. Yuengling does the job too if you’re in the east, but may not often always be present. NYC is an anomaly as most Bodegas carry Brooklyn and that my friends is a wonderful beer.

    • Don
      September 10, 2010 at 10:37 am #

      Brooklyn is getting a lot of love, and that is a great thing, because they make great beers. Nice for people in the NY Metro area.

  6. September 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Good choice Don, I would have done the same. I actually tried the Sam Adams Oktoberfest for the first time this year and it’s quite nice. I’ll be getting it again.

    • Don
      September 10, 2010 at 10:38 am #

      I liked it a lot Scott. I could say I cheated a little, because I had heard that it was a good choice before I bought it, but I was not disappointed.

  7. September 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    Newcastle never lets me down. It is what it is. the PBR always is a nice choice on a 30 pack when entertaining

    • September 9, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

      It’s funny how many of our safety beers are the beers we enjoyed before really getting the crafty stuff.

    • Don
      September 10, 2010 at 10:39 am #

      To each their own, but these would not be my firs choice…or my second…or my third…or…

  8. September 9, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    I gotta go with the wife (Liz) here and say Brooklyn Lager. Although I do like the idea of regional safety beers. It’s interesting to hear people discuss Odells as a safety beer because we just flat out don’t get that out here, so for me Odells is a special occasion rather than a safety beer. Similarly, when I’m out in AZ at my folks’ place, they don’t get Brooklyn stuff out there, but for some reason every restaurant always seems to have Fat Tire or a Four Peaks beer on tap, so those become my safety beers out there. I wonder what would be a truly national safety beer. I’d have to imagine it would be Sam Adams because for the life of me, I can’t think of any other good beer I’m likely to find in every bar I go to across the States.

    • Don
      September 10, 2010 at 10:41 am #

      The only other one that might come close to Sam Adams might be Sierra Nevada. Their Pale Ale is usually available in many places.

  9. Scott
    September 10, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    Founders dirty bastard and SN Torpedo, both are great but i love drinking one bottle after the other. The dirt bastard usualy leaves a dry taste in my mouth so i like to follow it up with a juicy Torpedo, my go to beers for holiday gatherings. Also props to Don for the Back in Black recomendation, that might be my staple sports beer this fall.

    • Don
      September 10, 2010 at 10:44 am #

      Glad you liked the Back in Black. I asked Rick my beer guy when he was getting more in. Next week. I might have to get a 12 of it for football. It truely is great brew. I’ve seen the SN Torpedo on the shelves but so far have avoided it. It was a choice for me, but wasn’t in the mood for an IPA, so Sammy it was.

  10. Brandon
    September 10, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Ah yes, as I posted on your Sam Adams topic, I love me some fest!! This beer has so much going for it from a flavor standpoint that it can take a six pack to appreciate it all. I bought a 15gal keg of it one year and just about died.

    • Don
      September 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

      I think you should go for another Keg! You da MAN Brandon! I agree though, and I think I said somewhere that as I drank it more nuances continued to come out in the flavor. I drank three of them and the last was better than the first as the flavors built up on my palate. Truly a great fest beer!

  11. Mark S.
    September 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    I just discovered your site, and like that there are discussions a “casual” craft beer drinker can get involved in without having to study up on gravities, etc.


    Anyway, in a pinch I usually default to one of the Sam Adams traditional brews like Boston Lager or Boston Ale. Although recently I have re-discovered Saranac’s offerings, which for some reason had dropped off my radar. Good stuff, and near ubiquitous around here…

    • September 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

      Welcome, Mark. Sam is usually my safety beer too, as it’s everywhere out here.

      While we’re definitely not beer snobs, you’ll see I do have popped off on Saranac in the past. Search Saranac on the site and you’ll see what I mean. 🙂

      • Mark S.
        September 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

        Hey, yeah, I was surprised as you would be, since I usually pass over the Saranac section in my local liquor store without a second glance. But I had recently read “Ambitious Brew” and figured I would throw a few dollars towards one of America’s oldest regional breweries. Plus, I was bringing the beer over to a friend’s house for a Friday-night get-together and did not want to pick out anything too “complicated”. So I grabbed a six of their new Octoberfest, and was pleasantly surprised. Combined with enjoying their “Black and Tan” while visiting my parents a couple of weekends ago, and suddenly they are back on my radar as a “safe” beer.

        Not that I’ll be picking them over Founders’ or North Coast’s latest offering, when I can get them…


        • Don
          September 13, 2010 at 10:02 am #

          Mark, I will tell you this, that was a very restrained reply from my Brother Jim. Funny thing was that he and his wife used to drink Saranac too, but once he got into the world of craft beer deeper he found them to be shallow and pedantic. So I think since you were nice and a new visitor Jim restrained himself mightily in his reply. Any way, glad to have you here, and I agree that Sam Adams is a good safety beer, and some of their offerings are actually go to brews for me. I loved the Imperial White! Nice stuff. Anyway, welcome and enjoy the group we have here. Contribute often! Jim’s bark is much worse than his bite. 😉


  1. What Is Your Favorite Fall Seasonal Beer. « Beer & Whiskey Brothers - October 7, 2010

    […] Tier’s Pumking vs Avery’s Kaiser, as well as the more traditional reviews I did of Sam Adams Octoberfest, and Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead.  Plus I know there are plenty of fall seasonals that Jim and I […]

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