Drinking the Bottom Shelf »

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.

Bottom Shelf Beer: Narragansett Bock Is Really Good

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I plan on getting rich pretty soon; not like Bill Gates megarich, because that would be tacky and impossible, but just sort of medium-rich to the point where I can treat myself to luxuries such as fish and servants. These servants would be used tenderly and sparingly, mainly to buy fish and drive me places, for I hate to drive (I don't mind buying fish, but it seems like the sort of chore a rich person would delegate).

My driving servant would have a pretty easy go of it, because I don't like being car-bound for longer than 15 minutes at a time. Bottom Shelf research director Emily and I don't own a car, thank god, and she is a willing and able driver of the ones we occasionally rent, borrow, and steal, so I try not to complain about my intermittent bouts of being chauffeured, but I'd really rather avoid the automotive life altogether.

Avoidance was impossible last weekend, though, because Emily's uncle was good enough to offer use of his vacated house on Cape Cod but not quite good enough to provide door-to-door helicopter service. I was still excited about the trip, though, because I looked forward to spending a long weekend in a town where we had no computers, friends, or enemies. I'm not the busiest guy in the world but I was relieved at the prospect of a three-day span where our only responsibilities were bare minimal grooming and pizza-topping selection (I went with deodorant and linguica; the fair lady opted for a more complicated regimen of showers and vegetables).

Even though I've lived in Massachusetts most of my life, I've only been to Cape Cod a couple of times, because I've never been close enough to ride my bike and this sorry excuse for a socialist state does not provide public beach transportation. Because I've only been a few times, Emily has unfairly painted me as a Cape-hater. She loves all beaches and certain Cape Cod beaches in particular, and she regards my failure to procure beach-house-owning uncles as proof that I hate the Cape. Not so. I just thought it seemed like a nice enough place that I don't get around to visiting very often.

I'm going to start getting around to it a lot more, though, because Emily's right and the Cape is fantastic. At least in February, when it's devoid of children and traffic and no one tries to make me swim in the terrifying shark-toilet that surrounds the precariously thin strip of roads and bars and fried clams.

We stayed in Sandwich, which is just about the best name you could give a town or a child or a lunch, and also checked out Provincetown and Wellfleet and Hyannis. It was great. I only have two regrets about the trip. One is that we couldn't find a place to drink—or even eat—in the nicely named town of Mashpee, which may need to rethink its ratio of upscale sweatpants stores to bars. (There were a few good-looking places downtown, but they were all unreasonably packed.) The other glitch was that Cape Cod Beer turned out to be pretty mediocre.

On my infrequent trips out of Schwinn and subway range, I like to eat and drink as I imagine the locals do. This served me well in Sandwich, where it meant linguica pizza and $1.95 pints of PBR at Booster Bar and Grill. In the other towns we had excellent oysters and deer and fish tacos and quahog chowder and decent beer from Martha's Vineyard and very good beer from Cape-proximate Plymouth. The region's eaters and drinkers seem to be in pretty good hands overall, but I was really disappointed in both of the Cape Cod Beers I tried, the Beach Blonde (from a possibly past-due growler) and the Amber Red Ale from a tap.

Bad namesake beer's not enough to turn me off the Cape, but it does mean that other New England beach communities could vie for my freeloading nephew-in-law business if any of Em's relations happen to own houses near wherever the Narragansett brewery ends up being. 'Gansett is a classic Rhode Island brand, but it's currently being contract brewed in Rochester, NY. Their website claims they'll build their own place in New England when they start selling enough beer to make it feasible.

When 'Gansett started making a comeback several years ago, I wrote it off as simple nostalgia marketing. I remember disliking it in 2006 or so, and didn't try it again until 2010. I've heard rumors that the recipe has been tweaked and improved, but I'm willing to believe my tastes or expectations have changed, too. Either way, I'm now very fond of the flagship lager; it's better than PBR and costs about the same locally. I was pretty excited to try the bock when it replaced the very good porter as the seasonal offering a couple weeks ago.

Narragansett Bock is currently one of my favorite beers of any style or price. I got a couple cans for free and have yet to find it in my package store, but it should retail for about the same price as the porter, $8 or so for a 6-pack of tallboys (the lager is about $6).

It pours a nice light amber with a perfect head of small, tight bubbles; the smell is plainly reminiscent of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, but Narragansett Bock is the better beer. It has distinct and complex flavors of slightly sweet malt, yeast, and biscuits balanced by floral hops, with a clean, dry finish. When this starts showing up in stores, I intend to buy enough for them to consider building the brewery in my basement.

About the author: Will Gordon loves life and hates mayonnaise. You can eat and drink with him in Boston or follow him on twitter @WillGordonAgain.

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