by Suzanne Hays, Beer Director at Row 34
As a former bartender, I’ve been asked this age-old question more times than I can count. Now as Beer Director at Row 34, this inquiry has become even more frequent. Often, the answer comes as a surprise or is followed with a grimace and shake of the head. Okay, I should confess something before we move on: I don’t care for IPA’s (cue shaking heads). I can appreciate stylistically what they bring to the table and understand their significance in the American craft beer movement. I am not saying they aren't important, but I’d be lying if I said they were a staple in my refrigerator.
When asked this infamous question, my answer is usually directed towards crisp German lagers, savory Rauchbiers, or dirty farmhouses. Those are what I like to drink. With the ever-growing love for the American IPA and demand for rare sours, it often comes as a surprise that these traditional styles are what I yearn for. For me there’s something special that lies within these classics. Most have been around for centuries. They’ve acted as nourishment when clean water was scarce. They’ve been served to royalty and farmhands alike. Their endurance and ability to withstand time is a thing to be admired.
And boy do I admire them! There’s nothing like drinking a Brett-infused farmhouse from a Teku glass in the summer. It’s fluffy, white head perfumed with the smell of a dirty barn floor. Or the feeling of a dimpled stein filled to the brim with a roasty brew from Schlenkerla. Apologies to the hop heads out there, but nothing compares to a Kolsch whose bubbles sing from the bottom of a Stange.
My goal here isn’t to convince you that my preferences are better nor is it to make you think IPA is evil. The point is this: drink what you love and stop caring about what someone else thinks. What’s popular may be great but if there’s a style that calls to you, go for it! The best social experiences in my book are ones in which everyone has their own viewpoint. Beers with friends often consist of the rare and unusual, but also include a diverse portfolio of personal favorites. Ranging from dark and luscious to acidic and bright, each bottle bursts with the preference of each individual's palate.
So I pose the inevitable question: What’s your favorite?
Suzanne is the Beer Director at Row 34 in Boston and was a Eater Boston Young Guns Semifinalist this year. Suzanne is a former bartender who turned her love of beer into a career.