“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor.”  -William Cowper


The ubiquitous mix-pack has been a standard brewery marketing strategy (gimmick) for much longer than I’ve been around.  The first time I remember picking up a sampler pack was probably my junior-ish year of college when I could finally go buy my own beer.  Prior to that I pretty much just drank whatever someone else was kind enough to have picked up for me.*  Back in those afternoon-sun-drenched days of yore, Magic Hat was my microbrewery of choice.  To the best of my recollection my first sampler consisted of Magic Hat #9 (an apricot pale ale), Circus Boy (a hef), Blind Faith (an East Coast IPA), and some seasonal or limited-edition brew to spice things up.  Though Magic Hat has lost some of its luster these days, those sampler packs were a big part of my introduction to the differences between beer styles.

*This most often took the form of utterly inappropriate volumes of kegged Bud Light in the basement of that often-referenced-yet-maddeningly-ambiguous Greek organization once frequented by a handful of the Aleheads.  And Boones.  And Mad Dog.

During one of our (inane) behind-the-scenes email conversations the subject of the perfect mix-pack came up.  It can be a surprisingly challenging equation to solve, and quite a few breweries actually have a few different assortments to try to hit as many taste profiles as possible.  So this week’s conundrum lets the boys play with the challenge themselves.  Design for us your ideal sample pack.  

The rules: You may only choose beers from a single brewery, and that brewery must distribute to your home region.  Your pack may have any number of beers from 6-24.  Your assortment may be any number of varieties from 2-12.  And you must give your sample pack a name.

I look forward to seeing how many of these rules you immediately disregard.



Screw varied taste profiles; I’m boxing up a bunch of Russian Imperial Stouts.  My ideal sample pack: Box of Black Borises.  Haling from Central Ohio (for now), I’m going with arguably Ohio’s best craft brewery, Hoppin’ Frog.  They’re not the most omnipresent and they sometimes fly below the radar even here, but if you’re looking for an amped-up, full-flavored Ohio brew, look no further.

There are four bottles of each of three different beers in the Box of Black Borises:
B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout.  Only a stellar brewery could have its everyday offering (i.e. not the spin-offs and one-offs) ranked #3 on Brother Barley’s list of top 10 Russian Imperial Stouts. If you’re lucky enough to get BORIS on draught, you’ll find a pint glass that light cannot penetrate, with a nutty chocolaty aroma and a viscosity like fresh molasses.  But the beauty of BORIS is that it drinks lighter than it pours and, due partly to a vocal hop minority in the finish, does not leave that cloying maltiness or overabundant alcohol burn that ruins so many Russian Imperial Stouts for me.  It has no competition for the best stout made in Ohio (except for the other bottles in the Box of Black Borises).  It’s not in the pantheon with Founders KBS (and presumably Three Floyds Dark Lord, which I’ve never had), but it’s in the very next tier, which is saying a hell of a lot.

Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S. Oatmeal Imperial Stout.  Hoppin’ Frog has made this beer in several different batches and has color-coded the caps.  I can only speak to the Barrel Aged BORIS that comes with the green cap.  (I’ve never seen it on draught.)  It’s like taking regular BORIS and adding strong notes of vanilla and dried fruit.  It also seems to drink lighter than regular BORIS.  I thought barrel aging could never hurt a beer until I tried this one — the flavors are a little muddled and the consistency is very slightly off — but it’s still a freaking awesome brew.  I admit to being a little biased by the whopping price tag; for $17 a bomber, it ought to be god’s gift to beers.  And in truth I’d rather have the regular BORIS.  Which is why I’m putting both of them in my mix pack!

D.O.R.I.S. the Destroyer Double Imperial Stout.  If BORIS’s color reminds you of sleeping in a Kansas field on a moonless prairie night, DORIS is like being in solitary confinement with the light bulb broken by a capricious prison guard.  I snagged this beer from the package store earlier this spring; sadly, I haven’t seen it again since.  Unlike the Barrel Aged BORIS, which I think offers some different flavors than regular BORIS, DORIS is just a bigger version of BORIS (apparently that’s actually possible).  As if BORIS’s 9.4% ABV wasn’t enough, DORIS weighs in at 10.5%.  It is thicker and blacker, though also significantly hoppier, than original BORIS.  I wouldn’t say it outshines the original.  It comes very close, however.  Also, this is a one-and-done beer if I ever saw one.

Here’s why you should buy the Box of Black Borises and not whatever shit the others come up with below.

  1. The quasi-racial and -ethnic pun was entirely unintentional.
  2. My mix pack will last three times as long as theirs, because you can barely stand to drink one of these beers a night, let alone two or three.
  3. I’ve actually tried all the beers in the Box of Black Borises.
  4. There is minimal risk of your non-alehead buddies dipping into your stash when they go to your fridge looking for the Sam Adams Light you’ve been keeping there.
  5. You’d rather have 12 oz. bottles of all these beers than bombers, which until Hoppin’ Frog puts my mix pack into production is the only way they come.



I’ll follow the Commander’s lead and go local. For my Ultimate Mix-Pack, I’m cranking out a case made up of two bottles each of a dozen of the best and baddest brews from Athens, GA’s Terrapin Beer Company. Witness, The Twelve Turtles:

Hopsecutioner – IPA
Wake ‘n’ Bake – Coffee Stout
Big Hoppy Monster – Imperial Red
Hopzilla – Double IPA
Rye Squared – Double Rye
Rye – Umm…Rye
Hop Karma – India Brown Ale
Depth Charge – Milk Stout
90 Shelling – Scotch Ale
Hoptaneous Combustion – Smoked IPA
The Dark Side – Belgian Stout
Monk’s Revenge – Belgian IPA

That should cover all the bases and with two bottles of each beer, you and a friend can explore the beauty that is Terrapin together. Slainte!



I am going to take the practical route with my selection, a collection of Avery Brewing’s ales that I will call the Avery Armada. This is a 12-piece box, the kind that you might find at any package liquor store, showing off Adam Avery’s fine every day drinkers and a few of the seasonals. That includes:

Ellie’s Brown: A fine American brown ale.
Out of Bounds Stout: One of my personal favorite dry stouts and a beer I wish was always in my fridge.
Joe’s Pils: A beer I’m very much looking forward to trying at some point.
New World Porter: My favorite Avery seasonal, basically a black IPA, except dreamt up by Avery before people were calling hoppy black beers “black IPAs”.
Avery IPA: Not actually my favorite, but it’s their flagship and other people love it. A must for this collection.
Old Jubilation: An underrated winter seasonal; an English strong ale.

When it comes to these exercises and conundra, I prefer to play within the bounds of what can be assembled from what actually exists right now. I think it’s more challenging than just listing “here’s a ton of beers that should be in a box together.” To wit–I didn’t add Avery’s special releases, which can only be purchased as bombers, into the Avery Armada. I will, however, create a second variety pack that could conceivably exist, an Avery Bomber Bacchanalia. Imagine this one as a 4-pack box with a handle easily allowing it to be carried in one hand, like a wine carrier. The beers:

The Maharaja: Avery’s seminal, super rich and dank Imperial IPA.
Dugana: Avery’s other spectacular Imperial IPA. More dry, more bitter and less cloying than the Maharaja. Have you guys had this one? Don’t miss it.
The Reverend: One of the biggest and richest beers I’ve ever had. Like getting hammered on alcoholic candy.
Avery 17: This is the anniversary ale, and could be updated each year this Bomber Bacchanalia is released. The most recent is a unique, dry-hopped schwarzbier. Go for it, Avery!

If there was a decent price break on these two boxes, they would both be good ways for people to try a range of Adam Avery’s products without breaking the bank.



At the risk of stating the obvious, please give me one reason why a  cube comprised of four sixers of Dale’s Pale Ale, G’Knight, Old Chub, and Ten FIDY wouldn’t be the lowest risk purchase you ever made? I’d call it the “Oskar Box”. Or, “Gordon”.









I just realized that this was a pretty softball conundrum.  “Hey guys, pick a bunch of beers you probably already have in your fridge from one of your favorite local breweries, throw them into a ‘pack’, and give it a name.”  I’m pretty sure this kind of exercise is essentially going on in every Alehead’s mind more or less all the time.  On the plus side, it’s also the kind of thing that other Aleheads enjoy reading about so they can secretly feel that their sampler is completely superior to everyone else’s.  And speaking of superior, my superior mix pack is coming from Bridgeport Brewing in Portland, OR.  It’s going to contain four sixers, one each of Kingpin (an imperial red), Cafe Negro (a coffee porter), Hop Czar (a great imperial IPA), and Haymaker (an extra pale ale).  It will naturally be called Not Connecticut, Silly.  No really though, it’ll be The Bridge King.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put on my drinking pants.  I have a lot of ‘research’ to do if I’m ever going to finish creating perfect sample packs for every brewery in Oregon.

5 thoughts on “MIXIN’ IT UP!

  1. I don’t secretly feel that my mixer is completely superior.

    I KNOW that my mixer is completely superior.

  2. Here is my personal favorite… I am sure you must have sampled this fine selection:

    Flying Dog brewery.

    1 Doggie Style; classic pale ale.

    2 Old Scratch; amber lager

    3 Tire Bite; golden ale

    4 Snake Dog; india pale ale

    5 Road Dog; porter

    6 In-heat Wheat; HefeWeizen

    Maybe not the best individual but overall as a sampler – kick-in.

  3. Missed the deadline for this conundrum, because I’m a laggard.
    But here’s a killer 12-pack for you. I call it “Founders Keepers.”
    Centennial IPA
    Double Trouble DIPA
    Devil Dancer TIPA
    Breakfast Stout
    Imperial Stout
    Red’s Rye PA
    Dirty Bastard
    Harvest Ale
    Backwoods Bastard

  4. Oh sure! Make me think after a long ass day of slingin’ beer & booze, & drinkin’…

    I gotta go with the Mile High Sampler:
    Great Divide’s…
    Claymore Scotch
    Hades Belgian
    Titan IPA
    Yeti Imperial Stout
    Yeti Vanilla Bean

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