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Brew Review

Whole Foods Has Us Feeling “Hopful” for the Holidays

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By Joni Williams


So far, we’re loving the changes brought about by Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods. And it’s mainly because so far only the prices have changed. They’re lower, as promised, but everything else you know and love about Whole Foods has pretty much stayed the same—the high quality and interesting selection of fresh groceries and yummy offerings of prepared hot and cold foods are still there.


At the Destin Whole Foods, this includes what is probably the best beer selection of any chain grocery store in the local area. For starters, Whole Foods has managed to magically pack a mind-blowing number of cans, bottles, singles, sixers and special holiday value packs in a not-so-big portion of the store’s rear aisle. They even have a tap station tucked away in a nearby corner where you can get hooked up with a growler.


Still, it wasn’t the mass quantities of brews in this hoppy winter wonderland that impressed us. It’s the quality. These are all primo brews. And we love that a good number of them are pretty daring choices. Sure, they play it safe, too, offering a number of tried-and-true brews as well as the everyday classics from AB, Miller and Coors. But we found so many hard-to-find brewers that were so interesting, so tempting, and so affordable we couldn’t resist picking up a few.


The first to make it into our shopping cart was the chocolate peanut butter porter Sweet Baby Jesus. We couldn’t decide if this was the most appropriate name ever, what with Christmas just around the corner, or if it was just plain craziness.  A beer—based on a popular but run-of-the mill candy, no less—named after America’s most revered religious figure? Who does that?


Duclaw, that’s who. And it’s surprisingly good. There’s a roasted earthiness to this deep, dark, almost-black beer that balances out its sweetness. As expected, there’s plenty of rich cocoa and even some coffee flavor as well as the smooth, subtle undercurrent of peanuttiness. The aroma of this combo may be even more delicious than the taste, so be sure to give it a whiff before you sip.


Another surprise was New Belgium’s Glutiny Pale Ale. In short, it didn’t suck. We’d even go so far as to say it’s probably the best reduced-gluten (in this case, “gluten removed”) beer we’ve tried to date. Not that we’ve tried a lot, mind you. Still, it was definitely hoppy and malty just like a real beer should be. It even had a decent, buzz-catching 6 percent ABV.


It may also have some gluten, as the brewer makes it perfectly clear they can’t guarantee100 percent of it has been removed from every bottle. If you have been banned from gluten for medical reasons, keep that in mind. It does, however, comply with FDA guidelines requiring 20 parts per million or less.


Little did we know, we were in for another surprise. Happy to find a pumpkin ale, we picked up New Belgium’s Voo Doo 8 Hop Pale Ale. Only it’s not a pumpkin ale. We had it confused with another in the Voo Doo series, the Atomic Pumpkin Ale, which has a similar looking bottle. We should have taken the time to read the label, but that’s beside the point.


Anyhoo, we were expecting a big fat hit of spiciness on our tongues. What we got instead was a perfectly tame splash of mellow hops and light fruitiness. Not to say this is a bad beer by any means, it’s just that we were looking for some adventure in a bottle. What we got was more predictable, but that might be exactly what some folks are looking for.


One predictable beer we never turn down is Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, one of the four different kinds of beer in this year’s “Snow Pack” that Whole Foods is selling for $17.99. Yes, a dozen craft brews for under 20 bucks. See what we mean about the new pricing?


For the same price, you can pick up a 12-pack by New Belgium that’s a mix of established classics and daring newbs. If neither of those tickles your fancy, they have an assortment of quality craft brew sixers starting at around $10.99. If you want a holiday gift that’s sure to please the hard-to-please hophead on your list, look no further.


And if that hophead happens to be you and you’re also hungry, you can pick up one of those exquisite six-packs along with a large baked-to-order premium pizza for a quick dinner or Netflix date night, all for under 30 bucks. Do it while you knock out your weekly shopping list. It’s one-stop shopping at it’s finest.

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