We are not scientists. We fear numbers. Unavoidably, however, once we set out to find a truly cold beer — thereby answering a serious and quantifiable summer need — a metric was required, a system, a tool.
Hello, $8.95 Taylor digital instant-read pocket thermometer.
Each volunteer outfitted with one such device, and with zero further guidance beyond a tipsy "Go where you think you'll taste the Rockies, maybe," we left the building.
A couple of weeks and an oxhoft of carby pint pulls later, we can tell you a couple of things with near-laboratory certainty.
First, we're all moving to Idaho. The Boise Weekly, from which we stole this idea, has been dip-testing brews for more than a decade, and that august paper keeps finding sub-32-degree beers by the dozen. Last year, its winning glass was a frigid 27.1 degrees. (All temperatures in this story are Fahrenheit; we are not Canadian.) We thought we'd find a place around here where the suds did more than just flirt with beer's freezing point (about 27 degrees). We were wrong.
Second, and more important, we know that the cross-section of local, nonchain establishments sampled in the pages that follow misses a few bars. More than a few. Probably someone's favorite, and that someone's going to have a word with us in the comments section at pitch.com. (A pre-emptive confession: Beer-dampened and all scienced out, we succumbed to the siren call of the cocktail when we got to some of our favorite spots. Keep a stein on ice, Port Fonda. Next time, Harry's.)
By all means, tell us where the beer is colder than the beer we drank. We somehow found room in our sad waterbed bellies for this many, so give us a little time and we'll go out again.
Meanwhile, here's to cold-ish beer, organized from warmest to chilliest. We'd toast, but we don't want to touch the glass and warm our drink.
O'Dowd's Little Dublin - 46.1 degrees
8:05 p.m. Saturday
The rooftop patio, with its Plaza views, is the draw at O'Dowd's when the weather's nice. But even near dusk, sometimes the sun is a little too ... sunny? So we sat at the downstairs bar and ordered what you're supposed to here: a Guinness. Was it especially cold? No. But the presentation was perfect, and it tasted crisp, and that's all that matters with a Guinness. At 8:15, the lights dimmed. At 8:30, they dimmed just a smidge more, in advance of the party people. We eyed the Bushmills and Powers bottles, rigged upside-down, taplike, behind the bar. We resisted, settled up. Outside it was dark. Our battle with daylight was won.
The Peanut on Main - 44.7 degrees
Beer: Boulevard Pale Ale
We'd never seen the Peanut looking so clean as when we stopped by this Tuesday afternoon, the bar's first customers. The tables, freshly wiped down, shone. The air smelled of sprayed cleaning products. Two baseball games competed for our attention: White Sox vs. Twins and Astros vs. Tigers. Twins-Sox, a matchup with more division implications, was awarded the audio. A split order was executed: a half-dozen wings and a BLT. Also, some beers. Also, some tequila shots. We indulged a daydream: many more beers, many more tequila shots, another four hours watching baseball. Instead, we ate, settled up, walked out the back door and past the kitchen. Out back, the cook was smoking in the shade. He nodded, took a last drag of his cigarette. Then we all went back to work.
Quinton's Waldo Bar - 43.9 degrees
5:45 p.m. Saturday
Beer: Boulevard Pale Ale
This outpost of Lawrence's well-known Mass Street bar and restaurant looks and feels like its older brother to the west. For some reason, the beer isn't terribly cold, but the throngs of customers who congregate here to watch a game don't seem too concerned.