I’m that girl. The one who drinks half a beer to humor you. It’s not that I dislike it, I just like wine or bourbon or a cocktail better. Exceptions: Miller High Life + fishing, Singha + hot Thai curry, Hale’s Cream Ale + Seattle, Sapporo + sake bombing. If the situation calls for a pint, it’s hard cider. I’ve been called a weenie. I’ve been told you have to drink a lot of beer to appreciate it. To which I ask, if it’s so good, why do I have to work at it?
Still, I’ve always wanted to find my beer, one I’d order over an Old Fashioned not because it was socially correct or cheap but because it tasted that awesome. So I experimented at a newish local beer playground, Pub 1842.
“I’m looking for something that won’t embarrass me in front of my dude friends,” I told Jaime Diaz, a server who’s been with 1842 since it opened in June (and with founding chef Michael Mina since 2001). The pub offers an evolving menu of more than 60 beers, 24 on tap, from reliable American lagers to obscure Japanese stouts. Jaime had no doubt one of the wheels (flights of eight samples for $21) would kill my theory that I’m just not a beer girl. He suggested the Wild World. Weekly Associate Editor/my personal booze adviser Ken Miller approved. We ordered the signature pork-chili nachos and waited for enlightenment in the form of a 5-ounce pour.
Ken said Pilsner Urquell (the pub is named after the Czech staple’s founding year) is never bad but doesn’t do much for him. The creamy texture had me, but I lost the mild flavor almost immediately after sipping. On to Asahi, a Japanese lager I’ve had many times with sushi and enjoy for it’s barley-forward smoothness. Ken called it “a better version of PBR.” It was subtle next to Weihenstephaner, a Hefeweizen with a hard kick of allspice. But the first taste that really grabbed my attention was New Zealand’s Moa pale ale, malt-strong with a whisper of hops and aromatic floral notes. I wanted to finish it, but Ken reminded me that we were still early in the wheel (thank goodness for the absorbent, face-meltingly good nachos).
Next was an IPA, Big Dog’s Dirty Dog. Ken predicted a “quantum leap in hoppiness,” but the first sip went down sweet and easy. We were both shocked. Then Ken took a taste and immediately said, “That’s Delirium.” An accidental switcheroo. Delirium’s triple-yeast effect was fruity yet dry, complex yet going down in manly gulps. The real Dirty Dog got the pucker face we were expecting. It has a “very good” rating of 85 on beeradvocate.com, but my Mr. Yuck says no to hops. The final sample would be Guinness, a stout I know well, so my last chance at a soul mate was Innis & Gunn. The malted-barley Scottish ale was discovered by fate, made just to season whiskey barrels before someone thought to taste it.
Aging for 77 days in oak infuses the brew with toffee and vanilla for a lip-smacking hybrid with a beer backbone and a harder spirit’s body and rich finish—my perfect match. I crushed the sample, so Jaime brought us a bottle of sweeter and spicier rum-aged Innis & Gunn ($12). Ken swooned.
Having found myself in the beer wheel, I felt empowered to try Ommegang’s saison, all nectarines and honey, and Schlenkerla’s leathery, campfirey smokebeer. From the “Venus Favors the Bold” section, we tried Hitachino’s sweet milk stout, like liquid chocolate cake. A dozen adventures yielded four winners I know I’ll order again: 1. Innis & Gunn. 2. Moa. 3. Delirium. 4. Ommegang. At 1842, you can opt for 12, 17 or 33 ounces in a pour or even sit at a table with its own tap. Next time, I’m going big.
Pub 1842 MGM Grand, 891-3922. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m.-midnight; Sunday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.