I get bummed out when I hear about people in New Jersey buying beer in grocery stores (didn't happen till after I left, at least around where I lived) and we're all well aware of the archaic laws in Pennsylvania, another of my long-time residences (state stores for booze/wine and beer distributors for cases of beer, though take-out packaged goods have made a big improvement from what I hear).
Maryland – my home for the last 12 years – has its pockets of archaicness, too. And I happen to live in one. While folks in Baltimore City and some surrounding counties can hit the liquor store on a Sunday afternoon to grab a six-pack for the game or even just goofing off in the backyard, we Baltimore County denizens need to stock up or be prepared to face the consequences.
And on a recent Sunday afternoon I faced those very consequences. With beer supplies running dangerously low, homebrews not finished and friends coming over to grill (and possibly chill), I headed out to a local restaurant that had been touting their seven days a week booze availability. Whew!
Not surprisingly, the "liquor store" they had been advertising was more like a couple shelves of booze, a rack of wine and two coolers of beer, but well, beggars can't be choosers.
After quickly surveying the options – mostly the Big Three plus a little Corona and some Dogfish Head – my eyes wandered over to something called Third Shift Amber Lager.
The cardboard carrier with dark blue and black graphics and lettering smacked of trying for a craft feel without really being a craft brew and I should have been – and was – immediately suspicious. But I honestly didn't want to be the douchebag lush in the package goods store who was using his phone to check the pedigree of a Sunday afternoon beer.
I scanned the bottles and packaging looking for any telltale URLs, locations or parent companies but none were forthcoming. Yeah, I know, yet another sign. But you have to love the warm and fuzzy, slightly romanticized marketing that adorns the packaging...
Late at night, when most people have clocked out and gone home, a Band of Brewers® keeps on brewing; pouring everything they have into the pursuit of new and different beers, the best of which have won gold. This collection of award winning beers is Third Shift™, the product of their passion.
Well, hell people... how can I resist this pesky band of brewers (registered trademark!) that kept on brewing long after the lights were turned out??? Sounds kinda un-American to me if I did.
Naturally, the first thing I did after I drove home and unloaded the suspicious-looking six-pack was to Google the name and – GROAN – just as I suspected that ragtag band of after-hours brewers works for MillerCoors! Argh!
Oh well, as most reviews you'll find online will tell you Third Shift Amber Lager is a sweet, malty brew, light on carbonation and without much in the way of hops. I'd bitch and moan a bit but I'm drinking Natty Boh as I write this and the first taste test of my first batch of homebrew was met with "Hey! You made Schlitz!" from my neighbor and drinking buddy.
In other words, if your local gas station, convenience store or restaurant adjunct has a limited selection of brews, Third Shift Amber Lager isn't the worst thing you could pick up.
I'd consider that as close to a rave review as it's gonna get.