This otherwise ordinary store — from outside, it's even a little rundown — offers a huge selection (for a supermarket) of beers from around the world. It also boasts regular deals on inexpensive varieties, though I have yet to try anything at the likes of $1.99 a six-pack, "a great deal at twice the price."
One typical visit ended with three bottles in my bag. Saranac Hefeweizen (12 ounces; 99 cents), from Utica, New York, was unfiltered and cloudy; it had a flowery-lemony nose that the label describes as a "slight banana and clove aroma." It's also marketed as a "limited release," but it was nothing special.
Victory Prima Pils (12 ounces; $1.49), from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, was a bright amber pilsner. Despite the big hop flower on the label, it was dry but smooth with almost-sweet undertones, and not bitter at all.
On a lark I also bought the Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale (12 ounces; $1.49), from the Atlantic Brewing Co. of Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine. I figured this would be a joke, but the blueberry aroma that greeted me when I opened the bottle was surpassed by the tart taste and round flavor. I've since read that the brewery uses fresh blueberries, not fruit syrup; I've also seen it suggested that the Blueberry Ale can be blended into a "black and blue" with a stout or the brewery's own Coal Porter.
Afterward I noticed that the "best enjoyed by" date was more than a year in the past; far as I could tell, it didn't hurt the taste, though it might explain some of Pioneer's prices.
On numerous later occasions:
Hitachino Nest Weizen (11 ounces; $3.79), from Naka-gun, Ibaraki, Japan. Cloudy, with little aroma, a smooth, round, fruity taste, and a lingering but pleasant aftertaste.
Palma Louca (12 ounces, $1.39), from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A light golden pilsner that's about 180 degrees away from Cervejarias Kaiser Brasil's better-known brand, Xingu Black Beer. Would probably quench the fire of spicy food without adding much flavor of its own.
Singha (12 ounces, $1.39), from Bangkok, Thailand. A golden yellow lager with a light barley aroma and a full mouthfeel that's nicely balanced against its hoppiness. One of my old favorites, fine by itself in the evening, better on a hot day, best of all on a hot day with Thai, Cajun, or any other spicy food.
Lindemans Cassis Lambic (12 fl. oz; $5.99), Vlezenbeek, Belgium. Welch's grape juice-colored; penetrating currant aroma (once I unwrapped, uncapped, and uncorked the bottle — no easy task); barely carbonated; round but somewhat fading mouthfeel. Goes well with the goat's mile Rocinante and the sheep's milk Manchego cheeses that I bought to pair up with guava paste. I appreciate this beer, but I don't believe I could ever drink more than one at a sitting.
Yinpu black rice beer (12 fl. oz.; $2.99), Changchun, China. Deep reddish brown, sweet, vaguely fruity aroma and taste; not very carbonated; a lot like the Boylan's birch beer I had a couple of weeks ago.
Long Trail Hibernator (12 fl. oz.; $1.59), Bridgewater Corners, Vermont.This "winter ale flavored with honey" has a honey color ("ruby," the Long Trail website calls it) but an annoying syrupy aftertaste.
Taller beer (16.9 fl. oz.; 59 cents), Nikolaev, Ukraine. Light amber lager with an alarmingly tall, lacy head whose look reminded me of sea foam on the beach as the tide recedes. Skunky-metallic off-taste. Appears to be sediment at the bottom of the bottle, and that's where I managed to leave it. Perhaps this is supposed to be a wheat beer; in the artwork on the label, it's hard to tell what amber grain is growing in the field.
Magic Hat HI.P.A. (pronounced "High P.A.?") (12 fl. oz.; $1.49), Burlington, Vermont. Deep gold; as in the cask version, strong grassy aroma that kicks up through the sinuses; lingering hoppy aftertaste.
Stoudt's Scarlet Lady Ale ESB (12 fl. oz.; $1.59), Adamstown, Pennsylvania. Caramel color, aroma, taste; not nearly enough hops for balance, let alone for a bitter.
Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale (12 fl. oz.; $1.59), Tilburg, Netherlands. Root-beer brown; roasted-caramel aroma; mouthfeel of thin cough medicine with slightly syrupy aftertaste.
Rogue Mocha Porter (12 fl. oz.; $1.79), Newport, Oregon. Very dark brown, almost black, with cream-colored head; burnt coffee and caramel aromas; slightly acidic taste with a little nip at the tip of the tongue; somewhat bitter, lingering aftertaste.
McEwan's Scotch Ale (12 fl. oz.; $1.99), Edinburgh. Dark brown; heady fruity-caramel aroma; smooth, slightly syrupy taste that lingers pleasantly.
Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 (six 12 fl. oz. bottles; $7.49), Utica, New York. Produced in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers' only World Series championship. Amber; vague fruity aroma; round, smooth flavor ultimately has little character.
Brooklyn Lager (12 fl. oz.; $1.39). Amber; fruity aroma; lingering sour taste.
Brooklyn Pilsner (12 fl. oz.; $1.39). Golden; bready aroma with a little old lemon; taste is more old hops.
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale (12 fl. oz.; $1.39). Slightly paler amber; pungent bready aroma that continues through the finish.
Brooklyn Brown Ale (12 fl. oz.; $1.39). Root beer brown with a head to match; sugary caramel aroma; taste is less sugary, more toasted.
Brooklyn barleywine style Monster Ale (12 fl. oz.; $1.99). Dark amber; customary cloying-threatening aroma rises into the sinuses with every taste. For some reason, I think of the protective coloration of some poisonous caterpillars that warns away birds and other predators. Barleywine won't kill me, but I'll drink it sparingly.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (12 fl. oz.; $1.59). Black; burnt chocolate aroma. Taste is all at the front of the mouth; much less round than I'd expect from a stout. A little of that same aroma in the sinuses, too.
Victory Storm King Imperial Stout (12 ounces; $1.79), Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Blackish brown; floral-caramel aroma; effervescent, almost woody taste gets a little syrupy toward the end of the bottle.
Julius Echter hefe-weiss premium (16 fl. oz.; $2.49), Wurzburg, Germany. Murky golden with a white head; lemony fresh aroma; full, somewhat sour mouthfeel.
Erdinger hefe-weizen (12 fl. oz.; $1.29), Erding, Germany. Cloudy amber; floral aroma with lemon-orange overtones; full mouthfeel that's bright for a hefe-weizen.
Erdinger hefe-weizen dark (16.9 fl. oz.; $1.99). Root-beer brown with a tall cream-colored head; very faint aroma and taste of toasted malt; barely distinguishable as a hefe-weizen.
Franziskaner hefe-weisse (16.9 fl. oz; $1.99), Munich. Cloudy amber with a short white head; fresh lemony aroma; taste that's concentrated toward the front of the mouth, but with a pleasant amount of sourness; banana notes, too.
Schneider Weisse, the original (16.9 fl. oz; $2.99), Germany. Dark amber with a tall white head; bready aroma; flavor is surprisingly light and almost sweet, with overtones of spice, or perhaps cloves.
Pinkus organic hefe-weizen (16.9 fl. oz.; $3.49), Germany. Slightly cloudy golden with a short white head; flowery-grassy aroma; the taste, all in the front of the mouth, goes sour after a few swallows.
Efes pilsener (11.2 fl.oz.; 99 cents), Istanbul. Pale yellow; faint aroma and taste of old vegetables. Less offensive than it sounds.
Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat (12 fl. oz.; $1.59), Vermont. Pale yellow; aroma and taste of not-quite-ripe blackberries disguises any indication of wheat. Doesn't work.
Victory Hop Devil Ale (12 ounces; $1.59), from Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Ruddy amber; smooth but assertive hop aroma; round taste is slightly more bitter, but never suggests that it will go too far. Would be great with a burger; too bad Victory brews seem to be available in no restaurants and very few delis and markets.
Sierra Nevada Summerfest beer (12 fl. oz.; $1.79), Chico, California. Straw-colored; fruity-hoppy aroma; taste is more sour than bitter.
Lagunitas Pils (12 fl. oz.; $1.49), Petaluma, California. Amber; muted aroma of oranges that have lost most of their spice; taste has a little more bite, which lingers.
Paulaner Premium Pils (12 fl. oz.; $1.59), Munich. Pale amber; flowery hoppy aroma, but a murky taste.
Dinkel Acker Dark (12 fl. oz. bottle; $1.29), Munich. Dark caramel brown with patchy tan head; burnt caramel aroma; smooth, almost sweet, but somewhat insipid toasted-malt taste.
Brooklyner Weisse Beer (12 fl. oz. bottle; $1.69). Cloudy amber with scanty white head; banana aroma with a hint of citrus; sour fruity taste with a slightly effervescent mouthfeel.
Konig Ludwig Weiss royal Bavarian hefe-weizen (11.2 fl. oz. bottle; $1.59), Bavaria. Cloudy amber with a foamy white head; sour honey aroma; flavor adds banana undertones; mouthfeel is creamy to the point of murkiness. May not have been chilled enough before serving.
Southhampton Secret Ale (12 fl. oz. bottle; $1.29), Southhampton, New York. Ruddy amber with a finger of pockmarked cream-colored head; faint spicy-fruity aroma; refreshing (though somewhat "grainy") toasted-malt taste.
Otter Creek Pale Ale (12 fl. oz. bottle; $1.49), Middlebury, Vermont. Orange amber; piney-hoppy aroma perseveres in the taste which is almost astringent.
Otter Creek Copper Ale (12 fl. oz. bottle; $1.49), Middlebury, Vermont. Amber with a cream-colored head; faintly grassy aroma; dry, lingering roasted-malt taste.
Krait beer (330 ml.; 99 cents), Kielce, Poland. Yellow with nearly nonexistent head; sour, slightly metallic taste.
Bard's Tale Beer Dragon's Gold Golden Sorghum Lager (12 fl. oz.; $1.49), Buffalo, New York. Huge mounds of white foamy head, enough to shave with if you're a morning drinker; beer itself is pale yellow. Perhaps that alien smell and taste is what one should expect from sorghum; I shivered once and poured it down the drain.
Geary's Autumn Ale (12 fl. oz.; $1.59), Portland, Maine. Ruddy brown; fruity-hoppy aroma; smoky chocolate taste without too heavy a body.
Coopers Sparkling Ale (12.7 fl. oz.; $1.89), Regency Park, Australia. Murky yellow-brown with little head despite constant effervescence; aromas of oranges and malt; smooth mouthfeel; flavor hits many interesting notes, ends a little sour — or is that vanilla? Bottle conditioned; has a little sediment.
Coopers Dark Ale (12.7 fl. oz.; $1.89). Very dark brown, with a creamy head that caught the dark dribbles of sediment at the bottom. Aroma suggests roasted chocolate, perhaps nuts; taste is fainter and a little bitter; surprisingly lacking in body.
Pete's Wicked Red Rush (12 fl. oz.; 79 cents), Eden, North Carolina. Deep orange-brown with a thick creamy head; aroma and taste reminiscent of malted cabbage.
The Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale (12 fl. oz.; $1.49), Portland, Maine. Golden, with tall, white, fast-disappearing head; smells of pumpkins gone bad, but flavor is relatively harmless supermarket pumpkin pie.
Victory Festbier (12 fl. oz.; $1.59), Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Dark amber with a scanty head; clean, spicy orange aroma and taste; light hopping steps forward in the smooth finish.
Weihenstephaner Korbinian (16.9 fl. oz; $1.99 ), Freising, Germany. Dark ruddy brown with a scanty head; vaguely chocolaty aroma has that sharp warning tang reminiscent of barleywine; smooth, somewhat thin taste.
Geary's pale ale (12 fl. oz.; $1.59), Portland, Maine. Rich amber; faint aroma but prominent, lingering flavor of sharp, brassy hops.
Hampshire special. Ruddy amber; flowery strawberry aroma is eventually subdued by that same hoppy flavor.
Autumn ale. Ruddy brown with a fading tan head; fruity aroma that suggests lightly spiced oranges succumbs to a hoppy tongue-nipping taste.
Winter ale. Amber with a cream-colored head; aroma actually conjures bananas; round flavor, milder on the hops, hearkens from some part of the citrus family.
London style porter. Very dark brown with thick, creamy beige head; smoky aroma; even smokier flavor.
Anchor Christmas Ale 2006 (12 fl. oz.; $1.99), San Francisco. Very dark brown with a frothy, fast-vanishing light brown head; considering the strong roasted-malt aroma, with notes of chocolate and caramel, very round flavor, and light on the tongue.
289 Columbus Ave. (73rd-74th Sts.)
(one of several locations, but only this one has the great beer selection)