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A sixer of Dale’s to go — on your desert island

I’ve had, and still do have, a proclivity toward lists and the ranking of favorites. High Fidelity inspires desert island-record discussions. Fantasy football drafts are a drug. And as tykes, my brother and I would sit cross-legged in the living room, surrounded by sorted mounds of Halloween candy or Pogs (depending on the season) and conduct elaborate trades and negotiations based on our arbitrarily prized possessions. (Should I be confessing this in print? If I ever run for public office, let’s pretend this didn’t happen.)

The point being: I’m no different today. So when I see the Alström brothers of Beer Advocate fame enumerating their top five desert island beers alongside a profile in The Boston Globe, I start getting ideas. Building a desert island list is a delicate task. With records, you need to take into account all the different styles, eras, and at least one sentimental favorite. You probably want some reggae in there, being on an island. So while ranking Pogs may be less nuanced, picking just five beers to drink for all of sand-locked eternity seems unfair, if not impossible. Or in other words, fun.

Like records, my favorite beers change frequently — probably every time I walk into a beer store. But here’s my outline, the prototypical desert island beer list. And despite the urge to apply a beach theme, I have one rule: nothing with a lime in it. Ever.

  1. The go-to quaff. You need one lighter beer, a refreshing lager you can drink by the case while watching the game (better believe my desert island gets NFL Sunday Ticket). This beer is also necessary for pairing with the fresh seafood your monkey butlers bring in off the trawler every morning. My go-to here is Victory Prima Pils, or in fantasy land, I’d take Pilsner Urquell, unfiltered and fresh from Plzeň. But no, if I really have to pick just one, it’s Terrapin Rye Pale Ale from Athens, Ga. It’s as light as Tahitian sand and bristling with dry rye flavor. Terrapin doesn’t ship to D.C. yet, but I’m on their case about it.
  2. IPA, at least one. What’s a man without hops? Sad and alone on a desert island, that’s what. But if there’s a Bells Two-Hearted Ale or a Dale’s Pale Ale in my coconut shell, I’m doing all right.
  3. Sentimental favorite #1: big and hoppy. As with Jason Alström, I have to have some Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye. It’s a dark, spicy beast with enough hops to put your average IPA to shame.
  4. Something for the palate.You’re going to want to invite guests over to the desert island, and you’ll need something classy to pair with a fine cheese plate. Something in the Belgian style seems in order; I’d go with a trappist like Rochefort 8, St. Bernardus Abt 12, or a saison like Dupont.
  5. Sentimental favorite #2: mellow and complex.I’m still lacking in slow-sipping beers, so I’m leaning toward a double IPA or barleywine. My choice here at the moment is Head Knocker from the Vintage 50 restaurant and brewpub in Leesburg. It’s a lighter, golden take on an English barleywine, with a honey aroma and a sweetly smooth finish. The beer is now retired, but brewer Bill Madden will open brewpub Mad Fox in the fall. On my fantasy island, it’s delivered in fresh casks via helicopter.
  6. The cheating sixth beer. Come on, you knew it was coming. Who can pick just five beers? My cheating sixth: Fullers London Pride, the ultimate English bitter, in all its quaffable, buttery glory.

So fellow Beerspotters, let’s hear it. What are your top five (okay six) desert island beers?