Around the Corner Liquor Store: A Three-Ale Showdown

Wine Emporium is a two-story liquor store in the heart of Boston’s South End. The store has big black gates on the windows and a security officer just inside the door. It’s a decent size shop for the area, and despite the hardened exterior, there are some solid finds to be found within. Beer takes up much of the top floor – with the craft selection lining the stocked coolers on the right and back walls. The store‘s website claims that they have over 2,000 wines, 300 beers and 75 single malts – so it’s enough to keep someone busy for at least a little while.

craft beer lineup

Tonight I was on a craft beer mission. My take for the evening included Firestone Walker’s Double Jack Double IPA, Victory Headwaters Pale Ale, Nectar IPA (another brew by Firestone Walker), Breckenridge Brewery’s Lucky U IPA and a single 12oz bottle of Highway 78 Scotch Ale, which is a joint effort by a trio of breweries out of Southern California.

This showdown features three of the selections – all of which are ales coming in under 7% ABV.


I cracked the Headwaters Pale Ale first, which wound up being a nice east coast starting point before jumping into the two west side IPA’s. Coming in at just over 5%, Headwaters could almost be classified as a session beer. The brew pours amber with a thick white head and has a crisp citrus nose with some piney hops. It’s a very drinkable, medium-light pale ale and shows off Downingtown, Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Creek water through a nicely balanced mix of flavors. Overall, the brew is a great example of the pale ale style. Headwaters was released in early 2011 and celebrates Victory Brewing Co.’s 15th anniversary. I’ve been a fan of the brewery for a number of those years, so I’m glad I could celebrate the occasion with them.

Breckenridge Brewery Lucky U IPA

Heading from east to west, the next drink in line was Breckenridge Brewery’s Lucky U IPA out of Colorado. This is the first time I’ve seen Breckenridge beer in Boston, and honestly I can’t say I’ve heard too much about them. The brewery started bottling in 1996 at a facility in Denver. According to their website, they’ve expanded to 30,000 barrels per year and are distributed across half the nation. On a volume basis, that slides them just into the top 50 craft breweries in the country. Lucky U is a 6.2% American IPA that pours a dark, cloudy amber. It is a reasonably well-balanced brew, mild-mannered on the hops, but overall I found it to be a little lack on flavor. It’s a good IPA – I’m certainly not disappointed. But I’m also not running out anytime soon to buy it again.

Nectar Ales Nectar IPA

The final drink of the night was the hoppy, 6.8% Nectar IPA. This American India Pale Ale is brewed out of Paso Robles, California by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. under the Nectar Ales moniker. Humboldt Brewing was the original brewer of Nectar, but Firestone Walker made the acquisition in 2005. If you haven’t been, the town of Paso Robles is located about halfway between LA and San Francisco on California’s Central Coast. It’s one of state’s hottest regions for wine, and just happens to be one of my favorite parts of the state. Firestone Walker is the region’s largest brewery and represents Central Coast well. In fact, I named their Union Jack IPA on my “Ten IPA’s That Rock” list.

Nectar is a solid, hop-forward American India Pale Ale with some nice floral notes on the nose and a good bit of caramel earthiness on the mouth. There are bigger hop-filled California IPA’s out there, but for a well-balanced, tasty ale that doesn’t overdo the alcohol, Nectar IPA is a great choice.

Showdown time.

In this ale showdown between two west side brews and a Pennsylvania pale ale, the Drink Insider win goes to California’s Nectar IPA. Overall, I scored it an 89+. The competitive field was strong in this showdown with the runner up, Victory Headwaters Pale Ale, coming in just a point behind at an even 88. Lucky U IPA took a respectable third, scoring 87 points.

Nectar IPA Lucky U IPA

As for the other two beers from this retail run – Firestone Walker Double Jack and Highway 78 Scotch Ale – I’ll save those for another showdown.

Craft beer lineup

Have you had these brews? What’s your take?