Most of my family’s grocery-shopping responsibility falls on my sloping, underoccupied shoulders, which is more than fair given that my wife bears the brunt of the making-sure-we-can-afford-to-eat duty. (As for the cat, it’s a cat.) Being both a grocery shopper and a professional rater of things, I can’t help but form opinions about supermarkets, which makes me feel like a sad weirdo. I would like to be above such matters.

But here we are, me with thoughts on grocery stores and you with no recourse but to read them. (Or I guess click elsewhere, but what kind of monster would invalidate my life’s work just because I haven’t mentioned beer yet. Oh look, right there, just seven words back, beer!) So, here are today’s brief thoughts on retail fooderies. Whole Foods is fine, and you need to stop complaining about how expensive it is. Just don’t buy all the free-range meats and cheeses or the real-sugar sodas; stick with the store-brand frozen vegetables and whichever pretzels are on sale, and you’re all set.

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Trader Joe’s is great if you don’t own a stove, and has certain niche utilities even if you do. The frozen turkey burgers are very good, as is the peanut butter. And furthermore, the Trader Joe’s near me sells beer, which is something of a novelty in Massachusetts. The brewski aisle’s pretty well stocked, too, with multiple flavors of Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada and a couple of the other big craft brewers. But you can get that stuff everywhere these days, so when I buy beer at Trader Joe’s, I usually stick with one of their store brands.

Trader Joe does not himself own a brewery. He instead takes the more efficient route of mailing empty bottles to a number of breweries around the continent with instruction to please fill them with beer and then send ‘em on back. Sometimes this works out very well, such as when he sends bottles to Unibroue, and they return Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. Other times it works out other ways, and old Joe ends up with Simpler Times, which is kind of pissy but also very cheap. I’ve never had a really disastrous experience with a Trader Joe beer, especially when price is accounted for.

Their newish Boatswain line of 22-ounce bottles is packaged in a somewhat crafty manner, but the pricing should make it clear that we’re still dealing with grocery-store-brand beer, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly. This is why I’m pleased to heartily recommend Trader Joe’s Boatswain Twin Screw, an 8.4-percent alcohol-by-volume double IPA produced by Wisconsin’s Rhinelander Brewing Company.

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First, the bad news: This will quite likely be the worst DIPA you’ve ever had. But the better and more important news is that it’s plenty damn good enough for $2.29 per bottle. A 22-ouncer of Twin Screw has roughly as much alcohol as a mid-strength Four Loko, and for about the same price. When size, strength, and price are factored together, it packs roughly the same punch as most 40s of malt liquor. So if you consider that the competition, Twin Screw is a great deal.

It has a somewhat muddy but not altogether disagreeable aroma of light lemon, toasted nuts, caramel, and brown sugar. It’s very malt-forward for the style, and I had a tough time teasing out distinct flavors other than caramel malt, but there was a nice (if slight) pine edge on the very dry finish.

Trader Joe’s Boatswain Twin Screw double IPA lacks the hop kick and tropical fruit flavors of its pricier superiors, but remember, we’re not looking for a Heady Topper substitute here—we’re just trying to avoid going Loko—and Twin Screw is a perfectly pleasant way to catch a $2.29 buzz.


This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse’s adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We’ll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.

Image by Jim Cooke.

Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.