The Beer Column

As some of you may have experienced, the Massachusetts Blue Laws can be frustrating to those of us from out of state. In puritan tradition, they mandate that all alcohol must be sold in licensed package stores under strict guidelines. Stores have to close by 11pm Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday. These rules seem harsh and prudish to people used to more relaxed laws around the country and abroad as they restrict availability and force stores to carry a little bit of a lot of things instead of focusing on either beer or wine and liquor.

As a result, many smaller stores struggle to keep a wide selection while providing for all their consumer’s potential needs. For these reasons, the connoisseur must choose his package store carefully and plan ahead to keep a decent cellar. Reliance on an ill-stocked neighborhood shop will result in the buyer spending too much on products he doesn’t necessarily want.

The best way around this dilemma is to make regular visits to bigger stores to keep your cellar full. Buying beer and wine in bulk is cost efficient if you have a place to store the stuff until it’s ready to be drunk. Stores like Martignetti’s on Soldier’s Field Road in Brighton and Discount Liquors in the Fresh Pond Mall both have great selection at competitive prices. They carry beer both cold and at room temperature and offer a discount on bottles of wine in mixed cases. When stocking up for a party or just to refill the rack, these are the places to hit for quality one-stop shopping.

Specialized stores that focus on either beer or wine are difficult to come by but there are notable exceptions. Downtown Liquor in Davis Square has one of the best selections of beer around. They offer everything local as well as a number of imports that you won’t find anywhere else. The one drawback is that some of the beers sit on the shelf for too long and may suffer from improper storage. Be wary of dusty bottles or those with bottled dates from the last millennium, they may be past their prime.

The Wine and Cheese cask on the corner of Kirkland and Beacon (across from Dali) is a fun little shop for the foodie in all of us. They add cheeses and other gourmet items to their shelves in companion to the wines to offer a more rounded selection of goods. The staff is knowledgeable and happy to give samples and make recommendations. The smell of the cheese counter alone is worth the trip but you’re bound to walk out with a good bottle or two and a hefty wedge of cheese.
Local stores are fine for the casual purchase but for people who appreciate their beer, wine or liquor and won’t settle for second rate, a trip to a more amply stocked store is worth the trip. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to get to know your local merchant in hopes that the selection can be influenced by your tastes. Buying quality alcohol in this state can be exasperating but with planning and know how, you will never lack for thirst or show up at a dinner party empty handed.