Memorial Day

A Survival Guide for Choosing Beer to Please the Masses: Memorial Day Edition

By Kenny Pantuso
Co-Owner/Manager of Vinal Square Craft Beer House & Premium Liquors

If you’re reading this, there is a good chance that you are perceived, in your circle of friends and family, as “The Beer Expert.” 

Whether you’re a head brewer at a successful brewery or just had a few too many at the last family gathering and confessed your love of a Boston Lager a little too vociferously, you are now in charge of the beer selection for each and every future gathering. Over the years, I have learned to love this task. So, if you’re stuck scratching your head wondering what beers to bring to the Memorial Day cookout, here’s my survival guide.

1.     Know Your Crowd

Today we usually find a nice mix of beer drinkers. You still have your light big national brand drinkers. On the other end of the spectrum you have your beer drinkers that won’t drink anything unless they’ve driven an hour and waited in line for it. And then there’s where most of us sit. These folks just like to enjoy a delicious craft beer anytime, anywhere. The good news is we live in Massachusetts and you can literally find beer to please everyone...seriously.

For the light beer drinker I would recommend a well-balanced beer. Forego the double IPA’s and the Barley Wines and think Pilsners or Vienna Lagers. Jack’s Abby comes to mind with their Saxony Lager and their Sunny Ridge Pilsner.

For your more selective beer drinker there a couple ways to attack this. My number one suggestion is Night Shift Brewing and here’s why. No matter the style of beer, Night Shift tends to hit the nail on the head each time. It’s also fairly accessible now so you can find most of their flagships at any reputable craft beer shop. I’d recommend snagging a few different One Hop This Time variations. They even have 4-packs with four different hop varietals now. The other option to please this group of beer lovers requires a bit of preplanning. Plan a day to go beer hunting. Stop by your local bottle shops and ask for any rare limited releases. New England Style IPA’s are all the rage currently so be sure to snag as many of those as you can find. You may have to stalk them on social media beforehand. This goes for brewery only limited releases as well.

The remainder and bulk of your buy can be what I like to call “crowd pleasers.” Most people can enjoy and appreciate throwing back a few Harpoon Wannamangos. Newburyport Brewing also has a stellar line up ranging from their award winning Plum Island Belgian White to their popular Green Head IPA. Most of these beers you can find in variety packs, twelve and fifteen packs which should save you a few shekels.

2.     Consider the Season

In this case you’re going to a Memorial Day cookout. It’s warmer outside so you’ll want to stick with lighter bodied styles of beer. Wheat Beer, Pilsner and Saison to name a few. People tend to drink a bit more volume when it’s hot out too so consider beers with lower alcohol levels. Session beers lend a helping hand giving you beers with ABV levels around or below 5% without sacrificing flavor. Notch Brewing conveniently specializes in such drinkable beers.

3.     Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

It’s literally my favorite part of running a craft beverage store, when someone comes in and asks for help picking out various beers. They give you bits and pieces as to what they’re going for and you get to choose the beer that most accurately fits that mold. So, if in your hunt for beer you are torn or stumped, don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions. It also might be wise to get some background on the beer you select. I can almost guarantee there will be someone at the party that will drill you on this “crafty beer thing.”

Just stick to the basics stated above and above all have fun! After all, the one who shows up with all the beer is the hero right?! 

Vinal Square Craft Beer House & Premium Liquors is a craft forward liquor store offering a vast variety of products. Its mission is to continuously educate patrons leaving them empowered with their choice. Vinal Square Craft Beer House & Premium Liquors is located at 11 Vinal Sq. in Chelmsford MA. For more information, visit or contact, Kenny Pantuso at

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MA Breweries Raise Awareness and a Pint to Support Veterans

Joining the Black Ale Project to start an important conversation over a beer

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Former Marine and non-combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War, Dave Pappas, 47, is partnering with breweries across Massachusetts and the country to support the Black Ale Project, a craft beer initiative to raise money and awareness on behalf of U.S. war veterans.

Pappas, a craft beer lover and former blogger, is tapping into the power of the Massachusetts craft beer industry to support this cause close to his heart. The Black Ale Project, founded in 2015, isn’t a charity organization itself but serves as a conduit to support existing veteran charities. The idea is simple: breweries brew a special dark beer and donate all or part of the proceeds to a veteran charity of their choice.

Bay State breweries Medusa Brewing Company, Wormtown Brewery, and Stone Cow Brewery have already collectively raised more than $11,000 for the New England Center and Home for Veterans, Veterans Inc., and the Boston chapter of Pets for Vets. Castle Island Brewing Company, Idle Hands Craft Ales, and True West Brewing Company currently have their Black Ale Project beer for sale in Massachusetts and will donate to their selected veteran charities once the beer sells out.

“This project was not designed to place a heavy financial burden on the participating breweries, so they choose how much they will donate,” says Pappas. “Whether it’s 100 percent of the proceeds or a dollar a glass, we just ask that breweries be completely transparent with the consumer in regard to their contribution.”

Pappas does not handle the money at any time during the process; each brewery writes a check and delivers it directly to their chosen charity. He will provide a list of local veteran nonprofits that have been vetted by Charity Navigator upon request, and hopes that breweries keep in touch and build long-lasting relationships with these local organizations.

“Every glass of beer poured starts a conversation about the struggles our veterans face,” says Pappas. “Suicide, mental and physical health issues, homelessness – these are topics we want people to talk about and ultimately do something about.”

Massachusetts breweries joining the cause this year include Brewmaster Jack, Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company, Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer, Barrel House Z, Henry & Fran Brewing Company, and Bone Up Brewing Company. Wormtown Brewery is also planning a second release later this year.

“We are proud that so many of our Massachusetts breweries are signing onto this project and working to provide support to our service men and women,” says Katie Stinchon, executive director of the Mass Brewers Guild, a nonprofit organization that protects and promotes Mass craft breweries. “Massachusetts craft breweries care about their communities and the ways in which they can make them stronger. We are grateful to the Black Ale Project for bringing this mission and message into tap rooms, backyard barbecues and homes across the Commonwealth and country.”

Supporting the Black Ale Project is easy: buy a beer, help a veteran. For more information, visit