Hey JP -
It's taken me a while to get caught up. I'm stilll NOT, of course, but don't want to let your note slide any farther
In reply to:
So why does the Newcastle at my local Thai restaurant always taste better than the same beer at (I think) the same temp from my frige at home?
Excellent question. The first thing I'd ask is whether or not the restaurant is serving you draught beer while you are drinking a bottle at home. I have found that small, malty beers (like Newkie Broon and Dos Equis) often suffer terribly from the filtration and/or pasteurization process inherent in bottling. The bottles also may be handled better/worse depending upon the supply chain. It's still a long trip across the pond.
Yes, I love Costco. Quality merchandise at a fair price. Good employer, too.
I should think that Peter would be able to suggest some additional local beers in your area. My recollection is that Old Dominion makes some lovely beers. You really should pick up a bottle of Lindemann's Framboise, though. It will change your life.
I've not had the Sam Adams Black Lager. As the company grew more successful, I think it sort of abandoned its roots and the quality has suffered a bit due to increased scale. IMO. I know that they are a very large "contract brewer" now; most of their beer is produced at factories owned by others. I will freely admit that the original Lager remains an engaging beer; there is something about the Hallertau Mittelfreuh hop signature that is uniquely, pleasantly spicy and the balance is just right. I never cared for the Ale, though, and it seems like they've gone the way of Pete's Wicked by supplementing a fine signature beer with "flavors of the month" that leverage their brand reccognition. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
If you like the black lager, there is a very good chance you would enjoy New Belgium 1554 (from Fort Collins, CO).
Yeah, I gotta try that She-May stuff some time.