If you ask for a beer recommendation at Anthony’s Liquor Mart in Gardner, the proprietor will likely suggest the house lager.

Jimmy Kraskouskas may be biased, given Anthony’s is the only liquor store in the state selling a beer brewed in its name. But he assures me you’ll love the taste — light, yet powerfully malty.

Never one to miss a chance to celebrate, Kraskouskas convinced Moon Hill Brewing Co. to collaborate on “Anthony’s Lithuanian Lager," recognizing the store's 85 years in the Chair City.

In truth, Moon Hill founder Rick Walton did not require much convincing. Kraskouskas just walked into the Gardner Ale House one evening in January and asked. They signed an agreement with a handshake, and Kraskouskas handed Walton a four-pack of Švyturys Ekstra, a European lager brewed by one of the oldest breweries in Lithuania, hoping Moon Hill’s brewers could try it for inspiration.

The whole arrangement felt old-school, but very much in line with craft beer’s culture of community and collaboration. While not close friends, Walton and Kraskouskas respect one another as successful local business leaders. And Anthony’s Liquor Mart was among the first stores to stock Moon Hill.

“There’s trust here. It’s just like, ‘Let’s make a beer and have some fun,’” Walton said.

There were plans for a big release party, but COVID-19 canceled them. No matter, Moon Hill still brewed and canned Anthony’s Lithuanian Lager late last month, naming it after the store, which itself was named after Kraskouskas’ father, the hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur who co-founded it. For the labels, Moon Hill used a black-and-white photo of the late Anthony Kraskouskas, in suit and tie, standing behind the counter of the store’s first location, an old barbershop in South Gardner.

The Kraskouskas family emigrated to America in the early 1900s, first settling in West Virginia. After dropping out of high school during his freshman year, Anthony Kraskouskas, born in 1907, worked in the coal mines with his father. In 1921, he moved to Gardner to find a job at a woodshop, but harbored grander ambitions.

“My father wanted to be a businessman,” Jimmy Kraskouskas said.

The Broadway Soda Shop started Anthony Kraskouskas down that path. He opened it with his wife, Annie, who ran the shop while he continued toiling in a woodshop. Gardner had a liquor license available in 1935, and Annie went door to door collecting signatures for a petition to acquire it. Anthony’s Liquor Store opened that year on East Broadway. The store moved to its current location at 12 Pearson Blvd. in 1967. And Jimmy Kraskouskas bought the business in 2000.

Kraskouskas believes Anthony’s Lithuanian Lager tastes the same if not better than Švyturys Ekstra, a beer he drank plenty of during a 1986 trip to the Soviet-controlled Lithuania with his father — the same trip he met his wife, Astra.

“What I like about the beer is, with the microbrewery explosion, you’re now all over the place with different flavors and levels of hoppiness; you’ve got beers in spring, beers in summer, pumpkin beers and watermelon beers. This is beer: lager beer in the most traditional sense,” Kraskouskas said. “It’s almost like they discovered real beer again.”

For research, Walton and his brewers drank the bottles of Švyturys Ekstra, discussing what they tasted and how they could replicate it in Anthony’s Lithuanian Lager.

“We talked about its sort of biscuity kind of malt background, and it was more malt than yeast or hops,” he said. “Not that it was a super malty beer, but there were nuances in the malt that we thought we could nail. We pretty much did that with a mix of pilsner and Vienna malts, a hop called Saaz, and a few other tweaks from my very talented brew team.”

Anthony’s Lithuanian Lager has sold remarkably well, both Walton and Kraskouskas said. It’s only available at Anthony’s Liquor Mart and the Gardner Ale House. Walton has more cans ready to go once he gets the labels, but the lager won’t be around forever — unless they decide to make it a regular brew.

“I’m sure Jim would like me to brew this stuff all year round,” Walton said, “and we just might.”

Tap Notes

With warmer days mercifully ahead, Wachusett Brewing Co. has released its new line of lemonade hard seltzers. Country Hard Selzer, available in stores this week, represents the Westminster brewer’s efforts to both capitalize and expand on the lucrative hard seltzer category, which has seen strong sales even during the winter months.

When I spoke to Wachusett president Christian McMahan in January about the new seltzers, he told me the brewery wanted to “play on the fringes of the category, because we may not be able to compete with the big guys.”

“How many 5 percent ABV seltzers does the world need?” he said.

Country Hard Seltzer comes in four different flavors — blueberry lemonade, lime lemonade, raspberry lemonade and strawberry lemonade — at 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).