Fans of travel and fine beverages had reason to rejoice when President Barack Obama announced Cuba and the U.S. were working on normalizing relations. In addition to the possibility that the U.S. could finally get a taste of true Havana Club, there was the distinctly real opportunity for Americans to expose themselves to an entirely different culture that’s been shut off for decades.
Some of these plans are going to have to be put on hold, thanks to President Donald Trump’s recent U-turn on Cuba policy. And some of these plans will carry on, irrespective of the current Administration’s directives.
Take, for example, M.I.A. Beer Company’s beer cruise. The cruise ship trip to Cuba, planned for March 2018, will continue as planned, despite the new restrictions on travel and trade with the island nation. The cruise plans to take advantage of an exception in the renewed embargo for “educational tours” that are still allowed under Trump’s new Cuba policy. “Our group will be learning about Cuba’s rich brewing and spirits industry in Old Havana, “Eddie Leon, the co-owner of M.I.A., told Miami New Times. “We will be touring breweries and meeting brewers. We will not be sunbathing on the beaches or staying at government-owned hotels. It will be a one-of-a-kind learning experience.”
Learning is the first step to understanding, and understanding is the first step to accepting. Beer, in other words, can be the bridge between cultures that the current administration isn’t interested in building — despite the fact that more than 1.7 million Cuban-Americans live in the U.S. Beer doesn’t discriminate. (O.K., breweries don’t discriminate. Partly because money is a universal language, but still.) For all of the people saying beer isn’t for everyone, or is only for white dudes with beards, there are companies doing outreach.
M.I.A. is proving that beer can unite people and widen people’s perspectives. And that’s exactly what we need in today’s divisive cultural environment. I’m just glad beer is there to start the conversation.
Start giving upstart breweries a shot
The American Homebrewers Association’s magazine Zymurgy released the results of the yearly “Best Beer” competition. For the first time in eight years, Pliny the Elder didn’t win first — a beer from Bell’s Brewery did. But none of that really matters.
The results caused a splash of coverage (including at VinePair), but in the end, Russian River Brewing and Pliny the Elder will be just fine. Because as much as people want to know ~ the best ~ beer in a category or area, what’s best is fluid.
Craft classics like Pliny the Elder (and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale) are delicious and should be staples for anyone who loves beer. There is so much out there now, though, and there’s something for everyone. So taking advice from homebrewers who pick a list of beers without including any of the exciting new beers coming out isn’t helping anyone.
Yes, Founders Breakfast Stout (No. 3) is amazing. Yes, everyone needs to try Heady Topper if they get a chance (tied at No. 6). And who doesn’t love Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro (No. 18) and Lagunitas IPA (tied at No. 19)? But there are more than 5,400 breweries in the country, not just the ones that’ve been here for 15-plus years.
Try the classics, but try something new and prop up the new breweries taking risks. The good, risk-taking new guys need shout outs much more than Bell’s Brewery, Russian River, and the others do.
Jennifer Wright says millennials killed Budweiser. You’re welcome.
Jennifer Wright writes in the New York Post that millennials are responsible for starting the takedown of flavorless macro beers as well as bad chain restaurants. The rant is worth a full read, especially for anyone whose default stance is “Anything millennial is bad!”
I’d like to suggest that there’s room to support real people who are making real things with real ingredients and not settling for average just because it’s there. Just because you don’t understand something new doesn’t mean it’s “hipster” or “millennial” or “bad.” It just means you need to get out more.