As a recovering Online Dinkface, I try to avoid being unnecessarily negative in my beer writing these days. There’s a lot of cruddy beer out there, and I would never pretend otherwise, but there’s rarely anything to gain by pointing it out because the vast majority of drinkers will never cross paths with the vast majority of beers.
Everyone reading this has formed her own opinion on Samuel Adams Boston Lager. No one needs my guidance on this matter (I happen to like the stuff, though I rarely drink it). This is why I mostly discuss smaller-batch beers, which makes it pointless to highlight ones I don’t like. No one gains anything when some dumb blogger writes, “Here is a beer you’ve never heard of that is probably not distributed in your state. It’s terrible. Avoid it at all costs.” So there’s no real value to the reader, and while I sometimes roll my eyes at the cult of the small businessman, and I view myself as more of a drinkers’ advocate than an industry cheerleader, there’s no reason to crap all over some poor, nearly anonymous shmuck who happens to make beer I don’t like. Plus there’s always the minor consideration that I’ve never even attempted to make beer and don’t, technically speaking, know what the hell I’m talking about. So my positivity is really just self-preservation: I’ve found people are more tolerant of nice dolts than mean ones.
However, just because I try to avoid criticizing individual beers doesn’t mean I must abstain from griping about beer culture. To be fair, we mere mortals are generally pretty good at drinking beer. But for all our successes — we are the species that invented the kegerator, after all — we’ve still developed some egregious habits over the years, and the following is my attempt to shame you out of these five in particular.
Please stop frosting your mugs
Yes, in 2016 there are still otherwise-respectable bars that serve beer in frozen glasses. Almost all draft beer in America is served colder than the experts recommend to begin with; we need to start politely insisting that bars not compound the problem. It’d be a classy touch to have a frosty or two on stand-by in case you run across someone who prefers the Bud Light Arctic edition, but it certainly shouldn’t be your default setting. As for what you do in the privacy of your own home, where you pay the bills and you’re not hurting anyone: stop it.
Resist the sampler paddle
A couple days ago Beer Research Director Emily and I went to Cape Ann Brewing in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The beer, the staff, and the harbor view are all delightful, and everyone we saw on the packed back deck seemed to be having a blast — except for the sad woman trying to drink her way through seven mini-pours of beer at once. I totally understand the impulse to try as many things as possible, but at a certain point you’re not drinking beer anymore, you’re giving yourself a quiz on a Sunday afternoon. Not only is over-reliance on the paddle no fun, it’s also not even a very good way to go about the work you’ve assigned yourself. You can tell more about a brewery from a full pint of any one beer than from three sips each across a cluster of clashing styles. Don’t confuse your tongue. Just drink a beer.
Stop playing beer pong
I hate prohibiting anything that promotes beer and brings joy, but I simply must insist that you stop playing drinking games. I dig the interactivity of it, but there are better ways to augment your beer experience than rationing out glugs based on who’s better at tossing a ball into a cup, or which TV character said his stupid catchphrase. It’s disrespectful to turn your precious beer into a mere game piece, and it also messes with your flow, intoxication-wise. I’m all for drinking as much as you feel the situation warrants (provided there’s no heavy machinery around). but don’t leave it up to external factors. If you end up drunk because you wanted to be drunk, great. If you end up drunk because you rolled a 7 when you needed a 9, you’ve abused your privilege and played yourself in the process.
Shower beer is terrible
I admit that it took me way too long to come to this conclusion myself, but now that I have I can’t believe how many cans of beer I warmed up and watered down over the years. I get the illicit thrill of it all, but it’s simply not worth the drawbacks. Just hurry the hell up in there —water doesn’t grow on trees! — and then reward yourself for another successful hose-down with whatever beer your heart desires.
Airplane beer is not terrible, but it is inferior to airplane wine
As previously noted in this space, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route hosts America’s finest bar, because they serve fresh Dogfish Head 90 Minute and Victory HopDevil. Airplane beer is almost never that good, and you also can’t smuggle in your own. Another reason you can drink freely on the train is that bathroom access is restricted by the whims of neither the flight crew nor the atmospheric conditions. As cool as it sounds to crack a brewski up in the clouds, you’re better off sticking with a smaller volume of a stronger drink. I like red wine in these situations, and whiskey never hurt anyone, either.
Thank you for enduring this list of peeves. Next time, we’ll get back to the fun stuff; in the meantime, let me know if you have any other beer rules we need to start enforcing.