The Perfect Beer for Eight Major Life Events

“Beer” is a broad category of foodstuff—the Beer Judge Certification Program currently lists 122 distinct styles, including Kentucky common ale, British tropical stout, and Polish Grodziskie—and while not a single one is ever to be shunned, they do represent varying degrees of excellence, particularly when context and individual preference are accounted for. My mom was a great beer drinker, but the old girl just couldn’t stomach a Flanders Oud Bruin until after the second commercial break in The Price Is Right. Beer is perfect, but people are funny sometimes.

Every beer is for everyone, but not every day. The United States now has over 4,500 breweries, the majority of which unleash at least a dozen different beers in a given year, so we’ve got to pick our blessings carefully. Presented below are my recommendations for the ideal beer to pair with eight major life events.

Bad breakup:

Don’t go bitter and sexist with Stone’s Arrogant Bastard (a great beer) or Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch (also a beer). In fact, don’t go bitter at all. No IPAs for you, brother. Surly’s Furious is a fantastic beer, but today you’re above such base sentiments. Spill your tears in a more optimistic beer, like Avery’s Ellie’s Brown Ale, a 5.5-percent ABV brown ale with a dog on the label. Cheer up, champ! Dogs make everything better! (Note: Potentially less effective if you were dumped by someone named Ellie.)

New job or promotion:

Eh, let’s keep this one simple. Forbidden Root’s Money on My Rind is a bonkers and beautiful new witbier brewed with juniper and grapefruit peel. And Other Half’s All Green Everything is a near-perfect 10.5-percent ABV imperial IPA that makes a similar point.

Death of friend:

My dear pal Martin is currently winding down seven strong decades, and when the dark day comes, I’m going to make the best of it (or at least the Martin-est of it) by sitting on the third stool from the back, left side, and drinking a dozen bottles of Budweiser, complaining about the price of each more than the last. On my father’s birthday, I drink Miller Lite. Memorial drinking is important and cathartic.

Vacation:

Something local, sure, but we can also make allowances for any beer that reminds you of the place. When we’re in Puerto Rico, we pretend to enjoy Medalla Light, because it’s like 13 cents a can and also because it feels like the proper way to take in the culture. But we also drink a lot of Goose Island Sophie and Sierra Nevada Torpedo, because, I dunno, we did the first time we went there and everything seemed to work out just fine.

Brewpub visit:

You should start out with their flagship, if for no other reason than to pay respects to the beer that built the place.

Illicit picnic:

SixPoint Jammer, because it’s a nice 4.2-percent ABV gose and the can’s shape and graphics make it look like some dumb new energy drink. I’m not saying you want to project “guy who drinks dumb new energy drinks” to your fellow park patrons, but the misdirection comes in handy should the fuzz start sniffing around.

Anniversary:

When Beer Research Director Emily and I applied for our marriage license a few years ago, one of the questions on the form was, “Were your parents married at the time of your birth?” That struck me as completely irrelevant, so I asked the clerk what it was all about. She just hit me with a shrug that said, “I dunno, man, I just work here. Feel free to write down whatever bullshit you want, but we’re all just trying to get through the day here, right? So please stop asking questions.” And I totally respect that. But still, weird question, particularly given that this all went down in the exact same room where the country’s first same-sex marriage license had been issued more than a decade prior.

As I was saying, we celebrated our first anniversary with a bottle of Brooklyn Local One, a fantastic Belgian strong golden ale. The next year we went with Local Two, a perfectly good beer brewed in a style (dark abbey ale) less to our liking. Last year it was Three Philosphers, Ommegang’s excellent cherry-spiked quad. Allagash Four, another quad, seems the most likely choice this year. So there’s my advice for a happy marriage: keep your anniversary beers numerical. I’ve never tested this theory on other milestones, but I have to imagine it also works for job anniversaries and bowling league championship anniversaries and so forth, toor

Frozen pizza lunch:

I recently had a very good Tuesday morning, as such things go, so I celebrated the only sensible way, which is to say with a two-pack of Stouffer’s French Bread Pepperoni Pizza. That little one-man couch party was certainly four dollars, 820 calories, and a half-dozen shreds of dignity well spent, but in hindsight the occasion would have been even more festive had I thought to wash it down with a bottle of Jack’s Abby Brewery Maker, a 13.5-percent ABV bourbon barrel-aged barleywine with enough honey, molasses, toffee, leather, and dark fruit flavor to cut through the pepperoni and shame. I’m picky about barleywines, because they’re usually expensive, always strong, and often too sweet, but a great one like this lagered version from Jack’s Abby, is the ideal eye-widener to help you celebrate a successful morning’s work.