The most common alcohol-related New Year’s resolutions are the dark, depressing ones that we’re not even going to consider in this safest of beer spaces. Instead let’s focus on ways to turn a happy and productive beer life into an even happier, more productive one by shaking off some rust, climbing out of some brand or style ruts, and generally striving to be the best beer drinkers we can be in 2016. Below are 10 proposed resolutions to help the dedicated beer drinker thrive next year.
Conduct A Blind Taste Test
It’s hard to put together a scientifically valid beer preference experiment in the squalor of your own home, but a curious lay drinker can go a long way toward confirming or contradicting her own biases by simply drinking two of the same style of beer side by side from unmarked glasses.
Story time: I recently went to a local brewery with a modest reputation among area beer geeks. It’s fondly regarded as a fun part of the community—game nights, bands, gingerbread-house parties, local artists featured on the labels, that kind of stuff—but the beer tends not to set the rating sites on fire. I’m always in a good mood when I’m there and I like to support the local economy (insofar as doing so provides a tasteful buzz), so I usually lug home a growler. I left this most recent visit with a new IPA dry-hopped with some modern, fruity stuff, Simcoe and Amarillo, maybe. At the brewery it had reminded me of a more renowned local IPA that I happened to have in the fridge at home. After properly cleaning my palate with a fistful of Goldfish crackers and a slug of mustard, I had my research assistant pour me a few ounces of each, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a slight preference for the less heralded brew. While I’m conflicted about the increased gamification of beer, with chumps like you and me forever doling out stars and issuing faux-definitive rankings, there’s a lot of be said for a bit of quiet study.
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Run A Beer-Themed 5K
Due to the unlikely but pronounced link between craft beer appreciation and voluntary sweating, there’s probably a brewery-sponsored charity jog somewhere near you every few weeks. Sign up for one! It’s a great excuse to drink a few plastic cups of brewski after a leisurely three-mile putter around town on a Sunday morning. Or you could go big time and enter one of the events thrown around the country by Craft Brew Races, which feature full 4-hour beer fests after the race.
Revisit Your Local Brewery’s Flagship
If you’re reading this, you’re probably the sort of drinker who has largely moved on from the amber ale or under-hopped IPA your favorite established local brewery still stubbornly insists on listing first on the tasting room chalkboard. Newer places are more likely to have opened their doors with three different dry-hopped beers and at least two flavors of saison, but breweries that have been around for more than five years or so likely got off to a more conservative start. No one’s asking you to drink a beer you don’t like just for the old-schoolness of it all, but every six months it’s worth checking out the classics. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised that it’s improved, or stayed the same while your taste buds are going through a retro phase, but even if all that a re-try does is confirm your suspicion that it’s not your thing, it will serve as a pleasant reminder of how much better things have gotten. So next time you change your clocks, revisit a local legend (and replace your fire alarm battery, and maybe also your paprika).
Become A Pain In The Ass About Freshness
More and more breweries are starting to list freshness dates on their cans and bottles in the form of either brewed-on or best-by dates, and we drinkers should pressure the holdouts to follow suit. I hate to advocate for anything that makes beer less fun and more uptight, but if we don’t start being sticklers about freshness, we’re going to continue to get saddled with $8 bombers of IPA that taste … fine. Not all beer styles are as adversely affected by age, but perilously few are improved by sitting around for a year on a warm shelf.
Make Flavored Syrup For Berliner Weisse
This is even easier than it sounds: Simmer a cup of water with a half cup of sugar and add whatever other flavoring agent your beer’s heart may desire. Maybe a few chunks of cucumber, or some mint? Basil? Strawberries? Just cook it all together long enough for the sugar to dissolve, keep simmering a few more minutes for the other flavors to take hold in your syrup, and finally strain out the solids. Add a shot or two to an unflavored Berliner Weisse (White Birch cans a good one), gose (Anderson Valley or Westbrook, say), or any other lightly tart style. Or, you know, a can of High Life. Whatever’s around.
Throw Out At Least One Growler
You have at least five more than you need, don’t you? Yes, they make clever candle holders and change jugs, but is your lifestyle really that heavy in hot wax and/or nickels?
Chug At Least One Crowler
The breweries in my state have just started to embrace the awkward majesty of the 32-ounce can of onsite-packaged beer. They’re supposed to be better than refillable glass growlers at protecting beer from light and oxygen, which I guess I’ll buy. But their main appeal is that drinking straight from the can makes you feel like an unstoppable beer monster. I’m not advocating for over-consumption or wasteful stunt-drinking, but I do recommend you take up a full crowler of a lower-ABV beer one afternoon on a dry stomach, and don’t set it down again until the job is done. It’s liberating!
Invent A Beer Cocktail
Beer cocktails are the best. The best I’ve had included pineapple-infused aquavit and lime topped with hefeweizen, but if you happen to find yourself fresh out of those ingredients, make up your own! I find that saisons sit nicely atop dark rum and fruit juice, and hoppy pale ales do good work in concert with jalapeno-spiked tequila or mescal.
Drink Beer On A Train Or A Boat
You probably drink a few beers a year on airplanes, but there’s only so much joy to be had in a fetid metal tube full of germs and farts. But did you know they serve Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA on Amtrak?! Now that is some luxury travel. And even if you don’t do a lot of high-end cruising, the common man can find a boat beer if he looks hard enough. The Staten Island Ferry sells some of the cheapest beer in New York City, and Boston’s various commuter boats all have at least a few bottles of Corona and Samuel Adams seasonal at the snack bar. See what’s available in your area. But whatever you do, don’t sneak your own can of beer onto an otherwise dry public boat. That would be unethical (and delicious).
Purchase A Ballpark Beer Without Complaint
So much easier said than done, I know, but one time this summer I got up for a $23 pair of paper-cupped Bud Lights at Fenway Park, and when I got back to my seat something exciting was happening (I don’t recall what, but this being baseball, I have to assume it was unrelated to the game; maybe an usher was doing a funny dance or something?) so I got absorbed in that spectacle for so long that I drank half my beer before I remembered to grouse about the ridiculous markup. When I realized the oversight, I immediately corrected it with a swift little rant that—and this is the nutty part—did absolutely nothing to improve the flavor of the second half of the beer. That’s right: whining did not, in fact, help. Ballpark and similarly sourced beers cost twice as much as they should. We all know that by now. It’s awful, yet it’s fine. Just drink up and try to numb the pain.