New Beer's Resolutions
Thoughts and suggestions for expanding your love of beer in 2016
Photo by Bruce Glassman
As we all know, humans are creatures of habit. We find things we like—our preferred ice cream flavor, our favorite cable series, our go-to style of beer—and, more often than not, we stick with it. The new year, however, is a perfect time to think about ways to break out of old routines and to consider exploring new experiences. No matter how expert you are in any given area, there are always ways to expand your knowledge and keep things exciting.
This year, instead of the usual resolutions, I decided to make a basic list of things I’d like to accomplish when it comes to beer. Then I thought I’d expand upon my list and offer some thoughts and goals for others to consider as well. So here are some ways to make 2016 your best beer year yet.
1. Make it a point to visit at least three new breweries this year.
The official count right now is about to top 120 breweries, with another 20 or so satellite tasting rooms around the county. New locations are popping up in all parts of San Diego, and they are expanding quickly into previously uncharted territories, such as Barrio Logan, Imperial Beach, and Chula Vista. No matter where you live, you’re bound to be only a short drive from at least one brewery. If you’re in the Vista/San Marcos area or the Miramar/Mira Mesa area, you’ve hit the jackpot; you’re probably within minutes of half a dozen excellent destinations.
2. Try a new beer style or two this year.
Last year, I tried my first gose. Not many brewers in town have tackled this kind of beer, and I hadn’t come across it in my travels, but when I did, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. There are many times during the course of the year when my palate needs a break from big hoppiness or rich malty beers, or sour beers, so it’s nice to know of other styles that can provide a welcome change of pace. Have you ever had a great barley wine? How about a fruity lambic? A California common? A dunkelweizen or a weizenbock?
3. Organize a beer pairing.
This is an excellent way to gain a greater appreciation for the beers you already know you like, as well as new beers, and even beers you think you don’t like. Pairing beers with certain foods, such as cheeses or desserts, can drastically change the way you experience those beers. If you don’t like sour beers, for example, try pairing one with a really creamy brie, gorgonzola, or bleu cheese. You should find that the creaminess of the cheese will coat your tongue and will mellow the sourness while the carbonation in the beer will “clean” your tongue and refresh your palate. Here’s another tip: sweet desserts—especially ones with caramel sauce and butterscotch—are great mates for hoppy beers like IPAs.
4. Brew a batch of your own.
Home brewing kits come in every shape and size and can accommodate almost any budget. The simplest kits don’t require elaborate equipment and many batches can be done in a kitchen of almost any dimensions. People home brew in apartments, in garages, in basements, even outside on patios. Brewing your own is not only satisfying as a drinker (you’ll be proud of your beer!), it also gives you a greater appreciation of the craft. That, in turn, gives you a greater appreciation of the pros in town who really know how to take our brews to another level.
5. Spread the word.
You may not realize it, but if you’re a true craft beer fan, you have an inherent obligation to spread the gospel of craft beer to others. (Well, not really, but I like to think that.) I do believe, however, that if you love craft beer you should do a few basic things when the opportunities present themselves. If you’re at a restaurant, for example, and the tap list doesn’t have any San Diego beer (or God forbid, doesn’t have any craft beer!), you should make a point of letting the management (or at least your server) know that this is a disappointment to you. By the same token, you should also encourage and praise proprietors that do offer quality beers, especially when you find great beer in unlikely places, like your local taco shop or pizza joint. (The Angelika movie theater in Carmel Mountain, for example, has eight beers on tap, including Mother Earth, Hess, Stone, Ballast Point, Belching Beaver, and Lost Abbey!)
6. Hug a brewer.
Just kidding. But you could make a point of telling one or two pro brewers this year that you really love what they do, you enjoy what they create, and you support them. Most brewers spend all day every day alone in a back room with their kettle and their tanks, hauling bags of grain and hosing down floors. When they do come out in public it’s nice to remind them that what they produce actually makes a lot of people happy. Heck, maybe they’ll even raise a glass or two with you to celebrate.