Eight Tips for Becoming a Better Beer Drinker

Photo: Explore What’s on Tap / Getty

Photo: Explore What’s on Tap / Getty

Anybody can drink beer. Drinking beer smartly, however, is a tougher task. Having spent the better part of two decades imbibing as both an amateur and professional (writer, that is), from double-fisting Busch Light to sipping sparkling raspberry lambics from stemware, there are vital lessons necessary to become a better beer drinker. Whether you’re sipping your first IPA or someone who name checks favorite yeast strains, I provide Wine Enthusiast with eight tips to up your beer IQ.

Hotels Offer a New Amenity: Beer Concierge

Photo: 21c Museum Hotels

Photo: 21c Museum Hotels

For October, I tackle a top new travel trend: beer concierges at hotels.

See, going on vacation voids every societal drinking norm. Pre-flight double IPAs at 8 a.m. are as perfectly acceptable as pounding bloodies aboard the plane until you’re flying high above the clouds. And that’s just the beginning. Fo some, the very point of voyaging is to explore a city’s brewing scene, drinking up the regional bounty by the pint.

You can certainly book an Airbnb and explore breweries and bars with your good friend Google Maps. Hotels, however, are making a compelling case for you to plop your head on their excessively high thread count pillowcase. They’re offering specialty beer packages, expert advice from on-call beer concierges and access to hard-to-get bottles, cans and drafts.

Pints With a Side of Politics

Threes Brewing_Courage My Love

For October, I tackled the increasing intersection of politics and beer. The story inspiration started like this:

Many Americans could’ve used a beer on Friday, January 20, 2017, the swearing-in date for the 45th president. Donald Trump’s future plans and proposed bans frazzled nerves, begging for a beer’s soothing touch. Brooklyn’s Threes Brewing had a salve: Courage, My Love, a fragrant lager released concurrently with the inauguration, a beer full of hops and hope.

The beer was a hit, and, this February, Threes rereleased Courage on draft and in cans, adding a the same twist. Ten percent of proceeds were earmarked for the ACLU, plus a portion of sales from the release bash, which features a cocktail called Don’t Despair. The latter contained mezcal from female-run Yola, which promotes Oaxacan women’s economic independence.

“We’re going to stand up for what we believe in,” says cofounder Josh Stylman. “We’re not a political organization, we’re a beer company. But if you can’t defend your own values and virtue, then what are you?”

Politically speaking, the country is as divided as a pizza pie, each American slice separate. Passions are running at a fever pitch, and the battle over right and wrong is being waged in unexpected arenas such as breweries. They’re making beers that stand for what they believe in.

The Best-Looking Beer Can Designs in America

Can Art.png

Aluminum cans were once the domain of mass-market brews, the kind of bland, economy lagers bought by the case. But over the last decade, brewers have embraced the can, filling the once-maligned vessels with juicy and aromatic IPAs, tingly sours, and barrel-aged stouts. Cans have gone from objects of derision to desire, fueled by both the liquid and the labels. Designers, illustrators, and artists have turned these aluminum canvases into handheld works of art, a rare analog experience in a digital era. 

Instead of bottles, we’re palming cans, Instagram-age billboards that telegraph a brewery’s philosophy and set it apart. A few decades ago, simply making more flavorful beer was a big enough point of differentiation. Now that good beer is sold everywhere—at gas stations, sports bars, and four-star restaurants—brewers need to consider the whole package, nailing both the formula and branding alike. The best labels look as good as the beer tastes.

For Ceros, I rounded up 30 of the best canned-beer designs available in America, including quotes from many of top designers.

Kiss From a Rosé

Photo: Meg Baggott

Photo: Meg Baggott

Fruity and floral rosé is firmly lodged in popular culture, a synonym for sun-soaked hedonism, spawning memes like #yeswayrose, canned up for portable consumption anytime and everywhere. Breweries have taken note of the trend and released their own riffs on sparkling rosé. They appeal to beer lovers looking to sip something new, as well as wine fans wading into familiar waters.

Here, I tackle the trend that's leaving brewers tickled pink. 

Home Is Where the Beer Is

Photo: Gary Allard

Photo: Gary Allard

Thirty or 40 years ago, homebrewing was a transgressive act, a revolt against fizzy yellow lager. Want to drink different? Brew it at home. A nationwide movement fermented in basements, kitchens and backyards, leading us to our current beer cornucopia. We’re now sprinting toward 6,000 breweries in America that are delivering an avalanche of flavors and choices, reviving old styles and creating thrilling new ones at a fevered clip. Why brew when you can buy whatever floats your flavorful boat? “Homebrewers really like the creativity involved,” says AHA director Gary Glass. “Just because you can go out to dinner and get a really great meal doesn’t mean you stop wanting to cook on a similar level at home.”

For Imbibe, I take a deep dive into homebrewing and investigate what keeps folks glued to their kettles, firing up IPA after IPA when the could easily buy killer beers at their local beer store. It's also a neat tie-in to Homebrew World, which will be released next month. Preorders are open! 

Unfiltered and Unpretentious: A New, Old Wave in Craft Beer

Photo: Lauren Lancaster

Photo: Lauren Lancaster

For my latest beer story for The New York Times, I tackle the burgeoning trend of breweries embracing zwickelbiers and kellerbiers—unfiltered, unpretentious beers with broad appeal. Fun fact: My story marked the first time the Times has ever printed the word "zwickelbier."

Imbibe 75

Photo: Dylan and Jeni

Photo: Dylan and Jeni

Each January, Imbibe's 75 issue chronicles the movers, shakers, places and trends that'll change the way we drink that year. As a contributing editor, I'm in charge of handling the beer side of things, which is no small task. For our Beer People of the Year, I tabbed Dope & Dank's Beny Ashburn and Teo Hunter, who are bringing much-needed diversity to the beer world, while Denver's sour-focused Goed Zuur took top honors as America's beer bar of the year. 

Small Wonders: Why Breweries Are Putting Big Beers in Tiny Packages

Revolution Brewing

Step inside my Brooklyn apartment—up three floors from the street and some 900 square feet—and your eyeballs will brim with barley wines and imperial stouts. Champagne-corked and 22-ounce bottles are dustily stacked on shelves like unloved library books because I’m rarely keen to consume that much intoxicant, 25 ounces of 12 percent beer a load too heavy for my liver. I’m not alone.

“I have piles of bottles at my house and a lot of them are big format,” says Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “I’m just staring at them week after week going, ‘When am I going to have some friends over so we can crack into these things and check them out?’”

Everybody in the world was putting out bombers. We wanted to do something different that stood out.”

Your local beer bar has long served supercharged stouts and other bruisers in eight- or ten-ounce glasses. Now, breweries are ditching supersize bottles and packing strong beers in more reasonable formats. Concerning beer, big things are increasingly coming in small packages