In the March/April 2019 issue of Imbibe magazine, I take a deep look at what compels people to travel for beer. When flights of beer are available at every brewery taproom around the corner, why book a flight to drink beer? It’s a fun dive into obsession and frequent-flier miles, RVs and road trips gone awry. The story is currently on newsstands only for the moment. Journalism: not everything is free!
Each January for Imbibe magazine, I tackle some of the movers and shakers that are going to change the way that we’ll drink and think over the course of the year. Most of the content isn’t online (hey, we’re trying to get people to buy magazines), but you can find my write-up on Hollie Stephenson, the head brewer at Guinness’s U.S. outpost in Baltimore. She’s helping bring the brand into the 21st century by, say, fermenting witbiers with Guinness yeast. It’s a wild new future for a historical brand.
Beer fads are as sticky as knock-off Scotch tape. Which is a fun way to introduce the brut IPA. Taking its name from brut, one of the driest Champagne classifications, the IPA has become the hottest tinder fanning the hop fires. “This is the latest whack in the volley of style development and reaction of one against the other, and building on what’s come before,” says Brewing Eclectic IPA author Dick Cantwell, Magnolia Brewing’s head of brewing operations.
For Imbibe, I take a deep dive into the the beer world’s lightning-fast trend cycles. I’ve never seen a style adopted and spread as quickly as the brut IPA. Want to know why?
Scroll through Instagram, peruse Twitter and tiptoe through Untappd, and you might assume that beer fans have blinders on for everything but IPAs and pastry stouts. Blow hype’s smokescreen aside, however, and you’ll see the light: Americans love low-ABV lagers. In January, sales data revealed that the country’s best-selling beers are Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite, the first time the top three were all light. With lower-calorie beers ruling the land, craft and independent brewers are making unlikely moves, especially as conglomerates increasingly encroach on their turf. “They’re firing shots, so we’ll fire shots back,” says Night Shift co-founder Rob Burns.
Enter the era of light lagers, low-calorie craft beers and nonalcoholic sips suited for one and all. My Imbibe feature awaits your clicking finger.
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!
Hope everyone is doing well. Over the last few months, I have written words. So many words! So very many words, which I have turned into paychecks that in turn are used to afford life essentials, such as rent, diapers for my daughter and beer. Beer! That's why you're here. To read stories about beer. And I will not disappoint. Here's a sampling of what I've been up to, story-wise. P.S. Let me know if any of these tales tickle your fancy.
Imbibe, “Back to the Land”: Farmers, brewers and farmer-brewers are growing a new crop of truly local beers.
Draft, “The Power of One”: In a harried world packed with pairing suggestions, what’s the best multipurpose beer?
Draft, “Riding the (R)ales”: The train's your ticket to unforgettable beer adventures.
Men’s Journal, “The 10 Best Shandy and Radler Beers”: Don't get stuck drinking subpar citrus-infused beer.
Men’s Journal, “America's Most Patriotic Craft Beers”: DRINK UP FREEDOM!
Wine Enthusiast, “Beat the Heat Beers”: You'll want to sip these all summer long.
Wine Enthusiast, “Meet Your Favorite Warm-Weather Beer”: Hello, kölsch!
Wine Enthusiast, “Is the IPA Trend Losing Steam?”: Short answer: no. Long answer: read ahead.
Brooklyn Magazine, “A Guide to Summer Drinking in Brooklyn”: How, where and what to sip in my home borough. P.S. I did plenty of research.
Realtor.com, “Love Beer? Of Course You Do. Now It’s Time to Put a Kegerator in Your Kitchen”: Well, that's a pretty explanatory title.
Eater, “Beer Review: Firestone Walker Pivo Pils Is Pure, Cold Comfort”: Did you know that I write a monthly review column for Eater? Now you do!
Boston, “Bubbling Up”: My essay on how the Northeast got its brewing mojo back.
Take Part, “Malthouse Rising”: It's the rise of truly local beer.
Van Winkle's, “Just 10,000 Miles to Mongolia”: Spoiler alert: It's no fun to sleep next to a night-screamer,
Bon Appétit, “March Is a Tricky Time to Drink Beer, so Drink Bière de Mars”: The French farmhouse ale is just the ticket to that time of year.
Bon Appétit, “Better Together: Why Brewers Are Collaborating to Make New Beers”: The answer: creativity.
Bon Appétit, “The Beer for People Who Don't Think They Like Craft Beer”: It's time you tried a Munich helles.
Bon Appétit, “Craft Beer Trends to Look Out for in 2015”: Hello, German hops.
Bon Appétit, “For an Extra Caffeine Fix, Try Beer With Coffee”: Uppers and downers, united in the same glass.
Bon Appétit, “Breweries Are the Hot New Spot for Restaurant Pop-Ups”: Some of the best food is now found in breweries.
Bon Appétit, “Breweries Look Beyond the Beer and to… Murals?!”: For artists, brewery walls are the best new canvases for artists.
Bon Appétit, “Pound the Pavement and Some Brews: The Intersection of Running and Beer”: How else are you going to stay in shape?
Another year has passed by, which is both awesome and terrifying. I've written thousands of words, helped raise our wee daughter from an infant to a toddler and crisscrossed the country on travel. I drank more beer than a man should drink in a year (thanks for the reminder, doc), suffered my fair share of hangovers and made many, many new friends. Beer people, y'all are good people. Anyhoo! Onward to 2015. But first, a look back at my final stories of 2014.
First We Feast, “Beer With Baby: Prost Keller Pils and Denver Beer Co.'s Incredible Pedal IPA”: Getting drunk in Denver with my daughter was a terrible idea.
First We Feast, “Beer With Baby: Deschutes Hop Trip”: Wet-hop beers are a lot like parenting.
First We Feast, “Beer With Baby: Sierra Nevada Wild Hop IPA: When your daughter is the Tasmanian Devil, you want to drink something wild. And strong.
Men’s Journal, “The Year in Beer, Wine, and Liquor”: The top trends and stories of 2014.
Men’s Journal, “Become a Craft Brewery Benefactor, Drink Better Beer”: How crowdfunding is changing the beer landscape.
Men’s Journal, “The Eight Best Session Beers (Under 4 Percent Alcohol)”: How low can brewers go without sacrificing flavor?
Bon Appétit, “How Breweries Are Using Salt to Make Better Beer”: A little sprinkle is all you need.
Bon Appétit, “The State of the Beer Union: Why 2014 Was Such a Big Year for Brew”: Well, that title is pretty explanatory.
Imbibe, “Going Grape”: Brewers are borrowing from wine’s playbook to create deliciously novel beers.
New York, “17 Local Beers That You Should Be Drinking”: The best and the brightest of New York City's burgeoning beer scene.
Departures, “Please Don't Wine: Beer Pairings for Thanksgiving”: Saisons slay rich gravy.
Draft, “Counter Culture: The Weird Science of Jeff Mello”: Meet the man looking to collect yeast from every zip code in America.
http://instagram.com/p/sNtXzYNJec/ It's time you had a beer. Willie approves.
Howdy, friends. Summer has been a tilt-a-whirl of travel, from staying at a girls' camp outside Portland, Maine, to riding on Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp bus in California, camping in Cooperstown, spending a week on Fire Island and, well, sleeping in a shack in Richmond, Virginia. Through all the travel, I've been writing like crazy. Seriously, I can't remember a summer when I've penned so many stories.
That might explain why I really, really need a break. This Labor Day weekend, I'm looking forward to spending the majority of my time pants-less, drinking beer—which isn't really so different from my day-to-day life, you know. Pants stifle creativity! Or maybe I'm just lazy. Which could also be the case.
Anyhoo! Without further ado, here are the highlights from my last few months of stories. Read away!
First We Feast, "Beer With Baby: Evil Twin Nomader Weisse": Yup, I'm getting drunk with my daughter.
First We Feast, "Beer With Baby: Victory Summer Love": Still getting drunk with my daughter.
First We Feast, "Beer With Baby: Modern Times Blazing World": Man, how drunk can I get with my daughter?
Bon Appétit, "10 Great Beer Lover's Hotels Across America, from Vermont to California": Drinking beer and passing out has never been simpler.
Bon Appétit, "How (Good) American Beers Are (Finally) Conquering Europe": IPAs have become our country's finest export.
Bon Appétit, "You Should Be Drinking These Belgian-Style Beers Right Now": I also include a gose and a Berliner weisse. But still: start drinking.
Draft, "Metal Head: The Tale of Woody Chandler": Pennsylvania's Woody Chandler is on a quest to drink canned beer. All of them.
Wine Enthusiast, "America's Five Best Beer Cities": Want to get people riled up? Make a list. And don't include their city.
Men's Journal, "Sierra Nevada Beer Camp": I rode on the bus. And drank so, so much beer.
Imbibe, "What Does Craft Really Mean": My cover story tackles the thorny question: What does craft beer really mean these days?
http://instagram.com/p/p9MIhJNJSv/ If there’s an archetype of American craft brewing, it’s the IPA. The cult of the bitter beer grew quickly, and brewers responded by cranking IPAs to 11, devising increasingly intense and pungent brews that, in equal measures, both pleasured and punished palates. But things are starting to change. “There was a period where putting 300 calculated IBUs [international bittering units, an estimated measure of bitterness] into a beer was the thing,” says Stone Brewing brewmaster Mitch Steele. “Now, brewers are exploring more nuanced ways to use hops.”
As America’s craft-beer scene has evolved, so has its approach to the IPA. Breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Victory and New Belgium are turning to newfangled, heavily juicy, tropical American hop cultivars such as Mosaic, El Dorado and Citra, as well as German—yes, German—varieties such as the honeydew-like Hull Melon and Bavarian Mandarina. Freshness initiatives and education are rising, helping drinkers enjoy IPAs as bright and aromatic as the day they were bottled. And brewers are packing low-alcohol beers full of hop aroma and flavor, birthing summer’s hottest trend: the session IPA, as exemplified by Stone Go To, Drake’s Alpha Session and Easy Jack from Firestone Walker.
For Imbibe, I took a deep dive into the changing face of the IPA. Care to read the full story? Check it out right about...here.
It's my new story! Photo: Instagram
One of brewing’s fundamental rules is that beer is comprised of malted grain, water, yeast and hops. Grains supply the fermentable sugars that yeast convert into alcohol, while hops provide balancing bitterness, preservative prowess, flavor and aroma. Today, hops are nearly as crucial to beer as water, especially in this IPA-crazed era. But if you were to time-travel to visit medieval brewers, you’d discover that beer contained nary a hop.
Back then, beers were seasoned with gruit (pronounced “grew-it” or “groot”), which was a proprietary blend of herbs such as bitter and astringent yarrow (a flowering plant), wild rosemary and resinous, eucalyptus-like wild gale (a.k.a. bog myrtle), along with sundry spices. In large quantities, gruit was considered a euphoric stimulant and an aphrodisiac, and brewers often slipped in hallucinogens to enhance the effects. By the 1700s, whether due to health concerns or religious pressure, gruit was largely phased out in favor of hops. No longer.
Increasingly, craft brewers are ditching hops for herbs, creating adventurous gruits that challenge beer’s basic definition. For this month's Imbibe, I tackled the growing trend of brewers using offbeat herbs and spices that'll challenge your very definition of beer.