Today’s topic is a bit of a killjoy, but needs to be addressed: your beer limit. That breaks down into two separate spheres: your legal/safety limit and your “enjoyment” limit. Both limits have popped up in my beer travels, as of late, so I felt it was time to step back for a moment and stop chasing the next new beer or finding the latest craft brew hot spot and focus on how to maximize our drinking experience.
The first limit is really apparent on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. It has long been a thorny issue for me. I normally am all for any reason to get people exposed to well made beer. But on St. Paddy’s Day, they usually aren’t going out to try new or better beer and for the most part the only goal seems to be getting hammered. I have the same problem with New Years Eve. I feel like the first beer limit is widely ignored and the second beer limit takes a backseat to Dick Clark and resolutions or wearing green and pinching people. I know that if you go to a craft beer haven that the green beer quotient is much lower and the people less rowdy but I would rather sit back with a group of friends and partake of the corned beef in a relaxed atmosphere.
Maybe it is the cranky old man in me but I have no use for drinking just to get drunk. Twenty years ago when there was no craft beer or craft spirits movements, this type of behavior might be acceptable. I understand that you certainly aren’t drinking Bud Light for the flavor. But now, there is so much choice that there is no need to pound some brews to reach beervana. You can have 10 ounces of a beer aged in Irish whiskey casks and not have a headache in the morning.
The second limit is as vexing as the first. How many beers do you need to have in one night or a weekend before they blur together and your palate is toast. I have run into this problem at the beer festivals that I attend. I have a list of beers that I just have to have. I start off by racing from booth to booth. Then I have to slow down and remember why I wanted to sample the beer. Because I want to taste the amazing flavors! It’s not the Amazing Race. It should be the amazing enjoyment. Jay Brooks, the renowned beer writer has written recently about this too at a Barleywine tasting in Seattle. He makes the comparison to the Kenny Rogers song, the Gambler. “Know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.”
So as an example of my hard learned knowledge and past mistakes, here is what I did last weekend when I found myself with three great beer events in three days. On Friday night at Eagle Rock Brewery, I could have had more than just their new beer (a delicious Young Sour Ale). They have great guest taps (Avery Dugana was pouring) and who knows how long Libertine will last. But this is my first tip. Don’t go nuts on night one. It will only make the rest of the weekend harder.
The next night I was at The Surly Goat as they welcomed the inventive brewers from BrewDog. They had four taps of BrewDog beer plus a bunch of other great beers. I could have had a pint of each but instead I ordered one and sampled the others from friends cups. That is my second tip. Bring friends who are generous enough to share. It will save you money and you get to try and enjoy different styles.
Next morning, I drove to Library Alehouse for a special beer-with-breakfast event. That leads me to the next full enjoyment tip. Have some food. Not only to soak up some of the alcohol but also because you can get different nuances when the food flavors mix with the beer. The Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast beer combined excellently with the brioche French toast bringing out more of the roasted coffee notes than before. And when I left (after the one beer), I was full and happy.
You have probably heard variations of these three tips in regards to the first limit but I believe that affect our enjoyment as well. I don’t mean to stop you from supporting the great establishments that have sprung up around Los Angeles. But I do want you to take a bit of time to savor the fine beer that is in front of you.
Since I am talking moderation. Your beer for the week is Maui Brewing’s Bikini Blond Lager. It is below 5% ABV but has a tremendous amount of flavor and pairs nicely with the warm weather that has arrived in Southern California.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.