For me, 2015 was a tremendously enjoyable year in craft beer. I had some amazing experiences on the craft beer trail via a summer beer odyssey, I met amazing people locally who continue to blaze a new trail that helps put the Twin Cities on the radar of the craft beer world, and I have gained the friendship of other writers who so critically and eloquently voice their thoughts on craft beer, both far and wide. All the while, keeping it in my heart and mind to stay true to the Beerploma goal of engaging our audience in a way that is approachable, sincere and not too intense. At the beginning of 2015, I set out to educate myself more on how to taste beer and learn about different beer styles. As I look back, many of the beers that used to be on my bucket list, now have found their way onto my Untappd log in the form of badges and check-ins. Many of these beers were experienced in the wonderful company of people who I am lucky to call friends. However, I also started the year with some suggestions for people to add to their list of resolutions that might be a bit more enjoyable than attempting to declutter your garage or drop a pants size or two.
I am happy to say that I accomplished all of the thing on that list and then some. However, a new year means a new challenge for me and maybe for you. So, here are my 2016 Brew Year’s Resolutions! One thing that you will notice when you look at this list is that it is a bit of a departure from the 2015 ones. Many of my 2015 Brew Year’s Resolutions were individual feats or things that would be accomplished in a solitary way. A few of the 2016 Brew Year’s Resolutions are predicated on gathering with others. Don’t worry, if you are more of an introvert, I think that these will still appeal to you.
Brew Year’s Resolution #1-Try incorporating craft beer into a recipe. Perhaps the easiest thing on this list for the craft beer geek. There are many ways to do this, but I think that the first step would be deciding whether you are going to attempt to bake or cook with beer. If you are celebrating a birthday or special occasion that calls for a sweet treat, give this recipe for a chocolate stout cake a try! I gave this a whirl and it turned out tremendously well. The first time I tried it, I used Southern Tier Choklat and the second time I used Tallgrass Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat. I did my own ganache frosting which was a simple 1:1 ratio of heavy cream to chocolate chips in a double boiler. While the beers were different, the results were the same; amazingly decadent and delicious! There is a depth and complexity to this cake because of the beer. Depending on which stout you use, it will contribute some of the flavor components of the beer to the cake. If you need some other divine inspiration, try following The Beeroness, a very gifted cook and baker who incorporates beer in all her recipes. If you are going to be cooking, thing beer and chili. I use Brau Brothers Moo Joos in chili and it adds a rich depth to it. Just one bottle is about all you need and it works wonders!
Brew Year’s Resolution #2-Have a craft beer-themed get together. Notice I said craft beer get together and not a throwback to the keggers you used to have in college with a keg of lukewarm Busch Light. While this could take several forms, the results will all be the same; a good time will be had by all. An easy way to start is to invite a handful of people over and have them each go to their local craft beer store and build their own six pack. This is fun because you will most certainly get a wide variety of things to try with minimal repeats. You could also name a specific style or two that might be seasonally appropriate and have everyone try to find beers that fit those parameters. You could also do a vertical tasting, which is when you gather different years of the same exact beer. This would have more appeal to the serious craft beer geek who would be interested in discussing the changes between the years. Then again, you can’t ever go wrong with a beer and cheese tasting party. Have everyone bring a few bottles of beer and a different kind of cheese and then you mix and match. Surprisingly, beer is much more versatile than wine and that makes it the perfect match for different types of cheeses.
Brew Year’s Resolution #3-Read up on pairing food and beer. This goes hand-in-hand with Brew Year’s Resolutions #1 and #2. I recently picked up Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros and it is very easy to follow and laid out nicely. It takes you through a very logical way of marrying food with beer. The writing is approachable and good for every level of craft beer fan. I would also give a nod to The Brewmaster’s Table by Garret Oliver, this is a bit more advanced for the novice craft beer fan, but a wonderful read all the same. Both of these titles will really give the reader an understanding of why it makes sense to pair craft beer with food.
Brew Year’s Resolution #4-Attend a Craft Beer Festival. If you are just getting into craft beer, this is a must! The fact that you have so many different breweries and beer styles in one place is a great way to try a lot of different things and narrow in on what you like and don’t like. The best thing is that there is a festival for everyone. I am partial to the events put on by the MN Craft Brewers Guild, they are well-planned and the breweries typically bring their A-game. It doesn’t hurt that they also put these events on at some really great venues. For instance, All Pints North up in Duluth is at Bayfront Park. It makes for a great weekend getaway. I usually go up for the whole weekend and stay at Fitgers, which has great beer and is not that far from some of the other Duluth breweries. If you are looking for something a bit more high-end, the Northern Lights Rare Beer Fest is something that I have heard wonderful things about, but have yet to attend. At the time this piece is being written, there are still tickets available. The wonderful thing about a beer festival is that depending on how many people are there, you can get some face time with the brewers and hear about what they are doing which is really fun.
Brew Year’s Resolution #5-Take a Beercation. Whether it is a weekend drive to New Glarus or a 3-week craft beer odyssey to the Napa Valley of Craft Beer, Fort Collins, a beer trip is a wonderful experience. Not only to try new beers, but to also meet new people and make new friends. Over the past couple of years, I have enjoyed flying and driving to fun beer destinations, both in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and beyond. What I enjoy about it is the variety of experiences each taproom/brewery and city have to offer. If you are not looking to travel far, you can drive three and a half hours northwest and find some incredibly good beer in the Fargo/Moorhead area. Talking to locals who fiercely support their local craft breweries is something that is a neat thing to experience. Especially in a smaller community, locals are very proud to show off the taproom that is theirs.
So, your mission, should you choose to accept, it to add these to the list of the things that you have already added to your 2016 list of things to do. I know that there is something for everyone in this year’s Brew Year’s Resolutions and it will not require you to do any type of cleanse. Whether you choose to embrace these ideas or not, I hope your 2016 is filled with great craft beer and fun interactions around the amazing drink we refer to as barley soup. My hopes for myself are to continue to try to engage and entertain my readers with thoughtful and inventive ways to spread my passion for local and regional craft beer. I consider myself lucky to have a creative outlet like this to share my thoughts and one-liners with an audience. I am humbled by those who are willing to take the time to read what I work diligently to create.
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