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As we close out 2017, I can say with certainty that the waters are a bit choppy in the craft beer sea. On one hand, you have the positive outlook which points to nearly 6,000 craft breweries in the U.S., then there are those numbers that point to challenges in the market due to multiple factors. Old timers in the beer industry point to a collapse in the mid-90’s when viewing today’s landscape. I think the love of good beer and the vast array of high quality options are much stronger presently, from my casual research. With all that in mind, 2018 will be another year of huge beer news, that some will find shocking. Here are my 2018 craft beer predictions. For better or worse, I feel like this is where things are headed.

ABI/The High End Craft Invasion – Speculation would have it that after the backlash of the Wicked Weed sale, that ABI would slow down on their High End M&A model of purchasing medium sized breweries. I don’t think they are quite done yet and all you have to do is break out a map of the lower 48 states. ABI has a crafty company in Oregon, California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Illinois and North Carolina. If I were them, I’d want to have that “local craft beer” in all other major ball parks. That would leave me to believe there will be new brands built or existing brands purchased in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Duvel USA Expansion – Duvel USA is doing quite well with their three brands, Firestone Walker, Ommegang and Boulevard. There is a common thread among all Duvel-owned breweries, in which they are all classy, highly respected and are mature brands in the market. While I’m not sure who they will acquire, it will be a brewery that falls under that heading.

New England Style IPA – The New England Style IPA craze will not slow down as a consumer favorite. It’s fun and approachable to casual and new beer drinkers, and there is no end to that customer base. On the other side of the coin, beer geeks will start being able to differentiate between the good and the bad once every single brewery makes a version of this style. But as it stands right now, beer drinkers are gobbling up anything in a 16 oz. can with a catchy label. Last but not least, we will see mature brands like Stone, Firestone Walker , New Belgium and Dogfish Head all try their hand at this style on a national level.

San Diego – Because I live 120 miles away from San Diego, it’s easy for me to see that there will be a shakeup there. There is a romantic notion that every neighborhood should have a brewery in walking distance. Hell, I wish I had a brewery in walking distance of my house. With over 120 breweries in San Diego, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. There are pockets of very saturated areas with tons of breweries, which is fun for tourists like myself, but then there are regions that have no options. It would seem that everyone wanted to make a play for the same areas, and it’s kind of backfiring. When you have a dozen brewery satellite tasting rooms coupled with many pubs all within five square miles of each other, it waters down the sales for everyone. My prediction is that the oversaturated spots will see a handful of closures, whether it be young breweries or pubs, and business owners will look to some unchartered territory within the county in hopes of prosper. I also predict at least one sale of a 10-year-old or older brewery to big beer. While the little guys are scrapping for dollars, the bigger guys are scrapping for relevance in this very saturated market.

Pliny The Younger – Pliny The Younger is a fantastic beer, but I think this will be the year that it doesn’t receive the hype it has in previous years. It’s not hazy, it doesn’t come in a can, and it’s not the tallest, most popular kid in class anymore. Here in Southern California, there was a bit of an attitude towards the beer in 2017, and warranted or not, it’s how younger (no pun intended) drinkers treat beer, more like a shiny new toy or collectable and less like a world class beer drinking experience. There isn’t an official way to quantify this prediction, except by watching lines outside of Southern California beer bars and seeing if the beer doesn’t blow through in one afternoon.

Private Equity – In 2018, we will see the first private equity flip. Many have predicted that any of the breweries that have sold a majority to a private equity firm will eventually see their return on investment, and that transaction will likely be to the hands of big beer. I also predict that between five to 10 mature, medium-sized breweries with national distribution will tap the shoulders of a PE firm to stay steady in the market.

The Pastry Stout – Our friend Alex over at coined the phrase ‘Pastry Stout’ in reference to sweet stouts laden with adjuncts you would find in candy or pastries. The usual suspects have been vanilla bean, cinnamon, toasted coconut, hazelnuts, cocoa and chocolate. My prediction for 2018 is that this style that has been leaned on by small, trendy breweries will be something we will see from the larger players. These often sweet stouts bring (almond) joy to many who don’t like the bitter and hoppy flavors of their IPA counterparts, and for a medium sized brewery, snagging most of these ingredients isn’t as cost prohibitive as they are to the smaller guys.

Craft Beer Defined – The Brewers Association’s heart was in the right place when they defined craft beer based on barrelage, ownership and product line. After all that has transpired in the last three years with mergers, acquisitions and company funding, it would seem that it’s never been less clear what is and what isn’t craft beer. My prediction is that the Brewers Association will begin drafting new definitions and standards that make things clearer to fellow breweries and consumers, with less alienating language. I don’t think such an impactful change will take place in 2018, but will be drafted or announced in 2018.

Premium Beer Prices – The black and gray market for beer has existed for a long time now. Even though eBay has done their best to curtail online alcohol transactions from those not allowed to sell, it hasn’t stopped opportunists from purchasing and flipping beer. Beers from the likes of Side Project, Bottle Logic, Monkish, Casey Brewing, Toppling Goliath, Jester King and others are sold at very reasonable prices, between $15 to $30 per bottle, only to be sold on the secondary market for upwards of $600 per bottle depending on bottle count and how quick the beer sells out. I predict that some or all of the breweries named will command a bigger slice of the pie on the first sale, and will start selling these beers between $50 – $100 per bottle. Will this raise the price on the secondary or will it turn the opportunists away? Time will tell.



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5 surprisingly healthy beers

Stock your six-pack with these drinks for a side of health benefits with your buzz.

WHILE MANY WOULDN’T equate beer with a healthy diet, it’s been said that a few brews per serving/outing isn’t the worst thing for you—as long as they’re light beers, and hence, low in calories and carbs.

The problem, of course, is that most “light” beers tend to be “light” in flavor and therefore your enjoyment. Which begs the question: What’s the point of drinking two beers if they taste like watered-down crap? So here’s a list of beers—sans the “light label”—that are either surprisingly low in cals and carbs, or provide a nutritional/health kick that few know about. And as always, fellas, enjoy responsibly. Even a “healthy” beer has calories.

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Get Cooking with Beer

Simple ways to take your brew from the can to the kitchen table

instead of getting boozy on brew, why not try cooking with it? It’s common practice in parts of Europe—particularly Belgium, where it’s referred to as cuisine à la bière—and can work wonders with an array of foods. Read on for easy tips and tricks that’ll make for a delicious holiday and beyond.

Why Beer Works
“Beer is as versatile, if not more versatile, than wine,” says Alison Boteler, chef and author of The Gourmet’s Guide to Cooking with Beer. In America, it’s only been in the past few years that beer’s been viewed as an artisan product the way wine is. “Our friends in the wine industry got the jump on us,” says Samuel Adams brewmaster Grant Wood. “In some ways [the beer industry] shot themselves in the foot because they got paired with chips and dip and hot dogs. But…we can deliver flavor to the white tablecloth just as well as wine can. Beer is typically lower in alcohol and lighter in flavor, and it has spices that can really complement food.”

Light vs. Dark Brews
If you’ve ever come across a recipe asking for beer, it probably said just that: beer. And if you never cooked with it before, you most likely grabbed whatever you had in the fridge and felt disappointed with the results. But it’s important to know that, just like white and red wine, light and dark beers have distinct flavors and aromas, and you need to pair the right type with the right dish. As a general rule, use wheat beers and lambics for chicken and seafood; choose ale, porter or stout when cooking pork, beef or lamb. Believe it or not, beer also works for dessert. Use light, fruity varieties, such as a raspberry lambic, with sorbet or in trifles; Imperial stout, which has notes of coffee and chocolate, pairs well with chocolate and ice cream desserts.

Ideas to Get You Started

1. Fried Foods: Firing up the fryer for shrimp or onion rings? Replace the seltzer with light beer (lager is best) for a better, more tempura-like batter. “The beer is used because of the carbonation,” says Garrett Oliver, brewmaster for the Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food. “The carbonation, along with the sugars, allows the batter to brown better and faster. It opens it up, essentially making the batter more airy.”

2. Stews: Beer is a fantastic replacement for stock or wine in a recipe, “anything where you can use liquid in a reduction,” Boteler says. “It’s great when you don’t have a can of chicken stock in the cabinet.” It’s especially delicious in beef stew. Use something robust with punch, such as Guinness (a stout) or an ale. In a similar vein, you can replace the wine used in Boeuf Bourguignon with beer—essentially, you’ll have the Belgian favorite, Carbonnade Flamande. If you’d rather try a lighter stew, Oliver recommends using a wheat beer with fish or chicken to create Waterzooi, a Belgian recipe similar to bouillabaisse.

3. Beer Bread: Beer bread is an Irish classic that uses beer instead of yeast (which can also work for some pizza dough recipes). It’s a snap to make and results in a very dense, moist, chewy loaf. Unless you’re craving a dark, tart bread, shy away from beers like Guinness and use a light-styled lager.

4. Marinades: This is the easiest way to use beer. Oliver likes to marinate lamb overnight in a combination of dark beer, onions and lots of black pepper (just don’t use the mix for cooking; discard it after marinating). Grant Wood also encourages cooks to use beer for marinating. “The great thing about beer is you really don’t have to worry about the timer. Beer doesn’t have as much acidity as wine, so you can marinate it for longer,” he says. “I’ve heard professional chefs talk about putting beef in beer for a couple of days.” He adds that beer is terrific for steaks because it helps caramelize and brown the outside.

5. Mussels: Traditionally mussels are steamed with white wine, but a light beer, such as a non-fruit lambic, is an ideal substitute.

6. Beer Floats: It doesn’t get any more straightforward than this. Oliver suggests pairing cold stout with a scoop of ice cream. “I’ve done it with everything from vanilla to mint chocolate chip,” he says.

7. Other Uses: In spaghetti sauce (Boteler mixes it with canned sauce that she then reduces); chili (pick a porter to enhance the smoky flavor); cheese soup or French onion soup (instead of the wine); fondue; or barbecue sauce (try a fruity ale).

How Low Should You Go? 
When cooking, let flavor—not price—guide you. American-style lagers (Budweiser, Coors, Miller) are the most common beer in the U.S., and are mild and lower in alcohol. They get a bad rap for being cheap, but they can have their place when cooking certain foods. “I always vote for a little more flavor,” Woods says, “but if you’re making biscuits, you might want to use something lighter with less flavor.” Lagers are good for breads, beer batter and the ultimate grill classic: beer-can chicken. When you want the beer to make a stronger statement—for example, in a beef soup or dessert—go for a variety with more gusto (and yes, a slightly higher price tag).

What Not To Do

1. Think all beers are the same. Know what you’re cooking with and don’t interchange beers if the recipe calls for something specific. “With wine you have acidity and tannins; with beer you have bitterness and hops,” explains Oliver. “If you have a very bitter beer, you have to allow time for the bitterness to break down or you’re going to end up with that taste in your dish or sauce, which you may not want.” If this happens, Woods has some helpful advice: Add a touch of sugar, brown sugar or honey to balance out the flavors.

2. Use bad beer. Boteler recalls an interview with Julia Child, who put it perfectly: “If you put rotgut in, you’re going to get rotgut out.” In other words, if it’s not something you’d drink, then don’t cook with it.

3. Use beer to deglaze a dish.

4. Play around with baking recipes. “Beer acts as a leavening agent,” Boteler says. “It will change the chemistry. If you just throw beer in, you could be very surprised that you baked a volcano in the oven. Baking is an exact science; cooking is more of a forgiving science.” She adds that flat beer is sometimes better to use, because it’s not as foamy and unstable as a new bottle.

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Researchers learn about hook-up culture from volunteers who drank beer

Why does drinking lead to hook-ups? One theory is that alcohol makes people feel more frisky. Another is that it simply causes people to let loose and act more impulsively, facilitating all kinds of behavior that would otherwise be considered inappropriate.

Swiss researchers designed a study to see if they could shed some light on the situation. They recruited 30 men and 30 women, offered them beer and subjected them to a series of psychological tests.

All of the study participants where white, in good mental health and between the ages of 18 and 50. (In addition, none of the women in the study were pregnant.)

All of the volunteers in the double-blind study took the battery of tests twice — once after being served a glass of regular beer, and once after being served an equivalent amount of non-alcoholic beer.

Though the volunteers might have been able to discern which beverage was the near beer and which was real deal, the researchers didn’t tip them off.

Here’s what they learned from the volunteers who drank beer for the sake of science:

  • People were quicker to recognize happy faces when there was alcohol in their system.
  • People had a greater desire to be in a “positive” social environment — such as a party — after consuming an alcoholic beer.
  • Although oxytocin — the molecule some people know better as the “love hormone” — is known to produce effects like these, blood tests showed that alcohol had no affect on the volunteers’ oxytocin levels.
  • People were somewhat put off by sexually explicit images after drinking the near beer — they rated the pictures “less pleasant than neutral pictures” — but not after drinking regular beer.
  • Likewise, when people had an alcoholic buzz, they found sexually explicit images “more pleasant” than they did when the buzz was absent. This particular effect was particularly strong among women.
  • There were no signs that alcohol enhanced “sexual arousal” in the volunteers.

Putting it all together, the researchers concluded that alcohol’s role as a social lubricant can be traced to its ability to facilitate “sexual disinhibition,” according to a report published Monday in the journal Psychopharmacology and presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology meeting in Vienna.


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Miller High Life wants drinkers in Chicago and Milwaukee to make their New Year’s toast this year with the Champagne of Beers.

The brand is taking its nickname to heart this holiday season, moving into limited-release Champagne-sized bottles with wrapped foil tops in two of its core markets.

After testing its 750-milliliter bottle in Chicago last year, Miller High Life this month released a large-format, “special edition collectors bottle” in limited quantities in the Chicago and Milwaukee metro areas, just in time for holiday celebrations.

“It’s a perfect shareable bottle, and we know the holidays are all about sharing beers and fun times with family and friends,” says Taylor Brown, Miller High Life’s brand manager. “This is a way to remind drinkers we truly are the Champagne of Beers.”

Like 12-ounce Miller High Life bottles, the 25.4-ounce bottles are clear, showcasing the straw-colored beer. The top of the limited-release bottles are wrapped in gold foil held tight by a red band proclaiming High Life the Champagne of Beers. The label features the brand’s icon, the Girl in the Moon.

The bottles, which hit retail shelves within the past week, aren’t expected to last long. In their inaugural year in 2017, the Champagne bottles sold out in all accounts within “a few short weeks,” Brown says. “We had (retailers) looking to get more.”

On top of that, 12-packs of Miller High Life 12-ounce bottles caught some of that momentum.  Chicago-area stores that featured High Life displays along with the Champagne-sized bottle outperformed stores that did not by about 30 percent, Brown says.

Based on that success, the brand decided to expand the test this year to Milwaukee, the city where High Life launched on Dec. 30, 1903. If sales are brisk again this year, they will look to roll it out more broadly in 2018, Brown says.

Aside from the large-format bottles in Chicago and Milwaukee, Miller High Life also created a special national display program for November and December in which its 12-packs of 12-ounce bottles were redesigned to create the image of a Champagne tower when stacked, “which leans into the equity of Champagne of Beers.

The program, Brown says “will help us close the year strong.” Year-to-date, High Life sales are up 1.1 percent on a 0.3 rise in volume, according to Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data through Nov. 25. “We feel we’ll end the year in a good spot.”


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14 Best Beers of 2017

These aren’t ranked in any particular order (because how can you compare a barrel-aged imperial stout with a hefeweizen?). Instead, we’ve listed them in alphabetical order.

Black Project Peacemaker 
City: Denver, CO
Style: Sour/Wild Ale
ABV: 5.5%

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143. That’s how many bottles made it into our wild/sour beer tasting this summer. Is 143 wild/sour beers too many wild/sour beers? If you drink them all at once, sure, but if you space it out over days, and if at the end of those days you come to the agreement that this beer, a sour from an up and coming young brewery, is the very best of the lot, then no, it’s not too many wild/sour beers. It’s just the right amount. Black Project, out of Denver, specializes in “heady and spontaneously fermented wild ales,” and Peacemaker managed to stand out in the tasting, even with such stacked competition. It’s a blend of two beers, “both fermented from coolship-caught microbes,” before being aged in bourbon barrels that then were used to mature Colorado cherry wine.

The result is the best of both worlds—a softened bourbon whiskey character with traces of the original caramel, vanilla and deeply toasted oaky notes, but with the addition of bright cherry and strawberry fruitiness. There’s elements of funk, which contribute some light barnyard characteristics and perhaps a touch of light peach fruitiness, but that’s the running theme of this beer—many, seemingly disparate elements that are all working together, with none coming to dominate the others. This is not some treacly, sweet, artificially fruity attempt at an American wild ale. It’s a sophisticated, complex beer that uses both complementary and contrasting notes to build layers of flavor. And it’s our #1 American sour/wild ale.

Burial Separation of Light and Darkness 
City: Asheville, NC
Style: Saison
ABV: 5.5%

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We’ve known for a while now that eventually, Burial was going to win one of these tastings. Their batting average is almost always in the top tier; they’ve just been waiting for exactly the right category to spring something like this on us. There were 116 beers in our blind tasting of the best saisons this past summer, and even though Burial is known as a bit of an IPA factory, they’re just as prolific in the saison category. Separation of Light and Darkness is a showpiece for both their brettanomyces and lactobacillus mixed culture as well as their skill with using hops as a finishing touch. Moderately tart, it’s quickly clear that this is a brett beer as well, as it puts forth a telltale funk that is earthy and almost slightly leathery. But up front, it’s all about the citrus. Says one score sheet: “Amazing citrus aroma, and perfect acidity.” From another: “Funky, tart, citrus, peppery, wow.” From one more: “Just a clean, bright, hoppy, perfect saison.”

Council Beatitude Boysenberry Barrel Aged Imperial Tart Saison
City: San Diego, CA
Style: Sour fruited ale
ABV: 9.7%

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Damn, that’s a lot of words. The Beatitude Boysenberry came across our path at the beginning of the year, as the latest in the brewery’s Beatitude Tart Saison series, which is over a dozen strong with a cornucopia of fruit and dry-hopped variants. The Boysenberry follows through with its robust name, delivering huge notes of the promised berry on the nose and sip. Those jammy flavors help cut through the sourness of this beer, which is plenty damn sour. Particularly on your first couple of sips. It’s bracing. But you also get vanilla and oak from the barrel, and that jam kicks in hard providing a sweetness and balance. In the end, our reviewer called it a “glass of tart berry jam” that was absolutely stunning.

Creature Comforts Tritonia 
City: Athens, GA
Style: Gose
ABV: 4.5%

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Remember when gose was the strange new kid on the block? Now it seems like everyone who’s anyone is brewing a gose. We tasted 64 of the best of them and ended up crowning this beauty from Creature Comforts, which our tasters decided was “the ultimate summer refresher.” It takes cucumber and makes it the star of the show, with a clean, incredibly refreshing cucumber note that shines through the beer from start to finish. At the same time, though, it never loses track of the other “gose” elements: There’s some pronounced coriander and a big twist of lemon-lime citrus, which provides just enough residual sweetness. Tartness is right in the middle—firm enough to be refreshing without getting excessive. For all intents and purposes it’s pretty much a classic gose until the cucumber element comes in and takes the beer to the next level.

Firestone Walker Fortem
City: Paso Robles, CA
Style: American DIPA
ABV: 8.2%

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At this point in the state of craft beer, another new double IPA isn’t that big of a deal. New DIPAs hit the shelves seemingly every day. One just dropped in the time it took you to read that sentence. Wait. There’s another one. But when Firestone Walker introduces a new DIPA, shortly after discontinuing their beloved Double Jack IPA, we pay attention. Fortem is the first beer in a new series dubbed “Leo v. Ursus,” and it will only be on the market for a few months at best. So, when they sent us Fortem, the first in a new Leo v. Ursus series of beers. It blends old and new hops from the Pacific Northwest and Germany with pale malt, wheat malt and flaked oats. The result is a creamy body that helps emphasize the aromatics, which are “big on citrus, with lots of lemon, grapefruit and orange,” according to our reviewer. The taste is maltier than you’d expect from the nose, approachably bitter with plenty of citrus fruit goodness without falling into the “sweet” IPA category. It’s also much easier to drink than its predecessor, Double Jack. Our writer went so far as to call it a “beach party DIPA.” That’s my kind of beach party.

Fremont Brewing Co BBA Dark Star
City: Seattle, WA
ABV: 14.5%

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Our tasters almost died during the showdown of Best Barrel-Aged Imperial Stouts, because there were 144 of them. That’s a lot of big, boozy beers. And the barrel-aged imperial stout, as a style, includes some of the most coveted beers in the country. Think Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Think Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. The competition was fierce, but in the end, Fremont Brewing’s Bourbon-Barrel Aged Dark Star (with an ABV of 14.5%!) rose to the top thanks, largely, to its perfect execution of the style. Fremont didn’t mess around with adjuncts (no cacao nibs or vanilla beans? Really?); instead they blended three different batches to create a rich, barrel-heavy beer that’s full of molasses and maple syrup. The beer earned Fremont Brewing the title of “barrel-aged stout masters.”

Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery Spirit Beast
City: Athens, OH
ABV: 12.5%

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As we said, the competition for best barrel-aged imperial stout in our blind tasting, which had 144 entries, was fierce. So brewing the second best beer in that contest is quite the feat, and the win helps support our thought that Jackie O’s is one of the most underrated breweries in the country. Spirit Beast is a mixture of five different stouts, plus a quadruple, all blended before being aged in various barrels before being blended yet again. That’s a lot of work, and the result is a big pay off that our tasters called, “a revelation.” As you might expect from a beer with that much back story, it’s really complex, with all kinds of flavors (from cocoa to dark fruit to booze to wine) coming at you from all angles. If you get your hands on one, take your time with it. You won’t be sorry.

Live Oak Hefeweizen
City: Del Valle, TX
ABV: 5.2%

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We put together a blinding tasting of 59 of the best Wheat Beers and Hefeweizens—a style that can probably be credited with getting a large share of drinkers into craft beer in the first place. Raise your hand if the first beer you fell in love with was Blue Moon? Go ahead, don’t be ashamed. The style is robust these days, to say the least, with hoppy wheats and tart Berliner Weisse offerings and fruited wheats…It’s a broad field, so we narrowed the tasting down to just Americanpale wheats and German hefeweizens. Live Oak’s Hefeweizen took the honors. It makes sense, because Live Oak is located in Texas and, well, Texas is hot as hell. It’s a state that needs a light, effervescent beer. And Live Oak’s Hefeweizen is just that, with a very “authentically German” nose that seemed downright imported by out tasters. The taste was a wave of banana bread and light spice delivered on a wave of creamy malt backbone. Hell yeah. Summer. Even more impressive, this is the first blind tasting Live Oak has entered. Not bad for a rookie.

River North Brewery Mr. Sandman
City: Denver, CO
ABV: 13.5%

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Beer Myths Debunked

Wade through the confusion and you’ll earn more enjoyment from each sip

MYTH #1: Beer is best served as cold as possible
FACT: Flavor emerges with a bit of warmth

We’ve been duped by the Big Beer’s ad campaigns. Consider the ice-frosted mugs, ubiquitous use of the phrase “ice cold,” or—perhaps most obnoxious—Coors Light’s “cold-activated” bottles and cans. (When the beer is cold enough, the mountains on the label “activate” by morphing from white to blue.) Fellas, this is ruining otherwise good beer.

“You lose aromatics when you serve beer too cold,” says Dave Engbers, co-owner of Founders Brewing Co., adding that beer is best consumed between 46 and 50°F.

“Typically beer is dispensed from the draft line between 38 and 42 degrees,” he says. “So just cup the glass for a couple minutes with your hands and you’ll warm it to the right temperature.”

Then you’ll actually taste beer—not the taste-bud numbing effect of near-frozen liquid.

MYTH #2: Bottled beer is better than canned beer
FACT: Nothing maintains freshness as well as a can

There are two primary concerns with storing beer in bottles: oxygen and light. “Bottles aren’t perfect,” says Charles Bamforth, Ph.D., author and professor of malting and brewing sciences at The University of California-Davis. “With time, oxygen coming in under the cap will make your beer taste like cardboard, and light coming in through the glass will turn it skunky.”

The worst bottles are those with clear glass (like Corona’s) and twist-off caps (like nearly every mass-market American lager). “Sealed aluminum is just better at keeping out oxygen and light,” he says.

Don’t like the feel of the can? Fine—just pour the brew into a glass. That’s the best way to consume good beer anyway.

MYTH #3: Draft beer is better than bottled beer
FACT: It depends on the bar

With properly maintained draft lines, beer from the tap is the freshest you can get. But not all bars keep their lined maintained, which can leave your pint polluted with unwelcome microbes.

“A draft system is not a sterile situation,” says Dave Glor, German-trained brewer and field-quality analyst for New Belgium. Bacteria like pediococcus and lactobacillus produce diecetyl, which makes it taste like somebody shot movie-theater popcorn butter into your beer. And you know that vinegar-like aroma you sometimes smell in dive bars? “That’s acetobacter,” says Glor. “You smell it because it grows on dirty bar mats, but it can grow in dirty tap faucets, too.” And when it does, it spills into your cup and makes your beer taste too acidic.

The lesson here: If you don’t trust the bar—or if you have reason to suspect that it doesn’t maintain its draft lines—order a bottle or can. That will keep you from drinking an orgy of beer-loving bacteria.

MYTH #4: Ales are darker than lagers
FACT: Ales can be pale, and lagers can be dark

 The big American lagers like Bud Light and its ilk tend to be pale and watery, but that’s not the case with all lagers, says Oliver. “Until recently, dark lagers accounted for the majority of beer sold in places like Bavaria.”

No, “dark lager” is not an oxymoron. The difference between lagers and ales is a difference of yeast. Lagers rely on bottom-fermenting yeast that thrive in cold temperatures, and they work slowly and produce clean, sharp beers. Ale yeast works in warmer temperatures from the top of the fermentation tank and produces esters responsible for robust, fruity, and complex flavors.

Color has nothing to do with yeast. it comes from the color of the malt. Dark malt makes dark beers and pale malt makes pale beers. So to make a dark lager, a brewer simply pairs dark malt with a lager yeast. It’s that simple. That’s precisely the process that German brewers use to produce dunkels, double bocks, and schwarzbiers. These brews are capable of delivering the deep coffee and chocolate notes of an Irish stout, but they come bound in the refreshing crispness of a lagered beer.

MYTH #5: Dark beers have more alcohol than light beers
FACT: Again—no correlation

What’s the darkest beer regularly sold in the US? Guinness Draught. And how much Alcohol does it have? Just 4.2 percent. “Even Budweiser is stronger than Guinness,” says Oliver. “But because Guinness is black, most people think that it’s a very strong beer.” The truth is color provides no clue about bitterness or alcohol content.

MYTH #6: Wine is the healthiest libation
FACT: Wine is likely no healthier than beer

When people talk about the healthy component of wine, they’re talking primarily about a polyphenol called resveretrol.

“Resveretrol is grossly overplayed as a health story,” says Bamforth, who wrote the book Beer: Health and Nutrition. “Compare wine and beer and you find that beer’s polyphenols are every bit as potent as wine’s.”

 To back this argument, Bamforth ran beer and wine through a battery of antioxidant tests, and beer displayed some surprising benefits. In the test that looked specifically at the antioxidants that stimulate fat oxidation, beer actually outperformed wine. Take that, wine snobs.

MYTH #7: Beer causes a beer belly
FACT: Moderate beer consumption poses no serious threat to your belly

It seems that whoever coined the phrase “beer belly” had a vendetta against beer. “Excess calories from beer are no more likely to contribute to weight gain than excess calories from anything else,” says Christian Finn, MS, CSCS.

In a 2011 review of 31 studies, researchers concluded that only binge drinking was associated with weight gain. Moderate alcohol use appeared benign, and some studies even found that moderate drinkers were thinner on average, regardless of preferred beverage.

Still worried about beer’s carbohydrates? Fine, but worry with perspective: A typical 12-ounce beer has a carb load similar to a glass of wine—roughly 10-to-20 grams—and according to a 2009 study, it also contains roughly 2.5 grams of barley-derived fiber. That puts beer on par with a slice of whole-wheat bread. In the world of vices, that’s pretty tame.

MYTH #8: If you buy beer warm, you should store it warm until you’re ready to drink it
FACT: The less time beer spends warm, the better

Oxidation, the slow reaction between oxygen and beer, is the biggest enemy of hop-fresh flavor, and the attack begins the moment the beer leaves the brewery. “As soon as its brewed, beer begins aging,” says Glor. “If you’re going to store it for any time, you want to keep it cold to slow oxidation.”

So why to retailers store beer warm? Probably because they don’t have the cooler space. Don’t repeat their transgression: The ideal temperature for storing beer, according to Glor, is in the high 30s to low 40s.

MYTH #9: The US is a second-class beer nation
FACT: That’s not what the pros say

Ask around and you’ll find that most beer experts now consider American beers to be among the best in the world. “Other countries are looking to us when it comes to innovation,” says Oliver. “Most Germans haven’t even heard of IPAs or stouts, so even though they have a great brewing culture, they’re somewhat constricted.”

Martin Biendl heads research and development for the German branch of the hop-distribution company Hopsteiner, and he agrees: “Everybody’s looking at the US. It’s very impressive. I expect that brewmasters here will soon be copying US recipes or developing German interpretations.”

Perhaps the reason is that American brewers are unmoored from the trappings of longtime brewing traditions, which means they’re free to innovate in ways that other counties can’t. That’s probably why, according to the Brewers Association, America now boasts 2,126 breweries, and 97 percent of those qualify as “craft.”

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Breakfast beer: six beers made with cereal

Let your inner six-year-old rejoice: From the astounding popularity of Milk Bar chain’s cereal milk-flavored fro-yo, shakes, cream soda and cookies to the ever-growing number of actual restaurants that serve nothing but bowls of cereal, Saturday mornings are back, baby. Get your portion of a balanced breakfast with these six beers made with and designed to taste like breakfast cereal. It is the most important meal of the day, after all.

Somerville Saturday Morning
People freaked when Massachusetts-based Somerville launched this Belgian tripel with Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries in March, and it’s easy to see why: The nostalgia is real. Crunch Berries pop in the aroma, a sugar-dusted fruitiness that floats above the base bouquet of dried banana, pear, circus peanuts and corn flakes in a bowl of almond milk. Sips are slightly more fruit-forward, with rich pear and regular old Cap’n up top; alcoholic warmth enhances the toasted almond notes at the swallow. And it doesn’t even scratch the roof of your mouth.

Brew Rebellion Saturday Morning Cartoons
Is there a more delightful substance on this earth than the pool of unicorn-colored milk left over after you’ve finished a bowl of fruit-flavored cereal?  Brew Rebellion’s 5.8% milk stout made with Fruity Pebbles captures this flavor perfectly, pairing it with soft, smoky cocoa, cola and toast. Head brewer Andy Sutfin rotates the cereal used in the stout regularly; previous batches have incorporated Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Apple Jacks and Cocoa Pebbles. And lest you forget which one you’re drinking, each bottle is dipped in wax and pasted with actual pieces of cereal.

Black Bottle Cerealiously
In 2014, Black Bottle pissed off just about every kid in Fort Collins when it bought out the entire Count Chocula supply from several of the town’s grocery stores in order to make this 6.4% ABV milk stout. The brewery’s since struck up an informal relationship with General Mills that helps avoid such dilemmas; the cereal maker occasionally sends Black Bottle the hundreds of pounds of cereal needed for a week of steeping in the beer. More than a dozen different cereals have gone into Cerealiously, including Lucky Charms, Golden Grahams, Reese’s Puffs and Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch.

Big Time Breakfast Cereal Killer
That name is pretty accurate: Not only do Big Time’s brewers throw every cereal grain they can find into imperial stout; they also mash in with a mixture of Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Cocoa Puffs and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Steeping with coffee and cocoa nibs makes the beer even more coocoo. It’ll be available at Big Time’s Seattle brewpub on draft and in hand-filled bottles this fall.

Ballast Point Victory at Cereal
Each December, San Diego-based Ballast Point observes Victory at Sea Day—a celebration of its beloved imperial porter made with vanilla beans and cold-brew coffee, Victory at Sea—by releasing various treatments of the beer. The years have seen versions made with pumpkin spice, gingerbread, peppermint, coconut and even ghost peppers. But none (at least to our palates) has been better than Victory At Cereal, made by dry-hopping the beer with Cap’n Crunch. The cereal infuses the flavor with sugary, bready notes that fuse with whole milk, coffee, toast, cocoa and french vanilla—and it even has that Cap’n Crunch film that coats your tongue.

Noble Rey Baracus Gets Super Cereal
There’s no telling which cereal you might experience during a visit to Noble Rey’s Dallas taproom; throughout the year, the brewery releases small batches of its American brown ale, Baracus, spiked with a rotating selection of breakfast boxes from Count Chocula to Reese’s Puffs. Also keep an eye out for Cereal Killa, a witbier dry-hopped with Fruity Pebbles, if you need a second helping.