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 dontdrinkbeer.com 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.



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.


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%


Love beer, and every so often I find myself caught between wanting a fruity cocktail and a hoppy beer. The solution, it seems, is to initiate a return to beer-based cocktails, right? It’s strange to me that America is such a beer-drinking country, yet I never see beer cocktails on menus, other than the occasional Michelada or Coronarita. Here, I’m listing some severely underrated beer drinks that deserve way more hype.

Black and Tan

There’s nothing wrong with a beer-on-beer cocktail! This contrasting cocktail is made from a duo of light and dark beer – the same idea as the aforementioned Black Velvet. Use lager beer and Irish stout (usually Guinness ) for best results.
Get the full recipe here.

Black Velvet

This two-ingredient cocktail is made with equal parts stout (Guinness again!) and sparkling wine. It was created in London in 1861 to mourn the death of Prince Albert. The contrast of the dark beer and light Champagne makes for an elegant-looking drink – get the maximum layered effect by pouring the wine over a spoon.
Get the full recipe here.

Bull’s Eye

Perfect for cocktail lovers, this fizzy drink combines light beer with fresh lemon juice and ginger ale for a tangy, refreshing beverage. Add sweetener, if you’d like, but it’s pretty tasty as is.
Get the full recipe here.

French Monaco

Don’t be fooled by the fancy name – this drink couldn’t be simpler. Add pomegranate syrup and a splash of lemonade to a pale lager, like Stella Artois, for a beautifully pale pink cocktail. If you’re pinched for time, use store bought grenadine instead of homemade pomegranate syrup.
Get the full recipe here.

Lemon Shandy

Perhaps the most classic beer cocktail is shandy, a drink that, at it’s simplest, is merely a mix of lemonade and beer. Upgrade it a little bit by using fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and fresh mint for a grownup take on spiked lemonade.
Get the full recipe here.


Perfect for warm-weather sipping, this mixed drink is made with beer, vodka, gin, club soda and a fruity element, like lemonade. I recall drinking something similar to this in college, dispensed from an orange cooler, and I can safely say that a little bit of this stuff goes a long way.
Get the full recipe here.


This is a drinkable delight for any season – made with maple syrup, lemon juice, apple brandy, club soda and beer – but is especially delicious in the fall and winter months. You can use any light beer you like, but several expert sources recommend Hefeweizen, a German wheat beer.
Get the full recipe here.




Beers for Everyone on Your Holiday List

The days are getting shorter, festive music is already playing in Wawa, Grandma is planning her visit from Florida… and you haven’t bought a single gift.

Fear not, we’ve got you covered. And who isn’t a fan of one-stop shopping, especially when that stop is a beer shop.

Green Flash Le Freak
Grandma is upset by all the tattoos and the ever-changing hair color, but you appreciate the outer stylings, and your freaky cousin will enjoy this unique blend of Belgian tripel and American IPA.

Lagunitas Aunt Sally
I mean, if you really do have an Aunt Sally, this is perfect.

Evil Genius Santa! I Know Him!!
With titles saluting all our favorite flicks, from Anchorman (I Love Lamp) to Friday (Bye, Felicia), Wedding Crashers (Ma! The Meatloaf!) to Billy Madison (O’Doyle Rules), Philly brewery Evil Genius has something for any movie fan. This dry, complex ale references the Xmas classic, Elf.

Port Brewing Shark Attack
As my sister planned her trip to Australia, I sent her regular updates about all the deadly fauna she might encounter. It was as appreciated as this smooth, caramelly red ale will be.

Great Lakes Nosferatu
Blood red in color with a toasty malt body lurking beneath, this rich, red ale has a bitter bite so good, it’s scary.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter
He dresses in tweed, quotes Peep Show and Churchill, and gets up early on Boxing Day to watch English soccer. He’ll love this.

Abita Purple Haze
Beer may not be this person’s favorite intoxicant, but the tart, sweet raspberry lager goes down well with Hendrix and the munchies.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch
The intriguing Ancient Ales from this Delaware brewery are based on millennia-old recipes recreated by archaeologists and beer experts. This sweet, yet dry beer, is made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between beer, wine and mead, Midas Touch will please the chardonnay and beer drinker alike.

Sly Fox Christmas Ale
Keep a few of these on hand to give to any yuletide guest… or to crack open for yourself, because Santa deserves a present too.

Jolly Traveler
Pretty much anything from this Boston-based brewery would be fitting for your round-the-world tripster, but we especially enjoy this light, wintery shandy in the cooler months.


From: Draught Lines Magazine


Top 5 Facts About Beck’s Beer

You think you know everything there is to know about Beck’s beer? Think again (unless you happen to be the CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, in which case how about throwing a few thousand advertising bucks our way? Pretty please?).

We’ve scoured the internet to bring you some top facts about Beck’s, one of Germany’s best-known beer brands. And here they are now:

1. Beck’s was established in 1873

The driving force behind the foundation of the Beck’s beer brand was not David Beckham or singer/song-writer Beck, but Lüder Rutenberg – architect, builder, and eventual beer baron – who opened the brewery in the German city of Bremen in 1873.

For context, Beck’s was established the same year as the first Coors brewery was, but European lagers HeinekenCarlsberg, and Stella Artois have all been around longer.

2. Then why is it called “Beck’s”?

Lüder Rutenberg didn’t know a heck of a lot about beer when he started out, so he hired a team consisting of businessman Thomas May and brewer Heinrich Beck. Obviously it’s the latter man’s surname that became synonymous with the beer (asking for a bottle of “Rutenberg’s beer” evidently would have been too much of a mouthful).

3. The Beck’s recipe has not changed since then

Right from the beginning, Beck’s was made in accordance with the “Reinheitsgebot” – the German Purity Law of 1516, which requires a beer o be made only from hops, malt, barley, and water. The hops are from the Bavarian Hallertau region, and the yeast is an exclusive strain to Beck’s.

4. So who owns Beck’s?

Beck’s was owned by the same German family until 2001, when it was acquired by Belgium-based brewing company Interbew for a princely sum of 1.8 billion euros. Then in 2004 Interbrew merged with AmBev to form InBev, which merged with Anheuser-Busch in 2008 to become Anheuser-Busch InBev. You follow all that?

The short answer is Beck’s is owned by the same company that owns around a quarter (and soon to be much more if its merger with SABMiller goes through) of the global beer market.

5. The Beck’s beer labels

We all know about the Beck’s arty label campaign, which features the work of talented artists on its beer labels. But did you know that in 2013 US drinkers of Beck’s filed a lawsuit that accused the German beer brand of being misleading?

According to the class-action suit, the beer’s packaging and label led people to believe that it was still made in Germany; not brewed under license in America. It resulted in Anheuser-Busch InBev settling the case for $20m in 2015, which meant people in the US could claim back up to $50 per household (with proof that they’d purchased the beer at a retail outlet). An estimated 1.7m households qualified for the settlement payments, but it’s unknown how many claims were filed before the period to file ended.





Bad wine. There’s so much good wine in the world that bad wine seems such an exceptional tragedy. But as we have all experienced at parties, receptions and your BFF’s ultra-cool gallery opening, bad wine does exist. Maybe there’s even a bottle or two of it in your kitchen that an unfortunate soul brought to your recent dinner party, with nothing but the purest of intentions (bless their heart).

But alas, this wine makes your left eye twitch just a little and it burns on the way down. Not cool. However, now you’re left with the regrettable task of dealing with this unpalatable bottle. It is booze, and it is in your house, so the idea of throwing it out is heartbreaking. Time to get creative. Use those brain cells! Or, just read below.


1. Wine Spritzer

Don’t laugh! Wine spritzers are delicious and the best part is, they’re easy. Granted, this works best with white wine (or rosé!) and sunshine, but we have to make accommodations for the suddenness of this leftover bad wine you have. Here’s what you need: about 3/4 of a glass of wine and the rest club soda. Serve over ice, with a wedge of lime, mint leaves or, if you have your fancy pants on, a dash of an artisanal aperitif like the amazing Imbue Petal & Thorn.

2. Mulled Wine

Now we’re talking warm wintery goodness, and also a good use for that leftover red. Any recipe for mulled wine you come across (like maybe this one) has a basic theme of fall flavors in a pot with some wine. So don’t get too nervous about having any exact ingredients on hand. Take your bottle of wine, dump in a large pot and add any combination of the following: apple cider, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, a rind or two of an orange, whole cloves, star anise, a splash of brandy or port, a bit of honey (if not using cider to act as a sweetener). Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes while you enjoy the smell wafting about your house. Perhaps pretend to be Betty Draper for a few minutes. Then enjoy your beverage while warm. Money.

3. Put a Penny in it

No, really. Now, this is a very specific situation we’re talking about here. If you have a bottle of red wine that smells remarkably like rotten eggs, onions, matches or skunks, swishing a penny around in the glass is an old winemaker’s trick for getting rid of this issue. These smells are called mercaptans, which is a five dollar word for issues. Natural byproducts of fermentation can get a little stuck in the wine’s aromatics. Many times they will go away on their own, but the copper in the penny will neutralize it. Make sure you’re using a penny that’s older than 1982, and give it a whirl.

4. A Kalimotxo

Call-ee-MO-cho. Sometimes it’s best to rely on pure simplicity, that which will never fail you. A Kalimotxo is a Spanish Basque country classic: red wine and cola, about a 50-50 ratio. Some claim adding a squeeze of lemon will brighten the overall palate of this no-frills beverage. Serve it over ice and put away your preconceived notions of what you think it might taste like. This could be the biggest pleasant surprise you’ve ever encountered. Side note: we suspect that this combination of hair-of-the-dog, carbonation and sugar may be a secret hangover cure. Let us know what you come up with.

5. Cook with it

If all else fails, save this not so great wine for cooking before you toss it. It will have endless uses: sautéed mushrooms & onions? Wine. A jar of spaghetti sauce? Wine. A turkey or chicken brine? Wine. Steak sauce? Wine. Are you sensing a pattern? Just don’t give up on that bottle. It will prove its use to you.

5 awesome beer day trips from coast to coast

Looking to get out of town for a brewery adventure, but don’t have more than a day? These itineraries have you covered.

Phoenix → Flagstaff → Prescott
Phoenicians’ need for a summer getaway is pretty much unparalleled, as temperatures reach surface-of-the-sun levels and even kiddie pools full of ice cubes do little to combat the scorching heat. Luckily, Flagstaff is a day trip away; its significantly higher elevation making it a (relatively) cool oasis. Once in town, beer seekers should hit up Historic Brewing Co.’s downtown Barrel + Bottle House outpost for a glass of cult favorite Piehole Porter, which was recently pulled back to a taproom-only release. Hungry? Fresh, substantial sandwiches from next-door Proper Meats can be ordered to the patio. Next, hit up The State Bar for a 30-tap draft list that rounds up the best of Arizona’s breweries. (You’ll also want to take a photo of historic Route 66, just across the street.) Other great stops in Flag include Hops on Birch, Mother Road Brewing and a final stop at Pay ‘n’ Take bar/beer shop for souvenirs. Add on to the trip with an additional stop in quaint, small-town Prescott, where you can visit renowned Superstition Meadery and Prescott Brewing Co. in the same block.

Tampa → St. Petersburg → Tarpon Springs
Tampa has its own growing beer scene, but it’s just a 30-minute drive across the bay to the southern end of St. Petersburg’s newly launched Craft Beer Trail, which runs north to south from Tarpon Spring to St. Pete. Start off at the legendary Cycle Brewing, ideally with a seat at a picnic table on the front patio. Draft offerings rotate constantly, but you can’t go wrong with any barrel-aged and flavor-spiked stout on the menu. Then it’s onward to Green Bench Brewing for 20 taps of brewer Khris Johnson’s creations; try the refreshing Les Grisettes if it’s available (if not, don’t fear, bottles are available yearround). En route to Tarpon Springs, make a detour to Rapp Brewing, an unassuming tasting room in an industrial strip of Seminole, Florida. Its location belies the top-notch stuff flowing from the 650-square-foot taproom, including a thirst-quenching gose. Onward to Tarpon Springs for pilgrimage to St. Somewhere’s new, (dare we say adorable?) taproom for a taste of brewer Bob Sylvester’s unfiltered, exquisite farmhouse beers. Definitely pick up bottles to take home.

Fish tacos at Aslan Brewing

Fish tacos at Aslan Brewing

Seattle → Bellingham → Skagit Valley
There’s obviously no need to leave Seattle if you’re in search of great beer. But if you want some laidback charm and pastoral views with your pint, you’ll have to hit the road. Drive north for about an hour to Farmstrong Brewing in Mt. Vernon, where you can cool down with Cold Beer pilsner and learn about the brewery’s goal of one day using 100 percent local malts. Then hop on Chuckanut Drive/State Route 11 for a scenic, water-views drive to Bellingham where a smorgasbord of great breweries await (watch for bicyclists). Refuel with grilled rockfish tacos and a glass of Disco Lemonade Berliner weisse in Aslan Brewing’s sunny brewpub, then revel in the tart and sour spectrum of offerings while catching rays on the patio at Wander Brewing. On your route home, swing by Chuckanut Brewery’s new Skagit Valley spot in Burlington, affectionately called South Nut; there you’ll find two outdoor seating areas surrounded by verdant lawn (and giant Jenga and cornhole games), a fishing pond and plenty of nearby farm stands to pick up a fresh snack for later.

Courtesy of Sloop Brewing

Courtesy of Sloop Brewing

NYC → Hudson Valley
Just an hour and a half (ish) from New York City, Hudson Valley is a scenic destination with a growing food scene. The agricultural focus has also lead to a boom in farm breweries, many of which are located just a half-hour’s drive from each other. Start the rustic exploration at Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon for a taste of easy-drinking, oak-fermented wild ales as well as dry-hopped IPAs and double IPAs (pick up some of the hoppy goods in cans, with barrel-aged sours in bottles debuting this summer as well). From there, head 30 minutes north to Plan Bee Farm Brewery in Poughkeepsie, whose mission is to brew with all in-state-grown ingredients, including many from the 25-acre farm itself. While the brewery’s taproom clears final licensing hurdles, Plan Bee has set up an event tent on hill from which they serve four draft beers and more than a dozen styles in bottles for onsite consumption or take away. Make sure to check hours before arriving; Plan Bee’s farmstand is only open to the public on weekends. Another 30 minutes’ drive north will get you to Suarez Family Brewery, an attention-garnering year-old outfit from a former Hill Farmstead brewer; if sitting in the sunshine drinking an unfiltered pilsner is your idea of a good time, you’ll find yourself in good company. If you still haven’t had your fill, Sloop Brewing is just a quick jaunt from Suarez and satisfies with all manner of IPAs, double IPAs and sour beers, plus live music on Sunday afternoons.

Chicago → Milwaukee
While this could technically constitute a road trip, it could also be accomplished as a rail trip: Amtrak operates 14 daily trains between Chicago and Milwaukee (12 on Sundays), with each leg lasting a leisurely 90 minutes. Milwaukee’s brewery scene has exploded recently; we won’t summarize all the new openings, but find them here in our recent Beertown: Milwaukee. In between brewery stops, you’ll want to make sure to check out the city’s beer bars, which are some of the best in the country. Start at Burnheart’s, where a formerly run-of-the-mill corner bar has maintained its Midwest hospitality but seriously upped its beer cred. Make sure you’re hungry for your next stop: Honeypie, a pie cafe with solid beer options (Milwaukee, we love you) where you can wash down a slice with a silky Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter or local favorite Bells Oberon. Then it’s an invigorating walk south along bustling Kinninickinnic Avenue to Palm Tavern, a small Bayview bar literally crammed with booze, including the best of regional and international beers as well as an impressive liquor back bar. Up for one more stop? End the tour at Romans’ Pub, a 20-plus-year-old Milwaukee beer institution, and a must for any first-time visitor.



What is it?

Hailing from the land of whisky, haggis and Irn-Bru, Scotch ale is a malty, rich delight of a beer that warrants looking into – especially if you’re suffering from craft beer fatigue.

Not to be confused with Scottish ale, Scotch ale is bold, complex and has abundant flavor. It also clocks in at a higher alcohol level; where Scottish ale hovers between 2.5 to 5.5 percent ABV, Scotch ale is typically bottled around a minimum of 6.5 percent all the way to 10 percent ABV. Needless to say, they pack a punch.

And although the name may conjure up visions of barrels and amber liquid served by the dram, these ales don’t taste like Scotch whisky. You won’t find peat or floral aromas in a glass of Scotch ale. They do, however, share a pleasant malt flavor, but more on that later.

You’ll also see Scotch ale described as “Wee Heavy” and the style dates back to the 19th century when this pale ale was first brewed. Its origins lie in Edinburgh and it represents a style of ale that was both common and quite popular during this period in time.

Traditionally, Scotch ales saw a long boiling period in the kettle. This caramelizes the wort and gives a pint of heavy its characteristic color, shades of copper ranging to an exquisite dark brown. This process also lends a slightly sweet flavor to the finished product. Malt, rather than hops, is the star here, and the result is significantly less bitter than many other beers you’ve probably tasted. The reason Malt is used is simply due to the fact that hops had to be imported to Scotland and it was much more practical to use the ingredients already on hand. Scotch ale is a closer relative to barleywine (another style of strong ale) than other pale ales like the ever-popular IPA.

The Shilling System

These categories first cropped up at the tail end of the 19th century and were based on the overall strength of the ale. The stronger the beer, the higher the cost as more taxes (aka duty) had to be paid and corresponded to the price of a hogshead during this time period. Here’s the breakdown:

Light – 60 shillings, for Mild ales of about 3.5 percent ABV.
Heavy – 70 shillings, slightly more robust and somewhat sweeter than Light. Usually between 3.5 and 4 percent ABV.
Export – 80 shillings. These were the classic Scottish ales of yore, which hovered around 4 to 5.5 percent ABV.
Wee Heavy (Scotch ales) – 90 shillings. Occasionally you’ll come across a Scotch ale label 90 shillings and these are at least 6.5 percent alcohol.

Ordering a Pint of Wee Heavy

Robust, generous and complex, Scotch ale is just the thing for the beer lover with a jaded palate. The maltiness gives this ale a whisper of sweetness yet you’d never call it truly sweet; the finish is without a doubt, dry. Caramel, toffee, the occasional hints of dried fruits and naturally, roasted malt all come together in Scotch ale. Since hops don’t play a major role in Scotch ale, this beer won’t have the characteristic bitterness of styles that are hop-heavy.

Do yourself a favor and serve it the right way. Scotch ale is best at a cool room temperature (the way you’d enjoy a Guinness or glass of red wine). Being from Scotland, it’s naturally served in a ‘thistle’ glass. In the glass, it takes on colors ranging from rich amber to brooding copper or chocolate brown.

Scotch ale is perfect for this time of year; warming, malty, with the suggestion of something sweet, it’s just the thing for those nights out braving the cold or a cozy night in with friends.