Why I treat beer like wine: One year anniversary of being able to drink beer legally

Photo+courtesy+of+Flickr+user+Naiserie.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Naiserie.

Approximately one year ago, I turned 21. This life occasion was particularly sweet because it meant that I could walk into a bar and order a beer – something that a select few 16-year-olds around the world do (THANKS FRANCE) and millions of others never do in their entire life. Whether or not you agree with 21 as being the appropriate age to imbibe select nectars, it is the law. My history with drinking is pretty unremarkable. I played beer-pong for the first time during junior year of high school (Heineken, I remember, a pretty blegh brew to start with). For my first two years of college I drank more, but not significantly. It was not until I turned 21 when I began to seriously seek out great beer. People still call me “Two-can Chuck” and my passion for tasting these different cans and bottles of beer has just skyrocketed over the past year.

For me, beer is the new wine. There are some people in this world who are professional wine experts and their knowledge regarding vineyards and fermentation is their utmost passion. I think beer is on a similar track. I feel empowered when I walk into a bar and examine a revolving list of beers written in chalk. Not because I’m an expert or because I want to get drunk, but because I really enjoy trying new beers. Each brew on a list has its own specific style, color, sweetness, bitterness, alcohol content and so much more.

Choosing beer is like watching different styles of basketball. For you it could be another connection (movies, dance, jazz, etc.)—some styles of hoops are more exciting than others with potent, fast-paced offenses. There are also slow, predictable styles. Some teams (breweries) are more consistent, some are always changing their players and some are just bad. Some teams have great uniform colors (think beer labels) and some play in big cities, others in smaller ones (where the beer comes from). One night you might be in the mood to watch the NBA and other nights college hoops may suit your fancy (established vs. less established craft breweries). BEER IS THE SAME WAY. IT’S AMAZING!

If you are just starting out as a 21 year old and want to get your feet wet in the brew world, here is my suggestion. The following advice will sound snobby because it is snobby. Beer is one of the only things in life I will admit to being a snob about. Okay, try to stay away from what everyone else drinks: PBR, Hamm’s, Blue Moon. Try to challenge your taste buds. Sample IPAs, brown ales, wheat beers, porters and stouts. There is so much variety. It takes a while to appreciate different beers, so if the first one doesn’t leave an impression, do not despair and try again another day. When I first began drinking beer, I could not stand Surly Furious (Surly is a great local brewery started by a Mac grad). Now this piney American Pale Ale is a favorite of mine.

Craft beer dabbling can also be a great way to support local businesses given the regional and urban nature of it. It is not easy to succeed in the craft beer business because of huge operating costs. Overall beer sales indicate that the craft brewery market only accounts for between 8 and 14 percent of total beer sales nationwide (538 Blog). While craft beer is on the uptake, massive multinational beer companies still dominate the U.S. market.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Naiserie.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Naiserie.

Now is the greatest time in WORLD HISTORY to be a beer aficionado. I challenge you to not settle for the norm and try some new brew in your first legal year of being able to drink alcohol. There’s a lot of variety out in the world and you don’t get the full picture from looking at billboards and television commercials. Instead of spending a Friday night ponging with Bud, try something new!