Craft beer consumption was way up in 2013 and it’s showing no signs of slowing down in popularity. Maybe you’ve tried a couple and want to dig a little deeper, or maybe you haven’t begun to explore it at all.
If 2014 is the year that you’d like to get more into craft beer, here are a few “New Beers Resolutions” you can consider trying:
➼ Visit a local bottle shop | More and more local retail locations are becoming craft beer destinations. Check out our map of some of the best L.A. bottle shops and give one a visit! If you aren’t sure what to buy, strike up a conversation with one of the employees and explain your curiosity; they should be able to steer you in the right direction and help you start finding what you do and don’t like.
➼ Visit a local brewery | Why don’t I have a map for this yet? Sorry. Will fix that ASAP. In the meantime, might I suggest a visit to one of any of our fine local breweries? Better yet, why not visit a few? Services such as LA Beer Hop will pick you up and shuttle you to several breweries around town, letting you sample their tasty wares safely and responsibly. Before visiting any brewery, find out if there are any scheduled public tours you can reserve a spot on; they can be very informative and tend to often conclude with a small, complimentary beer tasting.
➼ Order a “flight” of different beers | Most breweries—and just about any bar with a large number of craft beers on tap—that you visit will let you select a “flight” of beers to try. These are usually four or five different sample pours that you can either choose yourself, or it may be assembled by the staff to showcase variations on a certain beer or style of beer, to highlight a particular brewery’s offerings, or the like. This is a nice way to try several different beers without having to order several pints.
➼ Keep notes | Jot down what beers you’ve tried and what you did or didn’t like about each. If you’re a fan of keeping literal notes, Dave Selden’s 99 Bottles of Beer journals are designed specifically for helping you keep track of your hits and misses, with all kinds of sections to ensure you don’t miss any detail. On the digital end of the spectrum, Untappd is an excellent smartphone app that lets you “check in” to the beers you’re trying, with options to rate them, add notes, discover similar beers, comment on what friends are drinking, and more.
➼ Get a growler | Growlers are refillable glass jugs that breweries sell to consumers who like to get their beer fresh at the source. If you visit a local brewery frequently enough, a growler could very well save you some cash over time. After buying the growler, simply bring it into the brewery you bought it from and pay for a refill. It’s less expensive and far more eco-friendly than buying new bottles or cans each time, plus it comes straight out of a keg at the brewery, so you can’t get your beer any fresher! A half-gallon growler contains four pints—or just over five 12-ounce bottles’ worth—of beer, and should be consumed within 48 hours of getting filled.
➼ Try a beer pairing | At a restaurant and see suggested wine pairings on the menu? Talk to your server to see if they, or anyone at the bar or in the kitchen, can recommend a beer that would pair well with your meal. Cooking at home? Tell your trusty bottle shop employee what you’re making and see if they can offer up a few suggestions. For the DIY types out there, the Brewers Association has an excellent “Tips for Pairing” page and a helpful beer pairing chart on its website.
➼ Attend a beer event | Bars, restaurants, and breweries always seem to be holding a constant stream of beer-centric events all over town. While plenty aren’t particularly education-focused, many are! “Beer U” and “Beer 101” classes tend to pop up regularly, as do more advanced lesson plans. And while both gents and ladies can be found filling the seats at some of these classes, there is also a monthly Women’s Beer Forum at Eagle Rock Brewery for those females that are “tired of getting pigeon-holed into drinking the worst-tasting, syrupy-sweet, weak drinks that inevitably leave you wondering what people see in beer.”
➼ Learn about homebrewing | Because honestly, what’s cooler than making your own beer? Several nice homebrew supply shops and award-winning homebrew clubs are right here in our backyard, waiting for you to discover them so they can help you discover how much fun homebrewing can be! While theMaltose Falcons hold down court at the Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills, Pacific Gravity calls the Culver City Home Brewing Supply its home, and Yeastside Brewers—hang near Eagle Rock Home Brewing Supply.
➼ Read more about beer | Last but not least, you’re already doing the first part! Besides my weekly beer column here on LAmag.com, we’ve got some great local writers covering craft beer events and happenings, and you should absolutely check them out. In addition to several informative blogs—likeThe Full Pint, Beer Of Tomorrow, Beers In Paradise, Beer Search Party, Beer Guy LA, and our neighbor OC Beer Blog to name a few—there are also some free papers you’ll find in many beer bars and breweries. West Coaster, which I also write for, and Beer Paper LA are usually pretty easy to find, though Celebrator also gets some good distribution. We’ve got great beer coverage coming from LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. On the magazine front, Beer Advocate, DRAFT, All About Beer, and Imbibe are great resources. And if video is more your speed, check out beer geek podcast superstars New Brew Thursday!
➼ Write about beer | Done enough reading and want to start writing? Check out the L.A. Beer Bloggers Facebook group for fun, informative meet-ups and take a look at the fledgling North American Guild of Beer Writers. (I’m a fan and member of both!)