How To Drink Tequila, And Actually Enjoy It

Forget everything you know about tequila. Forget sugary 2-for-1 margaritas. Forget late night tequila shots and wrecked mornings, and forget the body shots you slurped off those nubile coeds while spring breaking in Cozumel…Hey! I said forget about it.

Because what we have here is Tequila’s redemption song, everything you need to know to enjoy what has quietly become America’s favorite liquor. So join us, dear reader, as we discuss how to find quality tequila, what style is right for you, and how to make the perfect margarita.

Tequila: How It’s Made And Why It Matters

To enjoy tequila, you first must find the right bottle. But to find the right bottle, you first must understand what’s inside.

What Is Tequila?

Tequila is a spirit made from the fermented sap of the blue agave. It’s produced primarily in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

What Is Blue Agave?

A large spiky plant that flourishes in the volcanic soils of southern Mexico. While it looks like a cactus, the agave is actually a succulent, a plant known for retaining water in its leaves in dry climates.

blue agave

How Does Blue Agave Become Tequila?

The blue agave takes 8-12 years to mature. When it’s ready, harvesters known as jimadors use a coa, a sharp blade attached to a long wooden handle, to remove the plant’s spiky leaves and sever its roots.

el jimador

What’s left after harvest is the pina. The core or heart of the plant can weigh up to 200 pounds and is packed with sap. The pinas are then roasted and steamed before having their juices extracted for fermentation. Each pina provides enough sap for 3-4 liters of tequila.

pina

Along with sap from the pina, yeast, bacteria, and spring water are added to the fermentation tank. After fermentation, the spirit must be distilled twice, per Mexican regulations.

The first distillation separates the alcohol. The beginning (head) and ending (tail) are discarded, removing ethanol and other toxins. The center stream (heart) is kept and distilled a second time to further purify the alcohol.

Finally, after one last filtering process, the tequila is crystal clear at 80-110 proof and ready to leave the still for either bottling or aging in barrels.

Why Does Any Of This Matter?: The Tale Of Two Tequilas

Tequila is produced in two primary styles. The first and one you’re likely familiar with is mixto tequila, which literally means ‘mixed’ tequila. This is your well tequila. Your Jose Cuervo. The stuff poured into bar shots and hidden beneath overpowering margarita mixes at TGI Fridays. Mixto tequila has one big problem: it’s only half tequila.

By law, tequila needs to be made from only 51% blue agave sugar. The remaining 49% can come from other sources, usually cane or corn sugar — cheap substitutes that not only dilute quality but, because you’re essentially mixing alcohols, also make for the notorious tequila hangover.

Now, the good stuff, the stuff many of us have never tried or even heard of is 100% agave and it makes all the difference in enjoying tequila.

100% Agave: What You Need To Know

There are no surprises with 100% agave tequila. Strict regulations ensure the alcohol is fermented only from the sugars of the blue agave and bottled within its production region. The heavy agave profile also makes for superior body, flavor, and aroma.

How Do I Know If A Bottle Is 100% Agave?

Tequila made from 100% agave will always be labeled as “100% de agave” or “100% puro de agave.”

Mixto tequila, however, is not required to be labelled “mixto,” and will just read “tequila.” So read the label closely. If you don’t see some iteration of “100% agave” somewhere on the front of the bottle, then you’re drinking mixto.

100 agave

Silver And Gold: What’s The Difference?

After distillation, all tequila is clear (silver) in color. It can be bottled right away and sold as ‘blanco’ tequila. Often, though, tequila is aged in charred oak barrels. Over time, the wood imparts a gold hue on the spirit as well as mellowing flavors of oak and vanilla, much like whiskey.

Generally, the darker the spirit, the longer it has been aged and the more the barrel impacts the flavor. (Note that mixto ‘gold’ tequila often isn’t aged at all, but just mixed with caramel coloring to give the impression of aging).

100% agave tequila is almost always classified as either blanco, reposado or anejo — labels determined by how long the spirit has aged. Here’s a breakdown:

Tequila Blanco

tequila blanco

Aged: 0-2 months
Color: clear
Flavor: sweet, floral and citrusy
Who might like it: Fans of gin, vodka, and other clear spirits

Tequila Reposado

tequila reposado

Aged: 2-12 months
Color: gold
Flavor: balanced; oak and vanilla mellow the sweetness of the agave
Who might like it: fans of clear spirits as well as fans of barrel aged spirits like bourbon and brandy

Tequila Anejo

tequila anejo

Aged: 1-3 years
Color: dark amber
Flavor: smooth and complex; smoked oak, vanilla, and caramel
Who might like it: fans of long aged spirits like bourbon and scotch

How Do I Drink Tequila?

You can sip all 3 styles of 100% agave tequila like you would a good bourbon. You can enjoy it neat in a white wine glass or on the rocks in a rocks glass. Of course, tequila also makes for some fantastic cocktails, most notably the margarita.

The Margarita

The margarita was born on the patio. It is sweet, citrusy, and pairs perfectly with grilled meats, Adirondack Chairs, and passing out in your daughter’s kiddie pool at 2 in the afternoon.

But let’s keep this general. The margarita is America’s favorite cocktail, and for good reason. Not only does it radiate summer vibes, but it’s customizable. Like yours extra sweet? Extra boozy? You can tailor the recipe to your personal preferences.

Here is everything you need to make a perfect margarita, including my go-to recipe.

Essential Ingredients

Margaritas are complex in flavor, yet deceptively simple. The whirlwind of salty, sweet, bitter and sour flavors comes from only 3 ingredients:

  • Tequila
  • Cointreau
  • Lime juice

However, because these ingredients make up the entire cocktail, it’s important to use quality stuff. Here’s what you need.

100% Agave Reposado Or Blanco Tequila

el jimador

There is more tequila in this cocktail than anything else, so make sure to use 100% agave. While anejo tequila is generally reserved for standalone sipping, both reposado and blanco are fantastic in margaritas. Use whichever you prefer.

Note: If you’re looking to upgrade to 100% agave without breaking the bank, El Jimador is a great value. It’s just a few bucks more than Cuervo and tasty enough to satisfy most casual margarita drinkers.

Cointreau

cointreau

Cointreau is a premium orange liqueur. While technically classified as a triple sec, it’s of much higher quality than other brands in the category. It’s made from sweet and bitter orange peels, which brings a vibrant and complex flavor that is worth the additional cost.

Lime Juice

If you’re drinking margs, you’re juicing limes. That’s part of the territory. But a lime squeezer, like this one, will make life as a home bartender much easier.

Optional Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Agave nectar

Kosher Salt

While not a necessary ingredient, you may want to consider salting the rim of your glass. Salt enhances flavor. It subdues the bitterness and brings out the sweet and sour flavors of the drink.

How to salt your rim:

  1. Pour kosher salt onto a plate.
  2. Use a lime wedge to line the rim of your glass with juice.
  3. Dip the glass into the salt and rotate. Then, with any sort of effort or skill, you will have a salted rim that looks much better than this one.

How To Salt A Rim

Agave Nectar

There are 2 perfectly acceptable reasons why you’d add agave nectar to your margarita:

  1. You prefer a sweeter drink. Adding agave nectar is a great way to naturally sweeten any cocktail.
  2. You prefer an easy-drinker. The margarita is strong. And if you add additional lime juice in an attempt to decrease alcohol content, you’ll end up with a bitter mess. But if you also add agave nectar to offset the increased bitterness, you’ll end up with a balanced, quaffable cocktail.

Proportions

Balance is the key to any good cocktail. For the drink to work, the ingredients need to be in proper proportion. After making hundreds of margaritas, I’ve settled on 2 recipes, a light and heavy version. Typically, I’ll make the heavys for me and my buddies, whereas my wife and her friends prefer the light version.

The Heavy

  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz lime juice

The Light

  • 1.5 oz blanco tequila
  • .5 oz Cointreau
  • 1.5 oz lime juice
  • .5 oz agave nectar

Always Shake, Never Stir

When making margs, always shake your ingredients. This will fill the liquid with air bubbles and give you a cocktail that’s fizzy and fluffy.

A few years ago, I bought this $10 shaker from Amazon and it has served me well. But if you don’t have a shaker, a protein shaker or leak-proof travel mug make great substitutes.

Serving

A few years ago, my wife got some margarita glasses for her birthday, so I figure since we have them, might as well use them. But you can just as easily serve over ice in a rocks or highball glass.

Putting It All Together

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • Kosher salt (for rim)

or

  • 1.5 oz blanco tequila
  • .5 oz Cointreau
  • 1.5 oz lime juice
  • .5 oz agave nectar

Directions:

  1. Salt the rim of a margarita glass
  2. Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice
  3. Shake for 15 seconds
  4. Strain into the glass and serve
  5. Repeat steps 1-4

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How To Buy The Perfect Bottle Of Wine

Well, hello there. Welcome. Come in, come in. Please, have a seat. Can I get you a drink? Some of this Cabernet, perhaps?

[Sniffs wine glass]

[Takes looong sip]

[Smacks lips]

Ohhhh yeah. That. Is. Good. Here, I’ll pour you a glass.

I must tell you something. It’s something I’m proud of. Something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. Are you ready to hear it? Okay. I learned how to buy wine.

I know, I know. Please calm down. I know you’re excited. I know you’re imagining what it’s like to walk into a liquor store and know how to find the perfect bottle, not to have to make decisions based on the sex appeal of a label, and not to have to ask some salesperson who will immediately start raving about the bottle with the highest markup.

Now, take a sip of this Cabernet. Fantastic, isn’t it? Tastes like a $100 bottle, right? HA! Hardly a fraction of that. How much, you ask. Let’s jump into it and I’ll tell you.

How Much Should I Spend On Wine?: The Magical Price Point

A lot factors into wine prices. Things like quality grapes, quality oak barrels, and experienced winemaking all increase price but have a direct impact on what you taste.

Then there are things like bottles, corks, shipping costs, taxes, and markups — things that impact price but not taste.

Finally, there is prestige. Things like demand — wine that has somehow become popular, maybe from a good review from a wine blogger — and location — wine from well-respected regions like Bordeaux, France. Prestige might impact taste, to a point. But it definitely increases price.

Now, clearly not all these things are worth paying for. And once you know how prices are established, you can pinpoint exactly where the value is, which happens to be right around $15.

$15 Marks The Beginning Of The Value Curve

Wine Prices

As you see above, $15 is the point where the highest percentage of your money goes to quality.

If you go too low, like a $3 bottle, and you deduct costs for supplies, taxes, and shipping, what’s left for quality? Not much, which is why cheap wine is often a mashup of inferior grapes with a ton of added sugar to hide the taste.

On the flip side, anything over $25 and you start to run into the law of diminishing returns. Quality can only go so far. It’s here where you’re paying for reputation and location.

$15 gets you a high-quality wine, without all the extras baked in. At this price, you’ll get an honest example of what a wine is supposed to taste like, which brings us to the next point…

$15 Is The Baseline For Terroir And Typicity

Are you ready for some fancy wine lingo you can use to impress your less refined and less cultured friends? Good.

Terroir — pronounced ter-wahr — is how a region’s climate, soil, terrain, and tradition affect the taste of wine.

Typicity is a wine that tastes ‘varietally’ correct. For example, a Merlot with typicity will taste like black cherry and berry — flavors indicative of the Merlot grape.

Why are terroir and typicity important? Consistency. As you drink more wine, you’ll develop tasting preferences. If you like the dark fruit flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon or the extra fruitiness of a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, you can trust that wine in this price range will have those flavors.

Look For Value Regions And Grapes

Napa Valley is notorious for its phenomenal Cabernet. Wine drinkers know it. I know it. Your mother-in-law knows it. And now you know it, too.

And because Napa Cab is so well-known, it costs more. Land costs more, relative to other regions, which increases production costs.

Also, wine makers can charge more. They know they can stick ‘Napa Valley’ on the label and people will still buy it.

In fact, wine from famous winemaking regions like Napa can cost 10 times more than wine from other quality grape growing areas.

The same logic applies to grape varieties. Chardonnay and Cabernet are two of the most popular varietals in the U.S. and because they’re in high demand, wine makers charge more for them.

This means you can find great values by venturing into the unknown. Find an offbeat varietal or a quality wine-making region that hasn’t yet entered the spotlight and you can get great wine for less. Here’s where to look:

Cabernet Sauvignon And Red Blends From Chile

Chile

Chile’s climate is perfect for red wine and because the country doesn’t have the prestige of Napa, you can get Chile Reds at an extreme value.

Petite Sirah From California

Petite Sirah

Another full-bodied red, Petite Sirah offers value over California’s more popular varietals like Cabernet.

Red Blends From The Douro Valley, Portugal

Douro Tinto

Portugal’s unknown grape varieties and inexpensive cost of living keep wine prices down. You might have to look a little harder, but a Douro Red (Douro Tinto) at the $15 sweet spot will be an extreme value.

Anything From The Columbia Valley, Washington

Washington State

Washington State is a great place for domestic value wines, both white and red.

Assyrtiko From Santorini, Greece

Assyrtiko is a citrusy medium-bodied white wine that can be found all over Greece. But of all the regions in the country, wine from the island of Santorini might be the most renowned.

Know Just Enough About Food Pairing

As a general rule, if you’re gonna have wine with dinner, you should consider it part of the meal. Much like how sides complement an entrée — fries and a burger, a loaded baked potato and a juicy T-bone, etc — wine and food should work together.

Now, because you have to know a lot about both food and wine to pull off restaurant-level pairings, we’re gonna focus on the basics. If you remember these 2 things, you’ll be just fine.

1. It’s All About Balance

Wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food. You don’t want one to overwhelm the other. Pairing bold with bold and light with light brings balance to your meal.

Prime rib smothered in garlic butter, for example, is bursting with fatty goodness. So you’d need a bold wine like Cabernet to stand up to all that flavor. But how do you determine what’s bold and what’s not?

For food, think fat content. The more fat, the ‘bolder’ the dish. A juicy rib eye? Bold. Lobster? Delicate. However, it’s important to consider the most prominent feature of the dish, which is usually the sauce. So lobster smothered in cream sauce calls for a bolder wine than would poached lobster tail.

For wine, think alcohol content and color. Wines over 13.5% ABV are usually bolder. Wines between 12.5% and 13.5% are medium bodied. And wines below 12.5% tend to be more delicate. For red wine, also consider the color. A darker Cabernet is bolder than a lighter Pinot Noir. You can also just follow this cheat sheet.

Wine Boldness

2. When In Doubt, Go With A Flexible Wine

If you’re bringing wine to a dinner and are unsure of the menu, your best bet is to grab a flexible wine. When you think flexibility, think acidity.

Wines high in acidity go well with food because acidity makes your mouth water; it makes you want to take a bite of food.

Here are 2 varietals that are high in cleansing acidity, making them two of the safest dinner wines around:

  • Pinot Noir (red)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (white)

Shop At Costco

Here are 4 reasons why Costco might be the best place to buy wine:

Costco has rock bottom prices. A good way to get great wine for less is to pay less for great wine. According to the New York Times, at Costco no wine is marked up more than 14%, and the average store markup is closer to 12%. Considering markups of 50% are common at other retailers, Costco offers massive discounts.

Costco stocks quality wine. Costco takes wine buying very seriously, researching and tasting wine from all over the world before deciding what to sell in stores.

Costco has a good but not overwhelming selection. By keeping its selection modest and only stocking quality wine, it’s easier for newbie wine buyers to walk out with a great bottle.

In some states, you don’t need a membership to buy liquor. These states include: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Texas, Vermont, and my lovely home state of Minnesota.

Install The Vivino App Right Now

If you do one thing after reading this post, install Vivino. It has absolutely changed my life and I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

Vivino is the perfect shopping companion for inexperienced (and experienced) wine buyers. After you install it, just take a picture of any wine label and the app returns a ton of super useful information, including…

Reviews, Average Rating, Average Price, And Region

Vivino Average Price


Highlights And Accolades

Vivino Highlights


Rankings vs The World And vs The Region

Vivino Rankings


Food Pairings And Serving Tips

Vivino Food Pairings


Information On The Grapes (Super Useful For Red Blends)

Vivino Grape Breakdown

Vivino then tracks all your wine ratings, identifies your tasting preferences, and can even offer personalized recommendations. Oh, and it’s free.

Drink With Friends And Family

The best wine I ever tasted was at a small vineyard in Napa Valley on a day so damn beautiful I wanted to bottle it up and bring it home to Minnesota.

But I often wonder how much of that enjoyment could be attributed to the sun and the mountains and the two Adirondack chairs my wife and I had pulled into the shade — factors entirely unrelated to taste. It turns out, quite a bit.

The satisfaction we get from drinking wine goes beyond what’s in the bottle. Our mood, the atmosphere, who we’re with, and background music all play a part in the wine drinking experience.

So go the extra mile. Wait until the kids are down and head out to the deck with your wife to enjoy the sunset. Do your research and learn about wine. Discover why a specific varietal tastes the way it does. Then discuss it. Wine is a journey, one best enjoyed with company.

Putting It All Together

We’ve covered a lot of information today, so here’s your cheat sheet before you go running off to the liquor store:

  1. Use $15 as your starting price point
  2. Keep an eye out for value regions and varieties
  3. For dinner wine, remember balance
  4. Shop at Costco
  5. Install Vivino
  6. Drink with friends and family

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How To Pack A Cooler And Keep It Cold For All Eternity

Summer is here, and there are many great things about summer: outdoor happy hours, BBQs, trips to the lake where you can crush 20 beers and take a long afternoon nap right there on the public beach, etc.

But summer isn’t all girls in skirts and bros in bro tanks, because the season also has one major problem: it’s hot. There is sunburn and eternal swamp ass and my uncanny ability to chest sweat through any shirt I wear.

Now, if you, like me, spend most of July and August trying to beat the heat, then I have some good news for you: just because you’re a hot, sweaty mess, it doesn’t mean your food and drink have to be. Today we’re gonna cover the secrets to packing a cooler and keeping it cold forevermore.

Chill The Cooler Before Packing

A cooler, by itself, doesn’t cool anything. It has no magical cooling powers. It just maintains temperature. So if you pull a cooler from your hot garage and immediately start packing, you’ll waste a lot of ice cooling the cooler itself. Instead, pre-chill your cooler using one of the methods below.

3 ways to pre-chill a cooler:

  1. Store it in a deep freezer overnight
  2. Fill it with a sacrificial bag of ice, then dump it right before packing
  3. Fill it with hose water

Freeze Or Refrigerate Food Items Before Packing

Again, to get the initial temperature of the cooler as cool as possible. If you’re packing for a multi-day trip, freezing Saturday’s pork chops will maintain cool temperatures within the cooler and also decrease the risk of the meat spoiling before you can eat it.

Use A Quality Cooler

rtic

 

An important rite of passage in every young man’s life is going out and buying a giant-ass premium cooler. At least that’s what I told myself when I blew $400 on RTIC coolers earlier this spring.

Anyway, rotomolded coolers like the one you see above contain up to 3 inches of insulation in the walls and lid. That, combined with one piece construction and a freezer-style gasket will keep ice for days.

Use Both Block Ice And Ice Cubes

Ice cubes create a large total surface area which will cool a cooler and its contents quickly and effectively. But block ice lasts and lasts and is therefore essential to your cooler’s longevity. You want to use both, and here’s how to do it…

Pack In Layers

How to layer items in a cooler; build from the bottom up:

How To Pack A Cooler

Fill It To The Top

One of the most important pieces of cooler packing is eliminating air space. Air pockets accelerate ice melt because the ice is wasted cooling the air. Therefore, it’s important to pick the right size cooler and fill any open space with ice cubes. If your top layer of food is lettuce or other vegetables you don’t want super cold, you can substitute the top layer of ice with a towel or anything to fill the space.

Keep It In The Shade

Even with an expert level packed cooler, it’s important to keep the cooler out of the sun. Ice can last twice as long when your cooler is in the shade.

Don’t Drain The Water

Water from the melted ice is still cold and will help insulate the remaining ice. Also, any water you drain will be replaced with air, which is not a good tradeoff.

Keep It Closed

For the same reason you don’t stand with the refrigerator door open, you’ll want to keep the cooler closed as much as possible.

Use A Two Cooler System

If you plan on crushing beer all day, it’s a good idea to keep drinks and food in separate coolers. That way, you can open the drink cooler to grab a beer every 20 minutes while everything else stays nice and cold, leaving you plenty of ice for your evening cocktail. And I’m pretty sure that, right there, is the key to a good summer.

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Sources

Rtic – Cooler Use and Care

Yeti – Maximizing Ice Retention

How to Read a Beer Label

Reading and understanding a beer label is about as simple and straightforward as cracking the nuclear launch code. Beermakers cover their bottles and cans in brewer’s slang, measurements, and acronyms that, to the thirsty consumer, don’t make a lick of sense.

But today, we’re putting to bed all mysteries surrounding the craft beer label. So the next time you walk into a your favorite bottle shop, you know exactly what you’re buying.

Making Sense of Brewer’s Slang

Those of us in the beer biz (FACT: I have a homebrew kit and am therefore considered ‘in the biz’) use brewer’s slang to describe beer styles and production methods. These terms are important to understand because they tell you a lot about how a beer will taste.

Bourbon Barrel Aged

If you like beer and bourbon, then you will love bourbon barrel aged beer. Barrel aging is the process of adding beer to used whiskey barrels. As it ages, the beer absorbs flavors from the wood and formerly residing spirit. Expect notes of caramel, vanilla, and even a little heat from the bourbon.

Dry Hopped

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops after beer has boiled and fermented. This doesn’t increase bitterness — hops produce bitterness only when they’re boiled. Instead, dry hopping impacts aroma.

Hops contain delicate oils that are often lost during the boil and fermentation. But since dry hops are added later in the beer making process, they retain these oils, producing a beer exploding with happy, hoppy aroma and flavor.

Imperial

The term imperial goes back to the 1700s when the Russian imperial court drank a special beer that was shipped from England.

To ensure the beer survived the trek across the Baltic Sea, English beermakers brewed a product that was big on alcohol content and hops, both which act as natural preservatives. The result was an inky black monster of a beer known as Russian Imperial Stout.

Continuing with that tradition today, modern beer makers apply the imperial label to anything bigger, stronger, hoppier, or boozier than the average beer.

Nitro

Nitro beers are carbonated with nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide. This results in a beer with a creamier, smoother mouthfeel.

Session

If you want to crush a 12-pack without blacking out, losing your pants, and ruining your daughter’s birthday party, then the session ale is for you.

Brewed to be low in alcohol content (no higher than 5%), session beer can be enjoyed over a period of time (or a session) while you maintain at least some of your sobriety and dignity.

Wet Hopped

Every August through September, hops are harvested, dried, and stored for use during the upcoming year. Since hops begin to deteriorate almost immediately after harvest, the drying process is essential to preserving them.

However, each harvest season, a handful of hops skip the kiln and instead go directly to breweries and into beer kettles. This beer, brewed with fresh, unkilned hops, is referred to as wet hopped.

Because unkilned hops retain all of their natural oils, wet hopped beer is notorious for its citrusy and earthy flavors. But keep your eyes open, because it’s only available during harvest season.

What Do All Those Measurements Mean?

ABV, IBU, SRM…S my D. What do these mean? And what do they say about your beer? Let’s find out.

Alcohol by Volume (ABV)

ABV is the measurement of alcohol content expressed as a percentage of total volume. So a 12 oz can of Miller Lite (4.2% ABV) contains ½ ounce of alcohol (4.2% of 12 ounces).

ABV varies based on beer style. Mass-produced domestic lagers like Coors Light and Budweiser range from 4-5% ABV, while bigger bodied beers like imperial stouts can contain up to 17% and higher.

International Bitterness Units (IBUs)

IBUs are often misunderstood. From a brewmaster’s standpoint, they are a measurement of the bitterness of a beer. But to a beer drinker, IBUs tell you little, if anything, about how bitter a beer will taste. I’ll explain.

Specifically, IBUs measure the amount of isohumulone found in a beer (isohumulone is the acid in hops that gives beer its bitter flavor). The unit of measure is parts per million and the scale begins at 0 — most domestic lagers contain about 10 — and extends, in theory, to infinity — the highest I’ve seen/tasted was this Triple IPA with 112.

But here’s the thing: because a beer’s overall flavor is made up of all its ingredients, two beers with identical IBUs can vary in both taste and perceived bitterness. For example, Founders Brewing makes an imperial stout that contains 75 IBUs, while its flagship IPA clocks in at 65. Even though the stout contains more bitter hop acid by volume, it’s big malt profile offsets some of the bitterness, making it taste less bitter relative to the IPA.

So to sum it up: IBUs measure actual bitterness, but because what we taste is perceived bitterness, they don’t always accurately indicate flavor.

Standard Reference Method (SRM)

SRM is the system used to measure the color of a beer. The scale ranges from 0 to 40, and as seen below, the higher the SRM, the darker the beer.

SRM Grid

Dates

To ensure customers drink fresh beer, many breweries apply date stamps to their bottles and cans. Typically, this stamp indicates either a) the shelf life of the beer or b) the packaging date.

The shelf life date, often expressed as ‘best by’ or ‘enjoy by’, provides a deadline for which the beer will maintain its freshness. Basically, if you won’t drink the beer before the date on the bottle, don’t buy it.

A packaging or ‘bottled on’ date, however, isn’t as straightforward because shelf life varies by beer style. While some beer can age for years — Read: How to Start a Beer Cellar, and Why — most of it should be enjoyed as fresh as possible. So as a general rule, drink your beer within 120 days from its bottling date, and always buy fresh and refrigerate.

Bringing it all Together: Beer Styles

The infographic below details some of the information we just covered as it applies to 9 popular American beer styles.

Note that characteristics vary wildly from beer to beer, even within the same style — an imperial IPA might have 3 times the IBUs and ABV of a session IPA, yet both are categorized as IPAs — so use this information as an average.

Beer Styles

 

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How to Get Hammered (Without a Hangover)

Did you get hangovers in college? Because I sure didn’t. I hopped from bed after a night of blacking out on $6 rum, and on 3 hours of sleep, powered through the day like a goddamn hurricane. I hit the gym. I hit the books. Sometimes I even volunteered for things. Then after a day spent existing as a contributing member of society, I bought more rum and did it all again. It’s hard to be hungover when you’re busy being a fuckin champion.

But times have changed, my friends. Today, a night out is followed by a day in the fetal position, swearing to anyone who will listen how I’m never drinking again and pleading with my daughter to just go to sleep so daddy can sleep, and if only for a moment, escape this nauseating hell that he drank himself into. Daddy’s so sorry, sweetie. Oh lord, how daddy’s sorry.

It’s not fair. I’m not looking for some miracle hangover cure (there isn’t one) or even to go out every weekend. All I’m asking is to get drunk at a responsible frequency and to not spend the next day sprawled under the toilet. I wanna have my Cake Vodka and drink it too. Is this too much to ask? Like, what’s the big fuckin deal?

The BFD: Alcohol vs. The Human Body

When you drink, alcohol travels down your esophagus and into your stomach, where it’s absorbed and carried to your bloodstream. From there, it has access to your entire body — including your brain — which has some interesting effects.

Alcohol Vs The Human Body

So the BFD is that because alcohol’s impact is so expansive, affecting the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, and central nervous systems, researchers have struggled to develop any resemblance of a hangover ‘cure’. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t hope.

The Plan: Getting Hammered Without the Hangover

This guide is intended to be the only hangover literature you will ever need — a collection of honest-to-god actual scientific hangover research and practical tips to applying it.

Most importantly, what follows actually works. It has returned to me the pleasure of waking up in my birthday suit while still being able to function like a human being. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all anyone really wants?

Plan and Prepare: Before Your First Drink

How To Prevent A Hangover

Alcohol works quickly — a shot of booze can reach your brain in as little as a minute. Because alcohol has an almost immediate impact on your body, hangover prevention begins prior to your first drink.

Prepare to Pee

Alcohol makes you pee. Ethanol, the primary alcohol in booze, decreases the release of vasopressin, a hormone that helps the kidneys absorb water. So instead of going back into the body, water is expelled through urine. This is the biology behind the broken seal phenomenon where, after a few drinks, you take a whiz, seemingly ‘breaking the seal’ and opening the floodgates to non-stop urination.

The problem with all this piss is that with it goes water, nutrients, and electrolytes necessary for your body to do, well, everything. Every nerve, muscle, organ, every cell needs water to do its job. Without it, you become dehydrated and can experience headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, and muscle cramps — symptoms strikingly similar to those of a hangover. The key to preventing these nasty symptoms? Hydration — building up your water and electrolyte supply before your first drink.

Food Before Booze

Food provides energy for our cells, muscles, and organs to properly function. Normally, the liver monitors energy levels and if needed, can release more in the form of blood sugar. But drinking interferes with this process because your body considers alcohol a poison and directs all energy into expelling it, even at the expense of other bodily functions.

So with your liver busy metabolizing alcohol, there’s nothing to keep your blood sugar from plummeting. A hearty meal before your first drink can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue due to your body working on an insufficient energy supply.

Help Your Liver With Emergen-C

Your poor liver is responsible for metabolizing 90% of the alcohol you consume (the remaining 10% is excreted via sweat, urine, and the breath). Metabolization begins when enzymes in the liver break down ethanol into acetaldehyde — a byproduct which unfortunately is 30 times more toxic than ethanol itself.

Typically, acetaldehyde is quickly metabolized into a less harmful compound. But when you drink a lot, this process gets bogged down, allowing toxic acetaldehyde to pile up in your system and having some pretty nasty effects on your body. Fortunately, the antioxidants and vitamins in Emergen-C can prevent some of this damage.¹

Maintain: The Pre-game

How To Prevent A Hangover

As the night wears on and your inhibitions wear down, it’s gonna get harder to make hangover healthy choices, especially if you’re going out. Here are a few pre-gaming tips before heading to the bar.

Drink Tito’s (Skip the Whiskey)

When it comes to hangovers, not all booze is created equal. Studies have shown that dark spirits produce more intense hangovers than clear spirits due to their increased levels of chemicals called congeners.

Congeners are byproducts of the fermentation process and give dark spirits like red wine and whiskey their rich and delicious flavors. The problem is most congeners are toxic and our bodies struggle to process them. Bourbon and other barrel aged spirits have an especially high congener content, estimated at 37 times that of vodka.

So if you’re drinking for effect, it’s probably best to something clear like Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which is distilled 6 times (further removing congeners and impurities) and made right here in America. Fuck yeah.

Continue to Snack and Hydrate

Adding appetizers and water to your pre-gaming routine will help maintain blood sugar and electrolyte levels.

Bend Don’t Break: The Bar

How To Prevent A Hangover

I’ve discovered an unmistakable correlation between hangover severity and the number of poor choices I make at the bar.

Inhibitions burned from pregaming, I’m easy prey for the blonde in short shorts selling neon shots in plastic test tubes. I’ll take 5.

And no, dude I don’t need another shot of tequila but…you’re goddamn right I’ll do one because this is the best night ever and I love you, man and everything is just so great.

If you’re not careful, a few hours at the pub can derail all the good work you’ve done up to this point.

Stay Out of the Well

You might have heard that cheap booze makes you sick. It turns out, there is some truth to this. Since lower quality hooch is produced using lower quality ingredients and processes, a relatively larger amount of impurities, toxins, and congeners end up in the final product, meaning there is also some truth to ‘you get what you pay for.’

Don’t Smoke

Cigarettes are filled with toxins, including acetaldehyde. So smoking when you drink only adds to the pile of crap your body has to process.

Switch to Water

You’ve done some good work getting drunk tonight. Now, do yourself a favor and ride that buzz through bar close.

Replacing those last few cocktails with water will not only help replenish lost fluids but also save you a couple hours of misery in the morning.

Because unlike the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, which varies based on several factors — height, weight, sex, food in the stomach — the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol is fairly consistent (averaging about 1 drink per hour, regardless of body type).

So for every late night cocktail you forego, you will save your liver one hour of work, and it will be one hour sooner you get to return to normalcy.

Rest and Recovery: The After Party

How To Prevent A Hangover

Nothing good happens after 2AM. And while blasting bro country and partying-on seems like a bullet proof idea at the time, it is instead one you will almost certainly regret.

While you sleep, your body will be working overtime to process alcohol and its byproducts. The best thing you can do is stock up on some key ingredients and get to sleep to start the recovery process.

Eat, Hydrate, and Take Another Dose of Emergen-C

Food will prevent your blood sugar from crashing overnight, and Gatorade or Emergen-C will start replenishing lost nutrients and electrolytes.

Take Ibuprofen (But Not Tylenol)

Ibuprofen might be one of the most effective ingredients of hangover prevention. Studies have shown that drinking induces an inflammatory response, likely due to cell and tissue damage caused by acetaldehyde and other toxins. Therefore, a simple pain killer like Motrin or Advil can help to relieve those nasty migraines and body aches.

But don’t take Tylenol because the active ingredient, acetaminophen can cause liver damage when combined with alcohol.

Take a Multivitamin (Ideally One With Selenium)

Drinking is associated with low levels of selenium, and selenium deficiency is associated with mood changes, anxiety, and depression. This might explain my curious urge to crawl into a storm sewer and die anytime I’m hungover and Sunday evening rolls around.

Get Comfortable

Alcohol’s interference with brain activity can deregulate your sleep cycle, which can prevent you from reaching stages of restful and restorative sleep. While there’s not much you can do about that at this point, you can at least control your external environment.

Sleeping in a bed would be a good start. So if you can, cab home. If not, find somewhere dark and quiet like a downstairs bedroom. But know that passing out in your jeans underneath a buddy’s pool table is gonna put you at a terrible disadvantage tomorrow morning.

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Notes

¹The Benefits of Emergen-C

Antioxidants for Oxidative Stress
The metabolism of alcohol creates free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can damage cells like proteins, fats, and DNA. Even worse, alcohol consumption reduces the level of antioxidants, micronutrients that help prevent and stop damage from free radicals. This imbalance — the increased production of free radicals and the inability to remove them and repair damage — is referred to as oxidative stress and can kill cells. Supplementing antioxidants, however, can defend the body against oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals before they can cause damage. Emergen-C contains the antioxidants zinc, manganese and vitamin C.

B Vitamins for Metabolism
B vitamins are important for metabolism. Emergen-C contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12.

Electrolytes for Dehydration
Emergen-C also contains electrolytes and other nutrients that will inevitably be lost during your upcoming binge.


Sources

http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=489250

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01966822

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-4/277-284.htm

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-4/307-316.htm

http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/0006-3223(91)90251-G/abstract?cc=y=

http://www.chemistryviews.org/details/ezine/1080019/Chemistry_of_a_Hangover__Alcohol_and_its_Consequences_Part_3.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20712594

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201110/selenium-and-the-brain

How to Make a Manhattan

I like playing home bartender. I like hosting guests and then insisting those guests let me make drinks. If one declines, I insist harder — I’m like my grandmother offering leftovers. Then, once they inevitably accept, I skip to the liquor cabinet, and using fancy bar tools, mix a round while secretly pretending I’m Tom Cruise in Cocktail.

I think, mostly, guests enjoy these drinks. But even if they don’t, at least I’ve mastered some pretty damn good cocktails, and today we’re going to cover my favorite: The Manhattan.

The Ingredients

Manhattan Cocktail

1. Bulleit rye

The first thing you’ll need is some rye whiskey, and since the Manhattan is 66% hooch you’ll want a brand that doesn’t suck. Luckily, quality comes cheap. Bulleit rye is delicious and runs about $20.

2. Martini and Rossi – Rosso Sweet Vermouth

Vermouth (pronounced ver-mooth) is a fortified wine (wine spiked with a spirit, in this case brandy). It’s sweet and floral notes accentuate the flavors of the whiskey.

Since vermouth has a wine base, it has a short shelf life. Buy the small bottles, refrigerate after opening, and enjoy within a month.

3. Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Bitters are a high-proof alcohol infused with fruit, herbs, and other flavor-packed ingredients. They help balance the cocktail.

Characterized by its oversized label, Angostura is the most recognizable brand in the bitters business and should be available at most liquor and grocery stores.

4. Maraschino cherries

Not a true ingredient per se, it’s not a dealbreaker if you don’t use cherries. However, they make a nice garnish and are a good after drink snack once they’ve absorbed a bunch of booze.

5. Ice sphere/cubes

While the Manhattan is traditionally served up (in a Martini glass, no ice), I prefer drinks on the rocks. But to prevent melting ice from diluting a beverage, I use ice spheres instead of cubes. You can get the molds here.

The Assembly

  1. Combine in a rocks glass:
    • 3 ounces Bulleit rye
    • 1.5 ounces vermouth
    • 3 dashes bitters
    • Ice
  2. Stir and let chill
  3. Garnish with a cherry and serve

Bonus: When to Enjoy a Manhattan

Since a Manhattan is all booze, it works fast and can quickly and sufficiently bring you great happiness. It has served me well in the following situations:

  • After a long day at the office
  • Before an awkward social event
  • During fantasy playoffs
  • During NFL playoffs
  • When the season’s on the line and it’s only 27 yards but it’s wide left
  • When your quarterback wrecks his knee 10 days before the start of the following season
  • When God hates your pitiful purple franchise SKOL!

5 Delicious Ways to Drink a Ginger Beer

I can’t recall the last day I’ve went without alcohol. And while some may call this an alcohol problem, I consider it an accomplishment. Anything, when done everyday, requires incredible willpower and persistence.

The secret to my unwavering consistency? I keep things fresh. To avoid burnout, I rotate cocktails based on the season, and summer is no exception.

Crafting a quality summer drink is easy and requires only two components. It must be a) refreshing, because I’m hot and uncomfortable, and b) light, due to the season’s increased risk of my fatass having to be shirtless in public.

Now, if you, too, want a light and refreshing cocktail, then do I have a treat for you: ginger beer!

Ginger beer boasts a fresh, sweet, and spicy profile that pairs perfectly with climbing dew points and sunburnt manboobs. But what really sets ginger beer apart is its universal nature. So regardless if you’re a bourbon, or rum, or a vodka, or (God forbid) a tequila drinker, there is a ginger beer cocktail with your name on it.

How do you make these cocktails? And just what in the hell is ginger beer? Let’s find out.

What is Ginger Beer?

Ginger beer is a bolder, tastier, and in the humble opinion of this blog, better in every way ginger ale.

Beer vs ale: What’s the difference? Ginger beer, like beer and wine, is fermented, while ginger ale, like other soft drinks, is artificially flavored and carbonated. Let’s take a look at a side by side comparison.

Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale

Why do these differences matter? Fermentation gives ginger beer a stronger, spicier and more natural profile, allowing it to contribute flavor to a cocktail, as opposed to just diluting the proof of a spirit to make it palatable — which usually is the purpose of any soft drink mixer.

Ginger Beer

Is ginger beer alcoholic? Sometimes. Traditionally, ginger beer was brewed using ginger, sugar, water, and a starter culture known as ginger beer plant. The final product weighed in at about 11% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Today, however, production has changed. While some ginger beer is still brewed, most breweries halt fermentation early to keep alcohol content under .5% (the maximum ABV permitted by the FDA for a beverage to be classified as non-alcoholic). But fortunately, brands like Crabbie’s still make the alcoholic stuff.

Which brand of ginger beer should I buy? The increase in commercially produced ginger beer has unfortunately come at a cost of quality. If you’re not careful, you can buy a beverage with a ginger beer label that’s nothing more than ginger flavoring and high fructose corn syrup.

Fortunately, we here at The Millennial Man have researched nutrition labels and completed a taste test. And while personal preference will undoubtedly vary, I feel comfortable recommending the following 3 brands.

Crabbie’s
Crabbie’s is widely available and contains alcohol, and everything is better with alcohol. While Crabbie’s can be enjoyed right from the bottle, you might want something bolder to use as a mixer. So for cocktails, we recommend…

Fever Tree
An award winner and fan favorite among ginger beer aficionados, Fever Tree is known for its natural flavors and use of 3 different types of ginger. Also available in a light version, Fever Tree is easy on the stomach…so to speak.

Q Ginger
Another high quality beverage with natural ingredients.

Where can I find ginger beer?

  • Health food stores
  • Liquor stores (often in the mixer section)
  • Amazon

5 Delicious Ginger Beer Cocktails

It’s time to put your newfound knowledge to use. Here now are 5 Millennial Man tasted and approved ginger beer based cocktails. Enjoy.

Kentucky Mule

Kentucky Mule

Ingredients
– 2 ounces bourbon (we recommend Four Roses Small Batch)
– 4 ounces ginger beer
– 1/2 ounce lime juice
– ice

Instructions
1. Fill a rocks glass with ice, lime juice, bourbon, and ginger beer
2. Stir
3. Serve

Smashed Mule

Rye Mule

Ingredients
– 2 ounces rye whiskey (we recommend Bulleit)
– 4 ounces ginger beer
– 1 ounce orange liqueur (we recommend Grand Marnier)
– 3 mint leaves
– ice

Instructions
1. Add mint and orange liqueur to a rocks glass
2. Muddle
3. Add rye, ice, and ginger beer
4. Stir
5. Serve

Dark and Stormy

dark-stormy

Ingredients
– 2 ounces dark rum (we recommend Gosling’s Black Seal)
– 3 ounces ginger beer
– 1/2 ounce lime juice
– ice

Instructions
1. Fill a highball glass with ice, rum, ginger beer, and lime juice
2. Stir
3. Serve

Moscow Mule

Moscow Mule

Ingredients
– 2 ounces vodka (we recommend Tito’s)
– 4 ounces ginger beer
– 1/2 ounce lime juice
– ice

Instructions
1. Fill a glass or Moscow Mule mug with ice, vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice
2. Stir
3. Serve

Ginger Beer Margarita

Ginger Beer Margarita

Ingredients
– 2 ounces tequila (we recommend El Padrino Reposado)
– 3 ounces ginger beer
– 1 ounce lime juice
– 1 sugar cube
– 1 splash of water
– salt for the rim
– ice

Instructions
1. Line a margarita glass with lime juice and dip in salt
2. In a mixing glass, muddle sugar cube, water, and lime juice
3. Add tequila, ginger beer, and ice to mixing glass
4. Stir
5. Strain into margarita glass
6. Serve

How To Start A Beer Cellar, And Why

Below my basement stairs, cloaked in the mystique of this shitty old St. Louis Blues throw blanket, lies a treasure of such magic and wonder that it rivals Narnia’s wardrobe, the Indian in the cupboard, or any other super-awesome household secret.

Cellar2

Behold! A beer cellar!

Cellar1

Now, for those thinking that’s no beer cellar, I promise you it is and will prove it shortly. But let us first begin at the beginning, which is why have a beer cellar at all.

I Want My Beer Now. Why Should I Age it in a Cellar?

Like many of you, I was always told the best beer is a fresh beer, and mostly this is true. Take this ‘Enjoy By IPA’ for example.

Enjoy

Stone brewing is so adamant this beer—bottled on 1.10.16—be drunk fresh, they named the thing after its drink by date then planted ENJOY BY 2.14.16 right on the label. Why stress freshness? Because it’s a hoppy beer.

Hop compounds, just weeks after a beer is bottled, begin to deteriorate, which means so do the citrusy, bitter, and floral notes so prominent in delicious IPAs. So with any hop heavy beer, time is the enemy. That’s why IPAs should, with few exceptions, be consumed fresh, and to impede the inevitable loss of character, stored cool.

Now let’s look at a much different label.

best-after-zoom-in

A best AFTER date? The shit is this? Bottled on 12.8.15, why would any brewer recommend that an entire year lapse before consumption? Because the RIGHT beer, when rested gently in a beer cellar, ages beautifully like fine wine and J. Lo.

That harsh, boozy taste commonly found in young stouts transforms into savory chocolate and toffee. Complementary flavors, once barely discernible, come forward to create new and exciting profiles. And malt monsters, once imbalanced and one-dimensional, meld into a velvety bouquet of such complexity that I would drink that shit off the floor of a Wal Mart bathroom.

Of course, to attain these awesome results, you can’t just toss a 30 rack of Busch in a closet and keep the door shut for a year. First, you need the right beer.

How to Determine a Beer’s Cellaring Potential

Beer, when exposed to time, must withstand a litany of chemical reactions, one of which is oxidation.

Oxidation, an oxygen based reaction resulting in the change of flavor, is always occurring in beer. While certainly responsible for its share of unfavorable results—like the degradation of hop compounds—oxidation can create some absolutely delicious flavors when it reacts with the right beer. But if you age some feeble-bodied lager, oxidation will eat him alive. Only the strongest, fullest, biggest dick-swinging beers can survive the cellar. Here’s what it takes:

1. High alcohol content (8% ABV and up). The aging beer mustn’t be rushed. The chemical reactions responsible for flavor improvement take time. Alcohol, acting as a preservative, regulates the process, moving things along at just the right pace.

2. Lots of malt. Malt is the lifeblood of beer; it’s the processed grain that supplies the sugars which the yeast converts to alcohol. A beer with a big malt profile outlasts the yeast, resulting in residual sugars after fermentation. Another negative effect of oxidation is that it causes beer to thin. These leftover sugars battle oxidation during aging, allowing beer to sustain its full body.

3. Dark color. Before reacting with yeast to create alcohol, malt begins as raw grain. Grain only becomes malt after undergoing a process called malting (makes sense). Kilning, a step in the malting process, heats the grain and stops germination. When kilned at a high enough temperature, the grains actually become roasted. Roasted malt gives dark beer its dark color and usually is a sign of big, rich flavor (think dark roast coffee), and these flavors age well. Now, not all dark beers belong in the cellar, but a big roasted malt profile is usually a good sign.

The Very Best Beer Styles For Your Cellar

Imperial Stout

Imperial

Imperial (extra strong) stouts go big on everything—roasted malt, sweetness and alcohol included. With so many delicious options, availability and variety make stout my favorite cellar beer.

Aging qualifications

  • Big roasted malt bill
  • Plenty of residual sugars
  • High ABV

Aging profile

  • Roasted malt creates sherry and caramel flavors
  • Dark chocolate notes develop
  • Boozy flavor mellows

Recommended aging period

  • 1-2 years

English barley wine

idiot

Patrick Dawson, in his phenomenal book Vintage Beer, calls English barley wine “the grandaddy of all vintage beers.” Intended to be cellared, these beers are brewed to maximize the benefits of aging.

Aging qualifications

  • Big on both malt and alcohol
  • Plenty of residual sugar
  • Built to age

Aging profile

  • Toffee and caramel flavors develop
  • Boozy flavor mellows
  • Fruit and candied notes emerge

Recommended aging period

  • 4-8 years

American barley wine

Bigfoot

The American barley wine is generally hoppier than the English version but is also cheaper, easier to find, and still a great cellaring candidate.

Aging qualifications

  • Available and inexpensive
  • High ABV
  • Big malt profile

Aging profile

  • Melds over time, improving complexity
  • Boozy flavor mellows
  • Sherry notes develop

Recommended aging period

  • 1-3 years

Sour

folie

If you have yet to experience the funk of a sour beer, you certainly should. With so many big, bold flavors, a stint in the cellar creates the perfect complexity.

Aging qualifications

  • High acidity acts as a preservative
  • High in residual sugars

Aging profile

  • Sweetness develops to complement sourness
  • Acidity mellows increasing complexity
  • Toffee and caramel flavors develop

Recommended aging period

  • 1-3 years

Start Today: 5 Beers You Can Buy Right Now

Many cellar-worthy beers are hard to find. The Abyss (the beer with the best after date) is offered in limited quantities. The bottle shop I frequent sold out within hours. Since this kind of exclusivity won’t do the startup beer cellarer any good, here now are 5 beers that I have purchased in the last 2 months and that would make an excellent foundation for any new cellar.

Note: I did my shopping in December and January in Minnesota, so availability may be subject to season and region. But like I said, I didn’t have to wait in line, or get on a list, or mug some poor sap in a parking lot to obtain a bottle.

cellarbeer

How to Create a Beer Cellar

With your shopping done, it’s time to cellar your beer! You’ve probably realized from my blanketed abomination pictured above that starting a beer cellar requires very little. In all likelihood, the perfect cellar is somewhere in your house right now, waiting to be stocked with delicious beer. How exciting! All you need is an area with these 3 basic (but important) characteristics:

1. Cool and consistent temperature. Beer and heat don’t mix, and storing beer too cold, like in a refrigerator, impedes the aging process. Target an area close to the ideal cellar temperature of 55℉.

My cellar, in an unfinished basement, hovers between 54 degrees in the winter and 60 in the summer. This small change over six months is nothing to worry about, but do avoid subjecting beer to frequent and aggressive temperature fluctuation.

2. Away from sunlight, or bright fluorescent lighting, or any other lighting for that matter. The only thing beer hates more than heat is light—light being the culprit of skunked beer. While my basement stays cool, it gets a lot of sun, hence the ultra high-tech, UV-blocking Blues blanket.

3. Enough space to store beer upright. Wine is cellared horizontally to keep the cork moist and prevent oxygen from entering the bottle. Beer, regardless if it’s corked or capped, should be stored vertically so yeast sediments settle to the bottom of the bottle.

Now What? How to Get the Most From Your Beer Cellar

Serve at cellar temperature or slightly chilled. If served too cold, you’ll miss out on the big flavors and complexity.

Track your cellar. The bigger your cellar becomes the harder it is to track, and certainly you don’t want to forget about anything. I use google docs, so I can take inventory at a glance, and because I am a compulsive prude. Here now is example 1A.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 5.35.37 PM


Read labels. Brewers know best. Cellaring and serving recommendations are often right on the label.

Join a forum. Want a general idea as to how a certain beer will age? Let someone experiment for you. The aging forum on BeerAdvocate is a great place to start.

Try a vertical. Recently I participated in a four year vertical tasting (same beer, different ages) of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and then instagrammed photographic proof, informing all the world of my coolness. Anyway, a vertical is the best way to experience the true effect of aging on a beer. It just takes a few years to assemble.

IMG_5839

Share with friends. Invite a buddy over. You can inundate him with details on the beer’s characteristics and how you acquired it. Then let him take a sip while you watch eagerly for his approval. Sooo, Greg, whaddya think? Good, right?