Nathan Berrong works at CNN's satellite desk and this is the first installment of his beer column. Drink up.
I just popped the cap off of a Terrapin Coffee Oatmeal Stout (or a “Wake 'N' Bake” to the beer savvy) and poured it into my favorite glass. I’m hoping it will give me some clarity and inspiration to write about one of my favorite topics – beer.
I can talk about beer for hours. I can talk about how beer always seems to taste a little better if you’re around good people or how some of the most respected beer in the world is brewed by Trappist monks, whose entire life consists of silence, prayer, and brewing phenomenal beer. I can go on about how certain beers taste better if you try them years after they’ve been bottled or kegged and how you haven’t really experienced a good stinky blue cheese until you’ve washed it down with a creamy stout. I can muse on how I don’t remember what the inside of the Basilica of the Holy Blood looks like, but I can distinctly recall the look, the smell, and the taste of what I had to drink at 't Brugs Beertje, one of the most renowned pubs in the world, also located in Bruges.
I can talk about beer, not because it tastes so damn good (which it does), but because of what it brings out in me. It incites adventure, in the form of traveling to beer destinations and creativity when I try new and different styles and end up being inspired by them. It fosters community, as nothing quite brings people together more than a shared brew and motivates as I’m always ready to cut the grass or climb into the attic when I know a beer is waiting for me upon finishing.
Talking about it is very easy for me. Writing about it, well, here goes.
Apart from adolescent partying, I didn’t really start to drink beer until my late college years. While my friends were buying the cheapest beer possible, I was drinking “classier” beers like Guinness and Bass. Not only was I making a statement with my juvenile “I’m different than you” snobbery, but I also genuinely liked the beer I was drinking. I didn’t have to develop a taste for it like my friends did with their watered-down lagers; the beer I was drinking was already good. What started out as a statement of originality ended up turning into one of my biggest passions in life: drinking good beer and helping others discover it.
It might sound a little silly to those not familiar with the good, or "craft" beer culture of today, but I am passionate about beer the same way people obsess over wine, Nascar fans get psyched for the next Sprint Cup Series, or my wife delights in finding that perfect antique piece for our home. Everyone has a hobby and mine is beer. I plan vacations around beer. I collect beer glassware and (unopened) vintage beer cans. I even have this crazy dream that one day I’ll make a career out of it. But for now, I’ll just talk with you.
Good beer, is almost like a precious little secret that only a select few know about. That “select few” accounts for less than 5% of all beer consumption in the United States. The other 95% is the beer you see in Super Bowl commercials, in grocery store aisles, and at college frat parties. Ya know - the brands that everyone knows about, even the teetotalers. These brands do not need a megaphone.
I want to talk about the other kind of beer, the kind that could use a little exposure. The “secret” beer. As is the case with most secrets, some people want to keep it a secret, and some people want to tell everyone they know. I fall into the latter, because when it comes to beer, the more people that know about the complexity, the flavor, and the diversity of it, the better for all of us.
The craft beer industry is booming right now. The Brewers Association, the most reputable source for beer-related information, lists 1,753 breweries that were active in the US in 2010 – the most ever since the late 1800s. While the overall volume of beer sales fell by 1% in 2010, craft beer volume was up by 11%.
These craft beers include beers that ferment spontaneously in open air which give them a desirable sour taste, Quadrupel style beers that taste like caramel raisins, Russian Imperial Stouts that look like motor oil, Double IPAs that will destroy your taste buds - in a good way and Rauchbiers that smell more like bacon than beer. I’ll write more about the 100+ styles of beer in the future, but for now, this should be a good starting point. Or rather, stopping point.
As I finish up this introduction, I’m simultaneously finishing my last sip of my favorite beer, the aforementioned, Wake 'N' Bake. It must have worked, because now I have an empty glass and the first installment in my column.
I’d like to know what you think. Leave a comment below and let me know what your favorite beer is as we explore this vast world of beer together.
Peace and cheers to you and yours!
Beer nerds can find me on Untappd
I am unfortunately dry for 7 weeks now as I am trapped in Afghanistan however, I have the fortune of living in what I call the beer and coffee capital of the world…Washington. Living in downtown Tacoma gives me the ability to try a new beer every day and enjoy coffee on every corner. Little did I know one day that my life would be changed forever when I had my two favorite beverages in the same glass. Coffee Oatmeal Stout. If you like beer and you see this on a menu anywhere I recommend you try it.
Great article. Looking forward to more in the future. I often can be heard saying,"I'm not rich but I do make enough to enjoy a decent beer." I'm thinking a sixer of Bell's Two Hearted Ale might be in my near future.
Just discovered your new blog Nathan – always excited to find good writing on beer. How can we entice you to come to Midwest?? Many great spots worth checking out in Michigan ...Mount Pleasant Brewing Company for starters, right smack in middle of mitten! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mount-Pleasant-Brewing-Company/142987668139
Just learned of your blog and read the first two installments. Great stuff! I'm a homebrewer/beer evangelist/BJCP judge and I love all things beer. Too many good beers to pick a favorite I'd say however. Beers that have a special place in my heart though include Oskar Blues G'Knight (formerly Gordon Ale), New Glarus Belgian Red, Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Rogue Double Mocha Porter, anything Bourbon Barrel Aged and many, many more.
Looking forward to future writings. Cheers!
nice job Nathan. you seemingly took the thoughts right out of my head! it will be great to share our "revolution" with the rest of the world!
as for my favorite beers, that's a tough one. so many great beers across so many styles to narrow it down to just a few. Pliny the Elder is always part of the discussion and I generally regard that beer as my favorite. others that always immediately come to mind are Three Floyd's Alpha King, Half Acre Daisy Cutter, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Alesmith Speedway Stout, Harpoon Leviathan Baltic Porter, Ska Modus Hoperandi, Short's Huma Lupa Licious, Dogfish Head Indian Brown, Allagash Curieux, Monk's Cafe, Westmalle Tripel and Saison Dupont. I'm sure I could list a few dozen more if I really put my mind to it!
anyway, looking forward to reading your work. will you be doing various style profiles or also covering other aspects of the beer industry and culture, such as brewery/brewer profiles, business and legal/regulatory issues and possibly even beer and food pairings?
Great article! "Picking a favorite" is no easy task. I love so many, and styles can be so vastly different. I love the "dark fruits" of Belgian Quads, and I had the great fortune of splitting a bottle of Trappist Westvletern 12 with a good friend of mine once. I love the dark roasty tones and creamy/chocolate/coffee notes of a big stout or porter. A local brewpub near me called Rivertowne does a great chocolate milk stout. Founder's Breakfast Stout and Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Aphrodisiaque also come to mind. But for me? I'm a hophead. I love big, bitter, grapefruity west coast IPAs like Stone Ruination and Green Flash West Coast IPA. With that in mind, my favorite example of my favorite style actually comes from a small brewery in Cleveland: Fathead's Headhunter IPA.
Good article. I hope this is just the first of many from you!
Thank god a mainstream news outlet is beginning to expose the semi-underground subculture of Beer Geekdom. For all those other Beeradvocates out there, find me at Yaknowbrady, or on untappd and twitter @bradyisthirsty.
I'll be looking for updates, and often! Let me know if you are ever looking for a NJ trading partner!
Wake N Bake rocks! Most of Terrapin's brews are delicious. I'm a self professed beer geek, with 862 different beers on my personal "Beer Journey" list. I'm looking forward to following the blog.
(512) Brewing – Pecan Porter on cask
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I'm looking forward to more columns!
As a 22-year-old beer enthusiast (not just the cheap stuff!), I was delighted to find and read the first installment of your blog.
I have lived in Denver and Portland-both microbrew centrals of their respective regions-and have had the opportunity to visit many pubs and beer bars in both those cities and, on a recent trip to California, in San Francisco and Berkeley.
There are so many good beers out there!
As a voice coming from the younger generation, I would say that more people my age are becoming interested in the better beers of the world, as-and according to what you mentioned-it is very much apart of relaxation and socialization, especially at this age.
I was also interested to learn about sours, as I have never heard about them before, and I look forward to trying them out in the future.
My travels are next taking me to Melbourne and New Zealand, and I hope to, by following your blog, add to my knowledge and appreciation of the aspects and nuances of different beers.
My favorite beer right now would have to be Left Hand Brewery's Milk Stout (from Longmont, CO).
This was such a refreshing read. I had a similar conversation with a friend last night over a couple pints of his latest home brew. We talked about how neither of us considered ourselves 'beer snobs' but just honesty really enjoyed good beer and all the fun and excitement that goes into seeking out new brews, new styles, and all the wonderful places you get to see and experience when you embrace and appreciate that culture. I couldn't agree more with the sentiment that even a cheap, watered down beer with little flavor can be completely wonderful when enjoyed in the right company/atmosphere. Cheers and I look forward to your future articles!
Was looking for some new beer and "stumbled" upon this article. REALLY INTERESTING! It helps having someone who knows what they are talking about to guide you through all the different beer that is out there. Cheers!
Good intro article. I'm a big fan of Short's Brewery here in MI. The Magician is a favorite.
Wow Nathan, thanks so much for the "spontaneous fermentation" link to BaltimoreDIY! If you all are interested, there's a better post with photos of a project I did making bouza, the ancient Egyptian beer. It's a three day process using only wheat and water, plus I flavored some of it with honey, coriander, and fennel: http://www.baltimorediy.org/2010/05/bouza.html
Love this article! Big Sky IPA.
Nicely done! Thanks for sharing your beer knowledge with me. I've enjoyed discovering new styles with you. I like the shout out to the Quad. It's my new fav.
Orval. As far as I know, it's the only brewery in the world that males only 1 beer! A Trappist delight like no other
Nicely done, I'm looking forward to many more from you. Cheers and hopefully we'll meet up for a pint (or five) soon.
Nice blog! I am now feeling ispired to try more regional beers when I travel (which is not very often, but as my kids get older I hope it will increase). I think my husband will gladly join me in the endeavor. My favorite local brewery is Saranac. They have some nice seasonal beers. And I can never go wrong with a Sierra Nevada.
Great column! Look forward to reading more from you. Maybe you can comment on the extreme over use of hops that many craft brewers are using. I love a little tangy pine, but lots of these new hip brews are like chewing on a Christmas tree. There are some great stouts and porters out there, though.
Let's hear it for good beers! Biggest boldest beers are made by Stone Brewing in San Diego. Ruination IPA is a hopheads dream come true
I really enjoyed your blog, my own experience "getting in to good beer" was very similar so I can relate. Looking forward to the next installment.
And yeah, Terrapin is some good brew.
Good Start! Can't wait to hear more, as I'm always looking for something new to try. If you ever make it into the Rochester, NY area you will have to check out Rohrbach Brewing Company. They have been around since 1991 and produce some of the best beers I've tasted. My personal favorite is the Scotch Ale!
Hard to list a favorite when some days you feel like an IPA and others a stout or a porter, but my go to beers of the moment is Red Hook Big Ballard, Ninkasi Spring Reign, and Iron Horse Double Rainbow...all Pacific northwest beers!
Have you considered changing the name of your column to "The Beer Berrong"?
Farmhouse ales and sours are my favorite in general. Just got back from a camping trip with all canned craft beers and my fave was the Maui Coconut Porter.
I should also add that as we move into warmer weather, I'd love to see a piece on seasonal beers, or beers that go with spring / summer foods.
Wisconsin brand Leinenkugel's is my go-to "cheapie" brand. Almost all of their flavors are delish, but I love the Creamy Dark lager and Sunset Wheat for something lighter. I'm also a sucker for any hefeweisen, weissbier or dunkel – love my wheat beer! Ann Arbor has a couple of nice spots for locally brewed beer. Arbor Brewing Co. is probably the best known having been around for a while and bottling their beer for regional sale in MI grocery stores / dining establishments.
Great intro piece Nathan! I think its important everyone understand that this article was meant as more of a platform to launch from, and I for one am excited to follow. I look forward to the balanced commentary you can provide. If I may be so bold, some topics I'd enjoy: Regional (I mean more US, than the obvious worldwide regionality) brewing & it's enfluence on the beers themselves, growth in homebrewing in the US, and the marketing effect of "limited" releases. If nothing else, look forward to our next pint @ BSP.
Awesome first start on your beer blog! You wrote exactly what is in my head! I also plan trips around beer and hope to one day make a career out of it. I also love talking about beer to anyone who will listen. My favorite beer so far is Pliny the Elder from Russian River in Santa Rosa. But being from Minneapolis, Surly Darkness is a close second. I think you need to make a trip to Minneapolis this October for Darkness day! There is a lot of great beer being made in Minnesota right now. Surly, Town Hall Brewpub, Barley Johns, Summit, Schells, Fitgers in Duluth, plus more.
Nice work, Nathan!
Amen to that Nathan – Great job:
We are looking forward to your column and hope to see you around the beer world :~)
As a fellow "Beer Nerd" and homebrewer I have to say this was a good read. I'm with you. If there is one thing I enjoy more than drinking a good beer it's introducing others to new beers.
Looking forward to more entries and insights on some secret recommendations. CNN/Eatocracy needed a beer expert. Let's party.
Great blog and writing, Nathan. I love your attitude and look forward to future entries.
Is there an RSS feed for your beer postings? I'd love to add it to my reader, but don't see a link.
I'm loving this blog already. As a fellow beer enthusiast/home brewer, I'd really like to see more main stream things like this. Kudos to you, Nathan!
Can't wait to tap our torpedo of Wake and Bake in the VIP tent at HOToberFest October 1st :~)
Nice blog. I think you can make Heather happier by writing occasionally interesting Macros. Maybe Schlitz new/old formula or Yuenglings recent expansion, or the difficulties of PBR making money while being held in a trust. All pretty neat topics, very beer related and not Budmilcoors. Another interesting story is the g heileman history.
can't wait for future installments!
Great stuff, Nathan! It is always great to meet another fellow beer writer. Let's continue to spread the love for beer world wide!
Founder's Double Trouble!
Fine article, Nathan! My favorite beer is vodka.
Is this THE Tomme Arthur? If so, I freaking love your beers, especially Serpent's Stout. When are we going to get some of your sours out this (Atlanta) way!?
Hats off to you if you actually got Tomme Arthur to post to your blog!
Is that why you don't carbonate your beers?
Nice introduction, I cant wait to read more of these articles. I've been drinking a lot of Dogfish Head beers lately, but I think my favorite right now is the Hop Rod Rye or Big Black Bear Stout, both by Bear Republic.
Heres hoping that you will do at least one article about all us home brewers out there!
Best Montana beer - http://www.harvestmoonbrew.com/index.php?p=beltian-white - Hands down!
Big Sky brews some tasty beer!
I like Beer.
I like it a lot.
I would even drink it with a tot.
I'll drink it at home,
I'll drink it in bed,
I like to drink it with RichHead.
I like Stout, I like all that,
I ever like to drink it with our friend Kat.
I like beer, and that's no ridddle,
I even like to drink it with Sir Biddle.
In Pilsner glasses, with a graceful curve,
I could happily drink with Jerv.
In London, Manchester, Heathrow or Kent,
I'd be honored to hoist one with Sara Le Trent.
In a pub, a bar, or just in a booth,
I'd like to drink with JDizz, Snowbunny or Truth.
I like a beer at happy hour time,
Even more than I like to rhyme!
Now that's my kind of Dr. Seuss! Haha!
really ... DR. Seuss wrote this little diddy?? didn't know he had love for beer!
It is hard to say what is my favorite beer and most of the time I follow the words of Charlie Papazian, "It is whatever is in my hand right now." Yet, I do have to say that I have been recently introduced and fallen head over heels with sour beers. Lost Abby, Russian River, even that lone sour beer from Great Divide that I got to try in CO this past year. Living in Florida, we do not get any of these styles and very few of my beer drinking friends are as fond of them as me. And right now I am enjoying a deliciously chill "Hop Sun" from Southern Tier, I am counting down the days till I get my hands on some more sours!
And on another note the "Wake N Bake" is a great stout and makes really great pancakes!
There are some really good sours available here in Tampa, fyi.
I will have to look the next time I am in Tampa. I can't get any sours in Miami and it is sad.
While I admire the beer enthusiasm, this blog still comes off as pompous in the "I'm so enlightened because I don't drink Natty Ice" type of way. As a fellow beer enthusiast I would suggest talking about beers and awesome breweries and not deriding those who chose to drink the cheap shitty stuff, because it has its place too. Also if you want to check out some good beer look to Montana, especially Bayern Brewery in Missoula.
Where in the article does he deride those who don't drink craft beer? He is trying to celebrate craft beer, nothing more.
Hi Heather, thanks for reading and thanks for the comment. You're absolutely right, every kind of beer has its place at the collective beer table.
Just to clarify, any remotely negative thoughts or comments from me about "cheap" beer happened when I was admitting my own immature and "juvenile" approach to beer, in college. However, I'm not going to really focus or write about those kind of mainstream beers, b/c as I noted above, they don't really need anymore exposure.
Thanks again for reading and I look forward to trying some beers from Bayern Brewery.
Didn't think it came off that way at all.
The general public just frustrates me. People who prefer Coors when there are alternatives... Aaaargh! They have no interest in expanding their palate. I'll be pompous.
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