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What do Brewers Drink?

September 11, 2017

By Hunter Smith, September 11, 2017

Brewers are almost like everyone else. Sure, we all pay attention to what we’re drinking. If a flaw such as diacetyl or yeast haze is apparent in a beer in our hand, then we may not finish the beer. But generally after a day spent obsessing about the details of beer, we brewers often just want to drink one without the fuss.

Beer connoisseurs cringe at the phrase ‘It’s just beer,’ but sometimes, it is.

So, it may come as a surprise to the ‘ticking’ crowd that often the men and women behind the coconut Russian Imperial Stouts and the triple-hopped IPAs are often just as likely, if not more so, to reach for an easy-drinking beer. For some, the traditional American Lager does just the trick. Others, cheap wine. The same applies in the wine business; it is often said that it takes a lot of cheap beer to make good wine. So where do the preferences range?

For some, like Devils Backbone brewmaster Jason Oliver, the solution lies close to home. A National Bohemian hits the sweet spot for the native Marylander. Several brewers responded to my inquiry to answer ‘PBR,’ which is as funny as it is unsurprising.

My personal beer run for the longest time consisted of an exciting new six-pack, most likely a new IPA, and a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Idea being –drink a few tasty and interesting brews, and then drink a slew of ‘peebers’ for fun and function. Life with children has since prevented me from going too far beyond the few interesting brews – most of the time – but I’ll still crush a PBR the second it’s handed to me.

Another popular answer was the combo of a Pilsner and a shot of bourbon. This happens to be my go-to as well. After many years of attending the Great American Beer Festival, the annual beer-lover’s mecca, I’ve discovered that after a day of sampling the country’s biggest selection of interesting brews, at two ounces a pour, I want nothing more than just a whole damn beer. And after cherry-picking all of the interesting Sours, DIPAs, and crazy Stouts, you just want a refreshing sixteen ounces.

Michael KiserAt Solemn Oath, a little brewing and a little beer can mean it's time for a little nap.

I don’t want to blow up the spot, but after-partying at the Star Bar with cans of Banquet and shots of bourbon is just the most satisfying thing ever. It’s especially glorious if there’s some shit-kicking country on stage; this introverted southern gentleman will be in hog heaven after a day of forced socialization under fluorescent lights in a (lovely) concrete conference center.

On the other side of the coin, some of the most metal brewers I know (and some of my favorite people) like to drink what I’m drinking as I write this: rosé. Todd Haug, legendary metalhead, guitarist of Powermad, and brewer at Three Floyds, as well as Josh Lemke and Ben Smith of Surly Brewing in Minnesota, love to crush rosé when it’s time to kick it. I think of rosé as the beer of the wine world and thank goodness it’s finally crawling out from the white zinfandel reputation of the 90’s.

One of my favorite experiences with the brewers’ beer, and perhaps the most telling, goes back to Labor Day weekend of 2013. My son had been born two weeks prior, and I was in the midst of opening our production brewing facility at Champion. I was under more stress than I can recall. Even my health was not great, but having seen a baby boy into the world, I got myself ready to travel to New Hampshire as a groomsman in my best friend’s wedding.

After arriving at the remodeled summer camp turned event space, a quick Google search showed that I was only a few hours from Hill Farmstead Brewery, a highly-regarded small brewery that I felt I might not be any closer to for years to come. So, with my pal Matt’s blessing, I hauled ass in my rental, exchanged some paperwork with the friendly Vermont State Police, and headed for Greensboro Bend, VT, where I hoped to catch up with brewery owner Shaun Hill, whom I had sold some hops to in the past.

At the end of a long day you’d be amazed by how many brewers are eager to kick back with a light beer, shot of whiskey, or bottle of rosé.”

Turns out, Shaun is a super nice guy, whose customers come to visit the brewery on his family’s storied estate, but he’s not necessarily part of the welcoming committee. Shaun is focused on making fantastic beer, and nobody would argue otherwise.

When I pulled up in my rental with speeding ticket in hand, Shaun was riding the lawnmower, taking care of weekend chores. As I waited for him to finish, I couldn’t help but notice the iconic green label and brown glass bottle of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. As a young brewer, this confirmed to me everything I had always heard, that the consistency of the Sierra Pale Ale was respected by brewers everywhere. Hill informed me that he enjoyed drinking his beers, beers from a brewery where he had past worked, and Sierra Nevada.

That’s saying something. I excitedly muled a few growlers back to a riveting game of Magic the Gathering at the wedding campgrounds, and those Hill Farmsteads were dusted in minutes.    

The beautiful simplicity of the brewers’ beer is that while we are all extremely passionate about making flavorful, intense beers and love tasting them and sharing them with fellow beer-lovers, at the end of a long day you’d be amazed by how many of us are eager to kick back with a light beer, shot of whiskey, or bottle of rosé.

After all, everyone’s just trying to get loose.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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