Surviving January


I must have been a good boy last year as I received a few very nice beers in my
stocking for Christmas. Definitely one of the better was a Firestone-Walker Agrestic.
I remember when the Cloverleaf had Jeffers Richardson, of the F-W Barrelworks Wild
Beer program, came in to talk about and sample their selection; aptly titled “Jeffers
Drops Acid”. When it comes to barrel aging, blending and wild beer this guy really
knows his stuff. Definitely some very interesting discussion, along with how the
program/facility got started, but the tasting part was the real fun. And then the beer
lunch afterward where the chef created a menu to go along with the beers was
incredible. Funny I can’t remember when this was, probably two and half years ago
and although all were very good, I only remember a couple of the beers, Bretta Rose
was one, but Agrestic was by far the absolute most impressive. I’m always pleased
when I can get to have it again, so seeing that on Christmas morning was a beautiful

As an aside it just goes to show how craft beer has grown/matured and how you
really need to be open to different styles and tastes. Early on sour/wild/Belgian style
beers were some of my least favorites and probably some of them were really too
tart/sour. Then as I started to taste more of the classic Belgian beers and programs
like F-W Barrelworks and breweries like The Bruery and Lost Abbey started cranking
out many different beautifully crafted and really good Belgian style beers I definitely
began to appreciate them more; and I’m really glad I did.

And that ties in nicely with January 1st. A friend has his annual “Hair of the Dog”
open house on the 1st with an amazing spread. Along with my crab dip, that went
over very well this year, I like to bring along some drinking beer and then a few
specials we can open up and taste and share. Interestingly enough most of my
specials this year were Belgian style (and no don’t even think that I brought the
Agrestic; I do like to share but that’s either just mine or a special share somewhere)
including a Lost Abbey Red Poppy and a Rodenbach Vintage Ale. Both were very
nice and appreciated. Not one of my regular drinking buddies but another who we
see at the bar occasionally remarked he didn’t know I was that into sours. There is no
question I’m an IPA guy first and foremost but I can appreciate other styles and in a
setting like this, where you’re eating and drinking and talking and relaxing, having a
few different beers to share is fun. And major kudos to our host who goes up to VT a
couple of times a year who had Heady Toppers and Focal Bangers and Crushers in
his frig also…need I say more.

So yes, January 1, 2020 was a great day for craft beer, but the rest of January can
be boring and you have to fight to make sure it isn’t. First, I’m reading way too much
about Drynuary. Who started this craziness that I’d want to go for a month, one
twelfth of my year and not drink alcohol; (lead in to the classic line) YOU CANNOT BE
SERIOUS! And as an aside, if you’ve reached the point where you feel a real need to
take a month off the sauce, you might benefit from taking even longer or maybe even
some professional help.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming; please don’t tell me there are
now a lot of great tasting NA and low alcohol beers. It’s January, it’s cold, I want
robust beers, not the stuff I’d rather be drinking in the 90-degree summertime. And to
be honest outside of Buckler and Kaliber, which have been around a long time, I’m
not seeing the new ones from Athletic and Brooklyn that are supposed to be really
good and that I’d like to try (in the summertime if you please…) in the stores.

We also had a big anniversary to un-celebrate this January. On January 17, 1920
Prohibition began; hard to believe it was one hundred years ago. The Ken Burns
documentary on Prohibition was very interesting and based on different things
happening back it’s not all that crazy to understand why some thought it was the right
thing to do but luckily, we came to our senses and repealed it.

January is typically a slow month as it’s cold which keeps people in and we could get
a decent snowstorm to keep us in (which luckily hasn’t happened). Many of us spent
more than we planned during the holiday season so trying to spend a little less
means staying home. Oh, and don’t forget about New Year’s Resolutions; everyone
and their uncle is going to the gym the first month of the year and that will absolutely
slow down after the Super Bowl. As concerned craft beer drinkers and not wanting to
break our routine, my buds and I are doing our usual Tuesday and Friday and not
complaining dealing with smaller crowds.

The Leaf had their 9th annual NJCB night featuring all Jersey beers, which did bring
us and many others out. We have our handful of consistently good NJ breweries and
some others have really stepped it up and are beginning to make better beers, but
there are still a lot that are not very good and should just close their doors. We’re
sitting there and I’m wearing my new Fitbit. It’s somewhat frustrating as I really don’t
know how to use it and don’t know what half the symbols are. Shouldn’t these things
be a little more intuitive for those of us who are not 8-18 years old?? Yes, I need to
spend more with the manual that doesn’t come with it; everything’s online… I tap on it
a few times and it’s telling me I need to take a couple of hundred steps; obviously it
has no clue I’m sitting drinking a beer and although

I was track and cross-country guy years ago, I don’t do those one-mile beer races.
One of my comrades offers to let me go out and put coins in his parking meter so I
can make some progress…I politely decline that one. It dawns on me that although
Fitbit is highly regarded, they have no programming for us craft beer drinkers; why
not? Instead of steps they should be counting my curls over the course of my
afternoon out. What about my heart rate when I taste a really good beer, wouldn’t
that be a good indicator I can add to my Untappd comments? I think they’re missing
out and as soon as I figure out how to use it, I’m going to contact them and express
my concerns and offer my services. They don’t even need to pay me but if they
supply the beer, which of course we have to agree on as they might think Bud Light
is beer, I could help them test an array of charting for us craft beer lovers…this could
be a big seller for them…

Technology is supposed to improve our lives so there must be other areas where
integrating craft beer in would help. If your first thought is a robotic bartender go
directly to jail, do not pass go and hopefully Cher slaps you upside the head and
says “SNAP OUT OF IT!” (And if that doesn’t ring a bell then you haven’t seen
Moonstruck with Cher (before her multiple cosmetic surgeries) and Nicolas Cage
(before he started making a lot of bad movies); it’s got a decent 92% Rotten
Tomatoes rating…).

I like to talk to my bartender; sometimes they’ve already tasted a beer and have an
insight. But there must be some other things technology can do for us. We’ll have to
sit down and throw out some ideas; over a few cold ones of course.

Okay well I did survive January and I’m ready for the Super Bowl and my next eleven
months of 2020.

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer. presents
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