Can Beer Really Save Lives? Spoiler alert … the answer is yes.

My wife has either subscribed to a service that sends her updates … or she’s scouring the interwebs every day for fun, light-hearted, sometimes comical and quirky articles about beer or the beer industry. Sometimes it’s a notice about a cool upcoming beer festival. Or maybe about Bud Light installing coolers of beer all over Cleveland to be unlocked and available should the Browns ever win a regular season game. Again, interesting, fun, and amusing. I post some of these on the various BGB channels from time to time, and I am always grateful that she is working to help me create content!

For the first time, one of those articles has inspired me to write a full post. Today she found an article in the AJC about some beer delivery drivers who saved a man’s life. The Cliff’s Notes version: they altered their normal route slightly and happened upon a man standing on a bridge about to take his own life. They stopped to see what they could do, engaging in conversation until additional assistance could arrive. One of the drivers, Kwame Anderson, was doing anything he could to connect with the distraught man … just to engage him and show him that he cared. Nothing could really get the guy to come back to the safe side of the fence and out of the reach of danger. He asked where he was from; did he have kids; was he hungry. Very little positive response. “Hey man, do you want a beer?” That did the trick. The offer of a beer opened the door to deeper conversation. Fast forward … the man climbed back over the fence and was taken to a hospital for evaluation. He is alive today … his kids still have a father … because of Coors Light.

“Some people just need an ear and a beer”

I’m the first one to poke some good-natured¬  fun at Coors Light et al. Is it beer or water … hahahaha. But this story isn’t really about beer. This is about community; about connections; about the relationships that can develop over beer. In an age where we all seem more willing to stare at a phone screen, slowly becoming zombies, there is an increasing need to connect with other people. For many of us, those connections happen over a glass of beer. I won’t judge your selection, and you won’t make fun of what I paid for my overpriced fancy craft beer. It’s the connection that matters here. Sharing beer is about creating community, a lesson I was able to experience in a massive and very real way at the Beer Bloggers Conference last week.

The man in the article above isn’t alive today because of Coors Light. His children don’t still have their father today because of some skilled psychologist/negotiator. He’s alive today because another human being took interest in him; spent time learning about him; found a common interest; and offered to share with him. This is about a person connecting with a person … nothing else. As written in the article, “Some people just need an ear and a beer.” Let’s get out there and try to be human with each other again. Have a friend who seems quiet and down or just not themselves? Offer to go grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine, a Coors Light, or an actual beer. (See?  Couldn’t go a whole post without a little fun.) Connect and show them you care.

Here’s to you, life-saving beer delivery guy.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

I’ve been there before. Actually, I was there as recently as last night.

It’s getting later in the evening and I can only have one more beer. There are two on the menu that I’d like to have, and I’m torn as to which one I’d rather have. I can look them up on Untappd … I can research on BeerAdvocate, but my tastes don’t always line up with other folks’. I don’t want to order one and then wind up regretting the decision later. Yes … this is basically a matter of life & death.

Two recent experiences color this point. I was at my local watering hole and had heard the buzz (see what I did there?) about a new beer. Said watering hole had said beer on tap, and so I ordered a pint. The beer was New Belgium’s Hemperor. It’s an IPA that’s been infused with hemp. I wasn’t sure that I would like it or not, but I was so intrigued by the concept that I had to try it.

To say it was awful is unfair to beers that are merely awful. This was new levels of awful. Imagine rolling into Animal House the night after Bluto, Otter, Flounder, and the boys went on an all-night bender. You stumble across a still-smoldering bong and decide to take a sip of the bong water. What you find is that someone spilled some of their cousin’s overly-hopped homebrew into the bong water resulting in a vile concoction that isn’t fit for human consumption. Maybe I’m being unfair, but you get the point. Curiosity, in this case, almost killed the cat.

Fast-forward to last night. I’m at the Fred (I refuse to call it the Georgia Chapter Room. Hardcore, old-school Taco Mac fans will side with me on this one) with a friend and am torn between two beers. On the one hand, I have a Kasteel Chocolate Quad, and on the other is Boulevard Barrel-Aged Quad. What to do, what to do. Words that should have left my mouth before the hemp-IPA bomb returned to me … five words that can save you at times like these.

“May I try a sample?”

So simple, and yet so often forgotten. Unless it’s bottle or can, any decent beer-venue should allow a taste test to ensure that you like what you’re getting. Five words that could have saved me many times in the past. Mind you, I won’t order a sample before every beer – just those that are way out there or when I’m torn between a few choices. But wow, do I wish I had used this more often in my past! Oh, in case you’re on the edge of your seat about the choice from last night … I decided on the Boulevard. A lot smoother to me, and more to my likes. And my knee-jerk would have been to order the Kasteel.

The five words saved me!!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

I’ll admit it, I have some of these traits myself. It’s hard for me to sit here and poke holes in what others are doing, when some may see it as hypocritical. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I am someone who is always seeking out something new to enjoy. When I go out to eat, it doesn’t matter if I find a beer I love, I’ll always be interested in having something different for my second (and sometimes third) beer. At a brewery, I always opt for a flight or two, rather than a pint. It’s not that I don’t like that first beer anymore, but I want to try something new as often as possible. Maybe I’ll find something I like even better? So I repeat, I at least partially resemble what I’m about to discuss.

There is a disturbing new trend in some craft beer circles that I cannot ignore anymore. I am a member of several craft beer groups on some social media outlets. For the most part, these groups provide opportunities for people to
Discuss the industry,
Share pictures of whales they’ve found,
Ask for recommendations on places or brews to try, and
Arrange for bottle shares and swaps.

These are why these groups were formed and represent the positive side of craft-beer-meets-Facebook. But then there is a darker side. I’ve seen it happen too often now and from far too many people to remain quiet. There are many people out there who consistently feel the need to belittle other people’s pictures, posts, etc. A whale on Monday becomes an embarrassingly outdated find by Thursday. “How can you drink that garbage? The date on the bottom is from two weeks ago!! I won’t touch it unless it was brewed this afternoon.” Why do we as humans feel that the only way to make ourselves better is to belittle others? I am currently on the cusp of leaving some of these groups because I just can’t watch a beer-bully openly mock someone because they’re excited about finding their favorite beer on tap. Or trolling them on the interwebs because their glass isn’t clean enough.

Let’s all agree that craft beer is a great and wondrous thing. Remember when you first tasted that beer … the one that you’d been trying to find for years. You proudly shared your riches and excitement on Facebook only to have some moron chime in with, “It was better last year. I won’t even touch this year’s version.” Why? Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. Can’t we all just get along?! The brewers themselves have a collegial relationship with each other – I think we should aim to mirror that with each other.

Cheers, everyone!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Am I a demon? Am I evil?  I hope not, but I promise that I’m trying to change my ways. Sometimes I fear that holding onto my most prized beers becomes more important than the concept of creating community by sharing special beers. Let’s dig a little deeper …

You’ve got a nice beer collection. You’ve been saving some of these for a special occasion. Some are just perennial favorites that you keep in the fridge as often as possible and buy whenever you can find them. The rest of the beer fridge is just everyday filler. Let’s run through a few scenarios to see what your true personality is. At the end, we’ll calculate your scores and see if you’re a demon, a snob, or too altruistic.

Scenario 1

A friend recently went to Belgium and brought you a case of special reserve Chimay Bleu. This is your #1 favorite beer on the planet and you get it whenever you can find it. You cousin-in-law, who likes to try new stuff but isn’t what you would call a beer nerd, asks if he can have one.  You:

a. offer to split it with him, but only because he asked nicely.
b. pretend that you didn’t hear him and offer him a decent amber
c. Give him two and tell him to take two more home
d. Flat out say “NO!” and tell him he’s not welcome back at your house

Scenario 2

You were able to secure a 64 oz growler of a rare barrel-aged one-off release. You don’t know if it’s good or not, but it’s something you just have to try. That night, you’re going to a friend’s house for dinner. You:

a. Leave it at home. It’s not worth the risk of someone sneaking a pour.
b. Bring it, but leave it in the car and keep going back for your own sampling.
c. Bring it and offer for people to have samples if they’d like.
d. Pop it open and fill as many glasses you can. Beer is for sharing!

Scenario 3

You’re at your favorite pub; you and a friend order the same bottle of beer only to find out they only have one left. You:

a. Offer to flip him for it.
b. Ask for two glasses. Beer is for sharing!
c. Yell, “DIBS!” and bask in your quick thinking
d. Offer it to your friend and then slip the bartender a $20 to secretly switch the pours.

Scenario 4

You’re going to a bottle share with some friends. Some of them are high-quality beer snobs like you, and others are recreational/ social beer guys. They may not have tastes as refined as yours. Which beers do you bring?

a. Pliny the Younger & Westvleteren XII
b. That random beer your friend conveniently left at your house last weekend
c. Sweetwater 420 and Sierra Nevada
d. A bomber you grabbed while at the local brewery yesterday … they say it’s supposed to be good.

Scenario 5

A new neighbor moves in next door. You notice the stickers on their beer fridge and a three-tap kegerator being unloaded. He looks like he has a great taste, similar to yours. You:

a. Dig into the cellar and bring out your ‘Holy Grail’ from your collection to welcome your new best friend to the neighborhood.
b. Invite yourself over and say, “Hey neighbor. Do you need any help setting up that keg?”
c. Casually watch him unpack while drinking a Bells Two Hearted, hoping he’ll notice and offer you something else.
d. Offer to help him unpack some boxes while working up a clever way to ask what kind of beer he has in the fridge.

Now, for the scoring. Use this key to come up with your total score for the five scenarios. If you need help with the math, forget it. Just pop open a beer and enjoy.

The Results

If your score is 9 or less – you’re Gollum.

Beer is more important to you than anything else. You don’t care if you lose friends, ostracize family, or lose your job over it. You’re okay to share some of your drunkle’s* Natty Light that’s been rotting in the fridge for two years, but nothing else.

*Drunk Uncle = drunkle. It’s just fun to say.
Image result for kid beer 

If your score is 10-15, you’re a kindergartner.

You know that sharing is caring. but you just can’t let go of that toy. It’s okay to share a beer off of your favorite six-pack, but you’ll never dig into the cellar to share that super special beer. In fact, you’ll probably never drink it yourself. You’ll let it collect dust until the end of time and then pass it along to a grandchild. 

Image result for oprah beerIf your score is 16+, you’re Oprah.

You get some of my favorite beer, and YOU get some of my favorite beer! EVERYONE gets some of my favorite beer! You know that beer is all about community and sharing with friends. Who cares if someone opens something from your 5-year rare vertical, as long as people are enjoying themselves, life is good!
So … what was your score? Which one are you? And just throwing this out there, if your score is 16+, I’m available for a bottle share anytime!
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

What if your college football team was a beer? If the history, pageantry, characteristics, quirks, and fanaticism of your alma mater could all be personified into a single beer, what would it be? Here, we take a look at the conference that has been the gold standard for success over the past twenty years or so – the SEC. 

South Expects Championships

Please note that we attempted to poke good-natured fun at all schools. This isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. If you find your blood pressure rising while reading this, drink each of the 14 beers listed below, and then read it again. Repeat as necessary.
AlabamaBudweiser. They’re the kings and they tell you about it. A lot. And then they remind you about it some more. They crowned themselves king even in years when no one else did. And the ones that scream the loudest about it have never set foot in the brewery.
ArkansasPBR. They won a blue ribbon once about a million years ago, and they still like to tell you about it. Leaves a terrible aftertaste.
AuburnAnchor Christmas. It’s a new formula every year. It may be blow-the-doors-off awesome one year and inexplicably terrible the next year. But you never know until you open the package, and there is a blind and renewed optimism every year.
Baton Rouge’s take on Pat O’Brien’s classic
LSUHurricane High Gravity Malt Liquor (pairs very nicely with corndogs). Listen, we’re just here to get drunk and have a wild party that ends in as many arrests as possible.
Mississippi StateHeineken. You can’t put your finger on it, but you just don’t like it. There is no logical reason to dislike it, but you just really, really do. It’s like this annoying pest that keeps showing up at your party.
Ole MissOmnipollo Symzonia. Beautiful packaging … but that’s the most exciting thing about it. It’s good, it’s fine, it’s nice. But you talk more about how beautiful the bottle was than what the actual beer tasted like.
Texas A&MRogue Sriracha Stout. The first sip is spicy and exciting and has you hooked from the beginning. And then as you continue to enjoy it, the excitement wanes. It’s too difficult to drink and you ultimately have to walk away.

FloridaGoose Island Honker’s Ale. There’s so much going on here. It only recently started being a

Look for this in the Grove on Saturday.

favorite, but it quickly became the envy of the world. And then it sold out to someone up north and got to be really annoying. Comes with a cut-off denim koozie.

GeorgiaSweetwater 420. It’s consistently good, and has been for a very long time. It’s something that you can have and enjoy, but it never completely wows you. It’s not great, even though everyone drinking it will tell you how great it is, and how the one in your hand is going to be just as good as the one you remember from 1982. And then they’ll bark at you.
KentuckyNashoba Winery Wattaquadoc Wheat. A winery making beer? Beer is really just a

diversion for them. Just a way to pass the time until it’s basketb … I mean wineseason again.

MissouriSierra Nevada Nooner. New to the party, surprisingly good, and yet you always forget about it until you see it in the store. You buy it, enjoy it, make a mental note to keep it on your short list … and then forget about it 10 minutes later.
South CarolinaCorona. Every year – every single year – this is going to be the year that it’s great. And then it’s not. This is the quintessential “just wait ‘til next year” beer.
TennesseeMichelob Ultra. So monotonous it’s annoying. 100,000 people all drinking the same thing over and over and over again. It’s almost like 100,000 people singing the same song over and over and over again … for no apparent reason.
VanderbiltStrongbow Hard Apple Cider. You want to like it. You really want to like it. But it’s just not any good, because it’s a watered down version of the real thing. Every once in a while you get excited about it … but then it lets you down again.  <Sigh>
So, what say you? What would have been on your list? And what conference should we ‘tackle’ next? Leave your comments below.
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Just for fun today – I’m asking for reader submissions.  I feel kinda like Linda Richman from ‘Coffee Talk with Paul Baldwin‘ (“Just give us a call.  Ya know – no big whoop!”) I’ve just lost our younger readers with that reference.

Anyway – talk amongst yourselves – I’ll give you a topic.  If you could sit down and have a beer with anyone, ANYONE alive or dead, what would be the beer and who would be your guest?  Discuss.

Would have a Ten Fidy with Fiddy Cent?

Maybe a Hebrew Genesis with Noah.

Or some MMMHops with Hanson. (Yes – I’m not kidding.  It’s real.)

No, scratch that.  A Hanson suggestion will get you booted from the blog.   Urban Assault with Ray Rice.  Too soon?  Not ready for that yet.  My bad.

Let me know!  Put your best suggestions in the comment box below (or on the Facebook page.)  BEST suggestion wins a prize.  I just don’t know what yet.
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

I’t been two months since I’ve posted.  I’ve missed you guys.  And since it’s been so long, I figure I owe you some extra content today … our Beer of the Week will be BeerS of the week.

Today, we bring you two varieties of Belgian-style beers.  And our two offerings today are competitors in the ever-growing Americanized-Belgian-style beers.

First is a Belgian White beer or witbier.  Shock Top Belgian White is something you’ve probably all tried before.  But let me submit that you’re probably not drinking it correctly.  Raise your hand if you feel cultured and sophisticated for asking for a slice of orange with your Shock Top.  I’ll kindly ask you to stop.  It’s already brewed with THREE types of citrus, and to this reviewer it has an almost syrupy sweet flavor because of that fruit addition.  Why would you add even more??  It is a good beer … unfiltered, relatively smooth, very drinkable.  But I cannot have more than 2-3 at a sitting, because it just feels too heavy for me.

Next is a new beer from Blue Moon’s “Expressionist” collection.  Blue Moon will tell you that this is a unique take on a classic style.  This is an exceptionally smooth beer, almost to the point of feeling flat.  That is not a knock in my book.  It’s heightened maltiness gives it that rich, smooth texture.  A Belgian pale was a popular style in the 1940s but has been largely forgotten until recently.  Pale ales are traditionally somewhat bitter, but the Belgian pales are not.  Orval is probably the best known in this category, but this Blue Moon Rounder is a solid and easier-to-find selection as well.  Just like Shock Top above – not sure I could have more than a few at one sitting.  It’s still syrupy and heavy to me.

Two good beers.  Not great … just good.  But a reminder, these breweries create their beers to be absolutely fine on their own.  Don’t worry about adding extra flavors to them.  (Unless it’s a Mexican beer with lime – something just WORKS with that.)

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

In baseball parlance, hitting for the cycle means that a player has at least a single, double, triple and home run in the same game, something that only occurred three times this past season.  Beer has its own version of a cycle: in this case a single, dubbel, tripel and quadrupel.  I alluded to a discussion of these mysterious terms in last week’s BOTW post.

Originally, these terms were used by Trappist-style breweries to designate the relative strength of their beers.  An ‘einkel’ or single was the standard beer brewed by European monasteries.  Their original formula was their one and only offering.  Once they began work on upgrading their offerings and creating more robust flavors, the first successful idea was to double the amount of ingredients.  That worked out so well that they created a new beer with triple the ingredients.  I think you get the picture.

Now, not everyone uses the same dubbel, tripel, quadrupel system for naming their beers.  For instance, Chimay uses a color code: Chimay Red is closest to a dubbel, white is on par with a tripel and blue would be closest to a quadrupel.  Rochefort uses a simple number system of 6, 8 and 10.  (Those numbers are probably close to the actual ABV, but shouldn’t be taken as absolute measures.)  Incidentally, beers by the same of ‘einkel’ or single are not used anymore.  That would be the lightest offering from any of these breweries (using the same basic formula) and could be known today as Chimay Dorée or Petite Orval.

The International Trappist Association (boy, would I love to hang out with these guys!) was created to protect the actual ‘official’ monasteries that were producing this style of beer.  Obviously, several groups

have wanted in on the action for producing such deep, rich flavors.  Only 8 breweries can officially use the “Official Trappist Product” logo on their beer: Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle and Stift Engelszell.  Anyone else who produces a beer in this style should be using the term “Abbey-style” beer.  Every bit as good as the eight Trappist breweries, but not officially recognized.

On to the flavors!  Dubbels are generally in the 6-8% ABV range and have a very heavy flavor, but are incredibly smooth brown ales.  I absolutely love them, and tend to gravitate to Chimay Red.  You cannot go wrong here! Tripels are in the 8-10% ABV range and obviously have a deeper flavor.  Still very smooth and very drinkable.  If you’re used to Michelob Ultra, this will likely take some time to get used to.  There is nothing bitter here … my favorite is the La Trappe Tripel.  (Although Chimay White (aka Cinq Cents) is quite good as well.  And finally Quadrupels.  Not produced by all of the monasteries, this is one that a lot of other breweries have begun to create, like the Boulevard Sixth Glass.  These beers will almost always be over 10% ABV and have a tremendous deep flavor to them.  With each step from dubbel to tripel to quadrupel, the flavors intensify and the alcohol content increases.  Chances are, if you like Dubbels, you’ll either love or learn to love tripels and quadrupels as well.

And when you order one at the bar, don’t be surprised or upset when it comes out in a chalice-style glass with only a 10-ounce pour.  These are potent elixirs and are not altogether friendly on the wallet either.  But, man are they worth it!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

I’m not usually one to speak in hyperbole, insisting that everything must be the ‘worst’ or ‘best’ thing I’ve ever witnessed.  There is such a thing as the middle ground, some in-between.  Today I will break that tradition and say that I think the mix-a-six section in a grocery or package store may be there greatest addition to the beer aisle in modern history.

An oasis of possibilities

If you’re not familiar with it, the concept is quite simple.  A grocery store or package store will have a wall of beers – not packaged, but hanging out individually – waiting for you to bundle them in a soon-to-not-be-empty six pack container with 5 other random beers.  Short of experimentation at your local watering hole, there is no better way to try a new flavor.  Have you ever thought, “I’d sure like to try that ‘Comrade Bill Bartrams Egalitarian Anti-Imperialist Soviet Stout’ but I’d prefer to not have to buy six of them.”  The mix-a-six concept was made for people like you.  And me.  Grab one.  And find five other random beers for a trip to your beer fridge.  

What’s the upside?  You get to try something new – even if you hate it, you’re only invested for those 12 ounces.  If you love it – congratulations!  You found a new favorite beer.  Now, go buy a keg.  I have recently had the great opportunity to try tons of new choices.  Through my 40 Days of Beer, I had some stuff delivered that I certainly had never heard of.  I can be quite adventurous, but there were even a few beers that showed up on my doorstep that I might normally never have purchased for myself.  And I would have been doing myself a disservice.  For example, you might recall that I’m not much of an IPA guy.  But someone brought me a great big bottle of Uinta Cahoots Double Rye IPA. (Thank you, WWK!)  If not for that delivery, I would have been missing out on an absolute winner.  More to come on that beer in a future BOTW post.

For now, go to the grocery store, grab that empty six-pack holder, and be creative.  Be wild, be daring, be adventurous!  It only costs you 12 ounces, but the potential to find greatness is completely worth it.

Comments?  Thoughts?  Topics you’d like to see covered here?  Let me know!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Today I’ll dig a little deeper into the 6-week saga known as “40 Days of Beer.”  Regulars will recall that my rock star wife had corralled 40 of my closest friends and encouraged them to either take me out for beer or bring me beer every day for the 40 days leading into my 40th birthday.  #Wow

To horribly misuse a famous quote, the journey of a thousand beers begins with a sip.  So much beer.  So.  Much. Beer.  One of my initial thoughts when contemplating this 6-week hop-induced coma was the great

No – these aren’t really my friends

realization that I would be experiencing a prolonged “Stock the Beer Fridge” party.  What I didn’t realize was how quickly I would have space difficulties.  I’m not complaining … at all.  It was overwhelming, in the most wonderful way possible.  Day 2 was a 6-pack delivery, day 4 was a half case, day 5 was three 6-packs, day 7 was another 6-pack.  You can do the math.  Three weeks in, the fridge was full and I was doing my best to whittle it down the best I could.  I was swimming upstream, almost literally.  Gradually, I was able to rearrange some things and avoid any storage issues, but another unforeseen problem arose … I was getting tired.

I have amazing friends and family.  So many of them are creative and competitive.  This almost became a toxic combination of personality traits.  There were invitations to festivals, brewery tours, nights on the town, out of town trips … the list goes on.  My brain and my liver were engaged in a titanic struggle.  It was “these fantastic people have gone to great lengths to plan something special just for you” versus “I just can’t take anymore!  I need water and sleep!”  I actually found myself having to schedule in some quiet days and ask for rain checks in order to be able to properly pace myself and fully enjoy the entire journey.

At the end of the day, someone asked me if there was such a thing as too much beer.  Of course not.  Proper planning and some self-realization make anything possible.  Fortunately for me, there is also no shortage of great friends and family that went to crazy lengths to ensure that I had an unforgettable 40th birthday.  Come back Friday for the third #BOTW installment.  We’ll feature a little something from California.  And next week will bring the next installment of the 40 Days of Beer story.

Make sure to enter your email address on the right in the “Follow by Email” section.  You’ll have to complete a few verification steps, but then you’ll automatically get my updates.  And as always, thanks for reading!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington