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New York, NY
United States

The Beer Friends write, review, and discuss Craft Beer as fans instead of experts.  They share their unique voice and affinity for craft beer through multiple platforms and offer a range of media to join their craft beer conversation.


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To Swirl or Not to Swirl...Does the Question Really Matter?


Hello all Beer Friends out there!  This Craft Beer Revolution has sure been refreshing and delicious, however it has also brought much complexity to the way we drink beer.  Some of that complexity is exciting and eye opening, some of it is overwhelming and frustrating…especially to a newcomer to the Craft Beer Revolution.  Let’s talk about some ways that we can keep our beer drinking feet on the ground. Before I begin I want to start with a disclaimer:  I am not bashing the way in which beer drinking has risen to in some ways parallel the process and respect that has been commonplace to wine drinking for centuries.  I’ll come back to this in just a second.

Recently I was having a few craft brewed pints at a local craft brew bar when I first noticed that they gave beer tasting instructions on the back side of their drink menu.  As I sat reading, what was all too familiar literature and practice, I couldn’t help but laugh in a contemptuous way.  It instructed the beer user (and yes, these type of routines that surround eating and drinking make me feel more like a ‘user’ than an ‘enjoyer’) to follow a set of steps in order to fully enjoy their beer.  You should pour in the proper glass.  Swirl slowly.  Sniff twice, and only twice.  Sip while breathing in.

This seemed straight tyrannical to me.  It felt like betrayal of the everyman’s drink.  It’s like a good friend that shared life’s hardships with you then all of the sudden went out, bought a pair of Armani jeans, Gucci sunglasses and joined the cool crowd.

Ok, ok.  So it wasn’t really tyrannical.  I didn’t feel betrayed.  I mean, it was really just a suggestion about how to fully enjoy a beverage that was brewed through a careful and fine process.  It was actually quite helpful.  But what’s helpful to a world class beer connoisseur such as myself (cough, cough, yeah right!) can be confusing, dissuading and unwanted for someone who is just beginning to enjoy the fruits of the craft beer revolution. Over time it’ll slowly strip away the giddy school girl excitement that we veterans had when we were newbies, subsequently replacing it with the cold, harsh critical eye of a beer, judgment day Jesus.

This brings me to my point.  As valuable as it is to learn how to use all your senses to enjoy your craft beer don’t forget why you started enjoying it in the first place.  It tastes good!  For those who are just starting out (and for those of us who consider ourselves veterans) it is important to remember that it’s okay to drink beer like we used to.  Heck, you don’t even need to use the proper glass, wash the wing sauce off your hands, or even take your eyes off the game!

There is something special about getting home from a long day of work and opening up a fresh growler of  Brooklyn Blast IPA without needing to swirl, sniff and breathe in order to enjoy (without possible beer asphyxiation) your brew. The directions should be simple, drink and enjoy.  Repeat when necessary.  Enjoying your beer may include these tasting strategies, but aren’t required.

Some claim that craft beer is brewed through a process that gives the complexities of wine fermentation a run for their money.  That sounds fine to me, but beer is still the everyman’s beverage.  Sniffing, Sipping and Swirling may accentuate the fine tastes of our favorite beverage but the song and dance isn’t necessary so approach at your own pace.  We don’t want to be beer snobs as much as we don’t want to drink a Cabernet while watching the Superbowl.  Enjoy your craft brew as you see fit.  And seriously, breathing in while sipping is a good way to drown.  Or at least get the hiccups.

All that said, stay tuned for a future post with a detailed explanation of how and why to swirl, sniff, sip and enjoy.