Ring in the New Year with Craft Beer

by Irina Vishnevskaya, Tastemaker in Residence

You don’t need me to remind you that New Years is coming up (which also happens to be my favorite holiday).  This typically means a collective, mad rush to buy champagne, and then suffer through January 1 with a horrible headache brought on by too much sugar and carbonation. 

So although I understand that New Years is undoubtedly the champagne holiday, I challenge you to be the cool kid at this year’s gathering by bringing something more interesting (and less hangover-inducing) than the 8th bottle of champagne.   

Bring some craft beer. 

Time is limited and attention spans even more so, so here’s my quick cheat-sheet to beer shopping for NYE like a pro. 

  1. Go to the refrigerated section. This is a big shortcut to picking good beer, and I could really go on and on explaining it but you’re a busy bee. Just know this: good beer always needs to be refrigerated because it’s not always pasteurized and filtered like the boring, run of the mill(er light) stuff.

  2. Find the bottles that look like wine or champagne bottles. Find that portion of the refrigerated beer section that doesn’t have the 6 or 12 packs, but instead the section that houses the beer bottles, which are larger and sold individually. They should remind you of wine or champagne bottles and many of them even have a cork top. These beers are usually special/ limited/ rare/ interesting editions and really have something that sets them apart. They are the crème de la crème. 

  3. Steer clear of the words: lager, pilsner, Budweiser. 

  4. Bonus points for words: barrel-aged, saison, stout, bottle-conditioned, sour ale. 

  5. Do your homework. You’ve made your selection, now do some research, Google your beer or brewery of choice. Everyone, even your strange Uncle, loves a good story. Read about the brewery (double points if it’s four friends from college), how they got the inspiration for the beer, and maybe any awards the beer has won. I can’t stress how important this last step is; it’s absolutely a make or break. And if you can’t source a story for your beer of choice, use your imagination and make one up. Seriously. 

My all-time favorite New Years beer is:

DeuS Brut des Flanderes
Price: approx. $30 
11.5% ABV
Brouwerij Bosteels, Belgium 

With a hefty price tag that can only be justified on special occasions, this is a beautiful beer brewed in Belgium and after a first fermentation is transported to the Champagne region in France, where it is finished off with the famous Méthode Champenoise (the labor intensive process in which wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle with yeast and yeast nutrients, creating carbonation). The beer then ferments a second time and then matures for at least 12 months. This beer boasts a sweet aroma of flowers and a touch of citrus and ripe fruit. The flowery character is perfectly mirrored in a taste that also sees a return of the ripe fruit aromas. And the best part of this beer? You can still pop it at midnight. 

Good luck on your search- enjoy! 

And most importantly: Happy 2015 to you and yours! May the year be filled with laughter, passions pursued, challenges conquered and friendships fostered.