So it's been three weeks of the new year, and you're about ready (if you haven't already) to quit those annual resolutions to lose weight, get rich, keep a cleaner house or some other self-improvement plan that will certainly fall apart by February.
I urge you to move past that, and adopt a resolution with me that will be as enjoyable as it will be easy to keep.
New Year. New Beer. New (beer drinking) You.
I've had lots of conversations lately with my fellow craft beer fans about the styles of beer they like, and one thing seemed relatively consistent with them as well as myself -- many of them are sticking to one or two very similar styles.
Pale ales and IPAs; porters and stouts; wheats and lagers. And that's if they said they preferred more than one style.
Often, I heard the following:
"I like big, hoppy IPAs."
"The darker the better."
"Barleywine or bust!"
OK, maybe that last one was a bit of an exaggeration. But you get my point. Beer drinkers need more diversification!
Not all. Several of my mates will drink and enjoy anything, and hat's off to you if you're one of those folks. But for the rest of us, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Make a concerted effort to try new styles of beer.
One of two things will happen:
1. You'll find a new style that you absolutely love, and you'll forever add it to your repertoire.
2. You'll try everything, not like any of it (unlikely), and be reaffirmed in the knowledge that you're a one-style kind of person.
There's nothing wrong with being No. 2, and at least you will have taken the journey. And that's worth it.
While it's easy to quickly become an expert on what you like and don't like within your favorite style (by trying everything, and then learning what to look for in the description), stepping out of IPA land into the world of sours can be a bit daunting.
So how do you go about doing this?
If you're on your own, try a resource like BeerAdvocate. They have a great breakdown of the many different beer styles, or you could even move down their Top 250 list (the styles are listed there as well) and make sure you're trying the best of the best when you dive into a new type.
Another way is to take the journey with a buddy or loved one. Take the wifey, for example. She grew up a Pale Ale fan and transitioned into big-ass hoppy West Coast IPAs. Only going back a few months, we started working together to try different styles. I put a bourbon barrel aged porter in front of her one night, and she nearly cooed with delight at that first sip. Introducing someone you love to something new is a pretty cool feeling. In fact, it was her that introduced this North Carolina fella to those big-ass hoppy West Coast IPAs in the first place, and I'm forever in-beer-debted to her.
You could also lean on the experts. Take a trip to a bottle shop like the Beer Army Outpost and let the brew gurus there be your suds Sherpa. I can't tell you how many times I have been sitting in my chair and overheard one of the Beer Army soldiers teach someone about new brews and styles in language even I can understand. They're also all certified beer servers from Cicerone, so they're legit.
Finally, you could let mob mentality lead your way. Head to a beer festival in your area, and there you can usually talk to brewery reps of the new beers you're trying. No better source of information than to talk to the, erm, source.
One thing I've learned from my beer journey -- I like spicy beers. Bring on the chilies and jalapenos!
John Swartz is Editor-in-Chief of The Man FAQ, where he writes a majority of the beer-related content. A former journalist, Swartz is a longtime and passionate craft beer enthusiast and advocate. You can find him on Twitter @swartzdesk or on Untappd.