Consider marking life’s milestones with a different drink.
Beer is often referred to as an affordable luxury. And this is mostly true, given the majority of the world’s agreed-upon finest beers could be found for under $20 per bottle for years. That price point may have crept up recently to more like $40 to $50, putting aside any questionable retail pricing practices.
Compare this with the price of a bottle of highly touted wine. While life-list wines can set you back thousands of dollars per bottle, the world’s best beer is still attainable for under $50. Simply put: you can claim to be toasting with the finest, at a reasonable price, if you choose beer. So, boost the cachet of your celebration with great beer—without breaking the budget.
Have you ever celebrated a major accomplishment with a fine beer? I’m not talking about when you won the championship, then chugged the cheap stuff in the locker room celebration. I’m thinking along the lines of life’s major milestones, marked with a few big bottles of memorable, satisfying, not-so-cheap beer.
With this month’s issue focused on weddings, let’s take a look at how nuptials and other momentous occasions can bring beer front and center at significant times of your life.
With This Beer, I Thee Wed
Weddings are such multi-faceted occasions, you’ll likely need a case or two of celebratory special beers along the way.
Use the initial announcement dinners to impress future in-laws with your ability to navigate the beer menu—an increasingly important adult skill. With a few basic questions, you’ll be able to select the right beer for each future family member—whether they like sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, chocolatey or fruity. Though it didn’t happen overnight, now even mid-tier restaurants offer draft and bottle lists complete with descriptions that include flavor and aroma notes, along with price and alcohol level.
For the bachelor party or golf outing, some six-packs of canned local beer should come along for the excursion. Large breweries are installing massive canning lines and even smaller craft breweries use mobile canning units to keep up with consumer demand for this attractive, portable beverage package. (There are places where glass bottles are not welcome.)
And it’s not just the run-of-the-mill, year-round beers that brewers put in cans. You’ll also find seasonals and higher-end beers showing up in metallic containers. Look for the sought-after annual releases of Tröegs Nugget Nectar from Hershey and Monk’s Blood from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. You may want to consult the experts at specialty retail beer stores or at online beer rating sites (BeerAdvocate and RateBeer) for more suggestions.
For the ladies, modern bachelorette parties are now being held in the brewhouse and breweries. I recently visited a new production brewery and arrived to a bevy of bridesmaids enjoying attentive service from the brewery staff and beer as fresh as what could be found just steps away. A food truck/catering business supplied the food to balance the alcohol.
On the wedding day itself, though, the occasion calls for the best you can find. Recall my original comment about some of the best bottles of beer in the world priced at under $50 each?
A personal favorite, Mariage Parfait from Belgium’s famed Boon Brewery fits the bill perfectly. Why fill the toasting glasses at the reception with cheap sparkling wine when you can raise a glass with one of the world’s finest beers? And the bonus: the name translates as “perfect wedding,” ideal on the big day. Choose the Geuze version of this beer with a noticeable sour fruit profile or the Kriek version bursting with an eye-popping cherry red color in the glass, befitting the day of love.
If you don’t want to share your unique beer selection with all your guests, be sure the bride and groom get a full glass and each member of the wedding party a bottle to take home.
After weddings, children often follow, and not too far behind. When the time comes, how can beer play a part in celebrating the birth and maturing of your children? I’m glad you asked.
It might not be as obvious, but look at breweries that create special occasion beers, such as beers marking the brewery’s anniversary or significant seasonal events—like Oktoberfest or Christmas. Buy two bottles at the release each year—one to drink fresh and one to add to your child’s collection. Save and share those special bottles when your progeny reaches legal drinking age.
Beer lover’s tip: Choose beers high in alcohol, as these tend to fare better with time, as do bottles that are corked and capped to reduce the speed of the beer’s deterioration from oxidation.
Cool Beer for a House Warming
Throwing a housewarming party or being invited to one provides yet another milestone for popping the cork on great beer. Whether giving or receiving, you won’t disappoint when the gift basket is filled with items from an area brewery—a freshly filled growler of beer, special-release bottles, appropriate glassware and a prepaid brewery tour pass.
Here in Chester County, we’re blessed with well-established breweries that have everything you need for a memorable gift basket: Iron Hill Brewery (multiple locations), McKenzie Brew House (multiple locations), Sly Fox Brewing (Phoenixville & Pottstown), and Victory Brewing (multiple locations), as well as newer arrivals making their mark—Bog Turtle Brewery (Oxford), Boxcar Brewing (West Chester), Kennett Brewing Co. (Kennett Square), Levante Brewing (West Chester) and Stable 12 Brewing (Phoenixville). By the time you read this, Tuned Up Brewing in Spring City, La Cabra Brewing in Berwyn and Chatty Monks Brewing in Phoenixville should all be much closer to their opening dates.
Imagine the surprise—and eternal gratitude—when you present a gift basket of beer and swag from a new brewery. And not yet another toaster.
Working Overtime for Your Just Beer-wards
You likely don’t make a practice of drinking on the job, but your career probably provides a few occasions to celebrate with beer outside the typical office happy hour.
Got a big promotion? Completed a major project? Signed a big client? To take the celebration to another level, check out a special bottle of something like DeuS [sic] from Brouwerij Bosteels in Belgium. It’s a beer brewed the traditional way but fermented and finished (complete with yeast dégorgement—removal of the yeast sediment) much like a fine Champagne. Yet another reason this is perfect for a celebration.
At the end of the day, sigh a contended sigh that the day’s work is done, though more is to be done tomorrow. Take a sip. Beer still is an affordable luxury to mark the high points of your life.
And sometimes it’s the small things that make big memories. Cheers!
Bryan J. Kolesar, local to Chester County, has been writing about beer for over ten years and maintains a blog, BrewLounge.com. The summer of 2015 brought his first published book—Beer Lover’s Mid-Atlantic: Best Brewerys, Brewpubs & Beer Bars—to both online and physical bookstores. It’s a complete 416-page guide to breweries, brewpubs, beer bars and homebrews of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware.