One Word of Advice to Craft Beer Newbies

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder — learn what this is newbie

Brew fests. Bottle shares. Neckbeards. Pliny the Elder. Wax seals. Hipsters eating pickles and Srircha. Tulip glasses. Sam Calagione. Cicerones. The thing about craft beer is that it can be so many different things to so many different people. And there’s plenty of room left for everyone to grab their own plot of land in this wonderful time of craft beer’s own Manifest Destiny. Craft beer is a journey.

You have a choice. You can make craft beer into anything you want it to be. Some want to homebrew. Others want to host events. And some just want to be able to recommend a beer for their friends when they go out. But, for me at least, you don’t know what you want out of your journey until it’s already happened.

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What’s your favorite beer?

The other day I was asked a puzzling question, “what’s your favorite beer?” Being a “beer guy” who has tried hundreds if not thousands of beers, this should be an easy answer. But it wasn’t and I sounded like a d-bag with my response. I want to figure out with you the best way to answer this question so you don’t sound like one too.

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Short On Beer 2013 Year in Review

My life has changed in ways I could never imagine this year and it’s all because of this site. If you’ll indulge me, I want to retrace my steps during 2013. Fair warning: this will be a lengthy post, at least to this blog’s standard, but I really hope you read it (it gets pretty deep near the end). I’ll drop some hints about projects for 2014 and I think my journey is something you can connect with whether you are just getting into craft beer or have a site of your own dedicated to it.

In The Beginning…

January 9th, 2013 I launched this site. I had no idea what I was doing (I still really don’t). But I dove in and in my first post wrote this:

“Here’s where I’m at:

1. My knowledge of the craft beer industry is minimal.

2. My knowledge of tasting beer is awful.

3. I’m scared to homebrew.”

This year I managed to conquer all or at least part of each of these. First, I met some amazing people in a bunch of different areas in the craft beer industry. This gave me a deeper understanding in how the three-tier system works, how a brewery works, who is drinking the beer, and much more. As far as tasting beer, I spent a whole month thinking critically about what I drank which improved my “drinking powers” (I’ll get to this in greater detail about this later). And lastly, I brewed two homebrew batches.

Beer Club

Hosting Beer Club

Hosting my first beer club at the Buffalo Wing Factory

In February I got the chance to host my first beer club. I had no idea what I was doing out there. This was the first time I was the authority figure that people were paying watch speak. Okay, I wasn’t paid and the people were paying for the beer and food but I think a little of that was to hear me talk. But from it I learned a lot about myself and public speaking. I enjoyed it and am thankful for having gone out there and done it.

Homebrew

In March I homebrewed for the first time. The homebrewing kit I had had for months was eyeing me and I finally got the nerve to just do it. So I watched the miserably produced training video and went to work. After some mishaps and a lot of swearing, a few weeks later I had my first homebrew. It was a proud moment.

April Dirty 30

I thought it’d be a good idea to try a new beer and write a post about it everyday for a month. Well it worked for 17 days (16 straight to begin the month).  At least I made it further than the other blog who I tried to partner with to do it. AD30 made me think critically about every beer I drank which was a good exercise in growing my palette. I think I’ll do it again in 2014.

New Job

The reason April Dirty 30 got sidetracked after 16 days was because I got a new job! All the excitement and preparations that went along with it made it really difficult to fulfill my nightly commitment. This was a huge change for me. I actually don’t know if I would have gotten the job or had the nerve to take it if it wasn’t for this blog pushing me out of my comfort zone.

TWIBs

TWIBs or “This Week in Beer” started in May. This was my way of summing up my thoughts on beers I had had that week along with my thoughts on the beer industry and life. I cut back on TWIBs later in the year but want to get back into them in 2014.

Talking

I spent a lot of the spring and summer talking to and meeting with beer people. I had some awesome interviews with local brewery owners who taught me so much about starting a brewery and a beer-related business. Hopefully these lessons will come in handy one day.

Conversations with Beer Bloggers

This summer I started Conversations with Beer Bloggers – an online interview with your favorite beer bloggers. This is one of my favorite things I started. Through CBB I was able to meet and ask questions to people whose opinions I greatly respect. I already have the first one of 2014 recorded and will have it out to you shortly. There will be many more of these in 2014!

Twitter Happened

With my new job came a lot of downtime at first. So I spent copious amounts of time interacting with my new online beer pals on Twitter. Probably too much time. But they kept the days moving and full of laughs. I am now absolutely slammed at work and probably will be for the rest of eternity so I may never get an opportunity like that again.

Portner Brewhouse

Pouring for Portner

Pouring for Portner

Towards the end of summer I got the chance to pour at an event for one of the brewery owners I had met earlier in the year. No big deal, right? Well probably not except that a random, and I consider high-profile, Twitter follower was there and recognized me. Pretty freaking cool.

More Beer Clubs

Oliver, me and Bryan

Oliver, me and Bryan

The summer and fall led to me hosting three more beer clubs. One of them I hosted at home and the other two at the Buffalo Wing Factory. The last beer club of 2013 was a special one. I co-hosted with the great Oliver Gray and another online beer pal, Bryan, traveled 6+ hours in order to make it. Fingers crossed that BWF will let me host more of them next year.

Can you help me host more beer clubs at BWF? Send them a message here simply saying, “I want Josh Short to host more beer clubs.”

Pliny and Heady

Pliny the Elder and Heady Topper are the #3 and #1 beers on BeerAdvocate’s Top 250 Beers. Pliny the Elder was even on My Impossible List. And I drank them both in less than 5 weeks. This time last year I don’t even think I knew what these beers were. No way would I have had the opportunity to have them if it wasn’t for everything listed above. 2014 goal — Zombie Dust and Pliny the Younger.

Cicerone Certified Beer Server

Cicerone Certification

Accreditation

Accreditation. The Cicerone Program’s thoughts on how much I know beer are meaningless to 99.9% of people. However I’m in that 0.1% (and you probably are too). So when I finally got off my ass, studied for the exam and passed with a 97%, I was ecstatic! The culmination of everything I did this year paid off. Little nuggets of information I picked up talking to beer people and interacting with like-minded individuals online came in handy. I studied. I studied pretty hard too and could have probably passed without these experiences. But it wouldn’t have been the same. It wouldn’t have been as fun and that’s what it’s all about for me. The knowledge I learned homebrewing, the details of styles I picked up during the April Dirty 30, having conversations with beer bloggers, hosting beer clubs where I’m the expert being asked all sorts of questions about beer all were wrapped up in one 60-question online exam.

2014 and Beyond

I started 2013 lost in an open field without a compass or map. I can’t go back to the start of my journey even though it would be a blast to do it all over again. I’m now on a road (the distance and size of it I’m unsure). I believe I have a compass. Do I know which way to go? Not yet. But I have a ton of projects coming up that I can’t wait to start working on that will guide me in the right direction. As promised, here are some hints regarding some of them:

  1. A recurring meet up of like-minded individuals at an establishment that serves liquid
  2. Bar/Restaurant beer education
  3. Videos. Lots of videos.
  4. Guest posts (here by others and other sites by me)
  5. SOB Podcast???

My Friends

If you have ever been to this site before, met me in person, interacted with me on Twitter or had a hand in any part of me making it this far I thank you. If this is your first time on this site, thank you too and welcome. You all keep me going on my journey. I probably would have never had the courage to do any of it if it wasn’t for your support. Thank you so, so much.

What do you think? Do you have any questions about my journey thus far or where it’s going next? Leave them below along with your own memories from this year.

As always, contact me if you ever have questions or thoughts on the site, beer or life that you want to share with me. I’d love for you to just say hi and introduce yourself. It helps me to get to know my readers better and deliver you more and better content.

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TWIB: Online Meets Offline and F%#^!@$ PLINY

This Week in Beer (TWIB) is a feature where I’ll highlight some craft beers I had during this past week mixed with some related (and unrelated) thoughts. Yes, it’s a play on the name of the show This Week in Baseball which I grew up on and loved.

What’s the first rule of the Internet? Don’t invite someone you meet online over to your house. Okay, I broke the first rule of the Internet. And since he didn’t kill me, and my wife somehow didn’t kill me, my Mom will surely kill me if she reads this post. But I’ll die a happy man because I made new friends and drank PLINY this weekend!! All this is explained in detail below.

Offline Meets Online

In the beginning…

Oliver, me and Bryan

Oliver, me and Bryan

Over the last few months a connection between Bryan, Oliver and I had formed. Having Twitter open all day at work was probably the cause of this. During this time we’ve had numerous blog posts mentioning each other and always talked about having a meet-up. When I got the thumbs up to host this month’s Beer Club at the Buffalo Wing Factory, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have one. I asked Oliver to host and invited Bryan to join who made the long 6+ hour trek up to where I am in Virginia to stay with me.

Check out Bryan’s post on meeting us!

Beer Club

Beer Club at the Buffalo Wing Factory

Beer Club at the Buffalo Wing Factory

Let me take this chance to apologize to Oliver. Over the past several weeks he’s received at least three emails a day from me talking about Beer Club and my worries about everything related to it. But after way too many emails, phone calls and lots of daytime GChat conversations, we finalized our outline and ended up getting nearly 4x the amount of people that came to the last Beer Club.

Beer Club consisted of five rounds of two beers, tasted blindly, each paired with a talking topic, small course and trivia question for the 23 attendees.

Round 1

  • Beers: Three Brothers Great Outdoors Pale Ale and Ommegang Scythe and Sickle
  • Food Pairing: Blacked chicken and bacon salad with a peppery Parmesan dressing
  • Topic: American vs. Belgian Brewing
  • Trivia Question: Traditionally, in what kind of building was Belgium beer brewed?

Beer Club

Round 2

  • Beers: Flying Dog Dogtoberfest and Starr Hill Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter
  • Food Pairing: Kerrygold Dubliner cheese
  • Topic: Seasonal beers
  • Trivia Question: What state is the Great American Beer Fest held in?

Round 3

  • Beers: Natty Greene’s Buckshot Amber Ale and Anchor BigLeaf Maple Autumn Amber
  • Food Pairing: Spicy Honey BBQ Buffalo Bites
  • Topic: How beer gets its color and SRM
  • Trivia Question: What ingredient gives beer its color?

Round 4

  • Beers: Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale and Great Lakes Nosferatu
  • Food Pairing: Mushroom and Swiss burger slider
  • Topic: How beer gets its alcohol
  • Trivia Question: True/False – Alcohol is an ingredient in beer?

Beer Club

Round 5

  • Beers: Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout and Guinness
  • Food Pairing: Vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup
  • Topic: How and why Nitrogen is used in pouring beer
  • Trivia Question: What other beer is typically poured using Nitrogen? A) Sierra Nevada Pale Ale B) Sam Adams Boston Lager C) Fosters: Australian for Beer D) Boddingtons
Me letting Oliver do the talking

Me letting Oliver do the talking

Our winner, who got all the blind tastings and trivia correct and had to win in an extra trivia tiebreaker round was Jason, a longtime Twitter follower. Nice job, man! Jason, Scott, David, Larry, Mike, Tim, Mark, Colleen, and the other first-time Beer Club goers I really hope to have you back! Fingers crossed, I’ll be hosting another one in December or January where we’ll be drinking all the winter seasonals.

Thanks, Oliver for all the Beer Club pictures!

F%#^!@$ PLINY

What’s Pliny?

Here’s a quick Pliny overview if you don’t know what (or who) it is. Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist who was the first guy to write about hops. He died on his ship trying to save a friend of the family in Pompeii after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Some 2,000 years later, Pliny the Elder is one of the most sought after beers in the world. BeerAdvocate has it as #3 (with Pliny the Younger at #2) overall. It’s brewed by California’s Russian River Brewing Company and is nearly impossible to find on the East Coast.

Mission Impossible

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder. In the glass.

Drinking Pliny the Elder is on my Impossible List, a list of challenges I work to accomplish everyday. My friend Dan invited me to a local wine and craft beer bar where he presented me with the allusive beverage. I can’t think of a way to repay him for this.

Anything with hype like Pliny usually doesn’t live up to their expectations. I knew going in that this beer wasn’t curing any diseases or giving me superpowers. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty damn good beer. I’m not even the biggest IPA fan and Pliny, a DIPA, went down so easily for me. It’s very florally with some citrus notes and not overpowering at all at 8% ABV. It’s a beer that I say you need to try at least once even if you can’t get it less than three weeks after bottling like Dan did.

Pliny and Diet Pliny

Pliny and Diet Pliny

We also tasted Russian River’s Blind Pig, an IPA, which also gets splendid remarks from drinkers. It wasn’t nearly as good as Pliny the Elder though. Dan nailed it when he called it a “Diet Pliny.”

Regardless, I had a wonderful time. The empty bottle of Pliny the Elder is ready to be proudly showed off in my man room. The next day while I spent 5+ hours staining my deck, all I was thinking about was Pliny.

What’s next?

Next to check off my Impossible List is the Cicerone Certified Beer Server Exam. I’ will have this done by the end of November. If I don’t I want to make a vow that I’m not allowed to drink any beer until I do. I took a practice test and it looks like I still have some work to do with some off-flavors and my styles. Any help, resources or insight would be much appreciated.

What’s on your mind? Have you met online beer-friends before? What was your experience with Pliny the Elder? Any help you can give me with the test?