10 ways to master beer

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Inspired by an hour of waiting-room reading material – Men’s Journal, Esquire, Cosmo – here’s Joe Sixpack’s Ten Things Every Beer Drinker Should Do at Least Once in a Lifetime.

  1. Open a bottle without an opener.

The scene: On a beach, in the woods, in the parking lot at the Vet, you have a full case of bottles. You thought they were twist-offs.

They never taught you this essential life skill in high school. If you fail, you will be mocked unmercifully and sent home thirsty.

You look around, then settle on the door handle of your buddy’s Monte Carlo. A quick snap of the wrist, a clean rip, a spray of suds. . .and nobody notices the scratch in the finish.

  1. Buy the bar a round.

With a flourish, of course.

You are there to celebrate – the lottery, the Phillies, that worker’s comp claim, whatever. Let everyone in the house know who’s responsible for that empty shot glass.

Then slide the bartender a really BIG tip. It’s the best C note you’ll spend this month.

  1. Tap a keg.

You rarely get the chance, but this is one time you’ll be first in line at the barbecue. My pal, the Trittman, once saved an entire Saturday night party because he actually knew how to fix a damaged keg-pump gasket with a pack of matches.

He is now widely regarded as a saint.

  1. Crush a can with one hand.

No technique here, just brute force. And, like all these achievements, this ought to be pursued by men and women alike. It is, brothers and sisters, an ear-tingling affirmation of our beerhood.

Note: Extra points for smashing it against your skull, but only if you draw blood.

  1. Chug an entire yard of beer.

They say there’s a trick to doing it right. I’m still drying out my shirt.

  1. Visit a brewery.

The smell’s the thing. And so is the mechanical bottling contraption. And the oddball brewers. And the chance to see how water, malt, yeast and hops somehow become your favorite brew.

And, yes, the free beer at the end of the tour.

  1. Recite a limerick in a full bar.

A long sip to clear the throat, and the poetry spills over your tongue:

There was a young naval cadet,

Who drank his own pee on a bet,

He’d retch and he’d glare,

Then finally declare,

It’s better than the beer at the Vet.

  1. Drink a bottle in a brown bag.

Damn those open container laws, this is a rite of passage.

  1. I forget. Just go directly to:

  2. Attend a beer festival.

For a moment, they looked like they were dying. And, in fact, some of the bigger ones (notably, the annual events at the Electric Factory and the now-deceased Jake & Oliver’s) are gone.

But Jim Brennan at Manayunk Brewing Co. (4120 Main St.) insists they’re still a great way to taste a dozen or more different ales. “If you’ve been drinking Miller or Killian’s, it’s a great way to step up to something better,” said Brennan.

Manayunk hosts its second annual Brew Extravaganza tomorrow, from noon till 5 p.m. Thirty area brewers will be on hand. Tix are $20.

Meanwhile, Jim Anderson of Beer Philadelphia magazine reminds beer freaks of two golden rules of beer festivals: “No. 1, it’s a fun atmosphere. And No. 2, it’s all you can drink.”

Anderson’s next big event is Split Thy Skull, the annual barleywine fest at Sugar Mom’s (225 Church St., Old City). It’s 2-6 p.m., April 22. Free admission, pay as you go.

Beer radar

Joe Sixpack was supposed to share a beer with British brewing boss Anthony Fuller when he stopped in town for last month’s Book and the Cook festival. Competing events overtook me; we chatted last week by phone instead:

How are you?

Not so good. The national budget was just unveiled and it looks like the beer tax will rise. They tax it on strength, so ordinary beer will cost one more p, London Pride will go up 2p.

How much is a good beer in London?

About one pound, seventy – about $2.50.

What’s your relationship with the Campaign for Real Ale?

I have very good relations with CAMRA. Our brewery was almost falling to pieces, it was a very old plant. Then CAMRA started up, and there was this great consumer wave of support for real ale – cask ale – like ours. We saw our beer volume increase 30 percent in two years.

What’s new at Fuller’s?

We’re developing bars called the Fine Line. Here, the breweries operate bars, but these are totally different than anything we’ve done before. They’re oriented toward people who want to go to an up-market bar, with an emphasis on cocktails and wine. They’re very much geared toward women, a female-friendly bar. You see, the girls are earning a lot of money now, and a lot are not married and like to go out in the evening. Going into a male-dominated pub is not something they like doing. They want to go someplace where they feel comfortable. Of course, where girls go, men will follow – especially if they’re good-looking.

Anything else?

Well, we’re putting out porter in sixpacks for the first time. . .

Did you find any decent bars when you visited Philly?

The Dickens Inn (2nd and Pine streets, Headhouse Square) stands out. That was tremendous.

Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with one last bottle of Sierra Nevada Celebration 1999. 


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