Joe Sixpack’s Beer of the Year 2011

TWO THOUSAND eleven will go down as the year that Miller Brewing finally repented.

Here is a company whose top seller, Miller Lite, forever stands with McDonald’s and “American Idol” as the archetypes of dumbed-down American culture, whose pursuit of the lowest common denominator brought us an utterly vile beverage with no redeeming quality other than its ability to pass through the human anatomy undetected.

Yes, Miller Lite remains the company’s top seller. But you wonder for how long.

For, in 2011, the ...

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When the dog bites, reach for a glass of hair

WHEN YOU load up the cooler this week for your New Year’s Eve soaking, take a moment to think about what you’re going to drink on the morning after.

Ah, yes, the hair of the dog that bit you.

Hard-earned experience has taught us that the best hangover cure is prevention: Go easy on the bubbles and drink plenty of water. An aspirin before bedtime works wonders, too.

But preparing for the worst is my motto, so here goes.

The phrase “hair ...

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A Christmas glass of beer in the old English workhouse

“It was Christmas Day in the workhouse, that season of good cheer, the paupers’ hearts were merry, their bellies full of beer.”

– An old English bawdy

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NOT TO BE overly optimistic as we head into the homestretch of the holiday season, but if President Newt Gingrich is going to send us paupers back to the workhouses, I’m hoping we get beer on Christmas Day.

A meager pint of ale on the holiday, after all, was one of the ...

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Holy Moses, it’s Hanukkah season

“DON’T PASS OUT, Passover.”

When Shmaltz Brewing launched in 1996 with that slogan, you’d be excused if you assumed it was just another gimmick, like Billy Beer of the 1970s or J.R. Ewing Beer of the ’80s. Its He’Brew Messiah Bold and Genesis Ale (“The Chosen Beers”) seemed little more than a scheme to use borscht belt humor to sell generic fizzy yellow liquid.

A company does not thrive for 15 years, though, on schtick alone. It turns out that, ...

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Dear Santa…

NEED TO TELL your Aunt Sarah you don’t need another knitted sweater this holiday season? Clip out this all-purpose gift list and slip it into her handbag. Maybe she’ll get the hint.

FOR THE DIYER: The Complete Homebrew Beer Book by George Hummel (Robert Rose, $16.47). With 200 easy recipes, anyone can brew lager, mead, fruit beer – you name it. Order it with a homebrewing kit directly from the author ($150).

FOR THE BOOKWORM: The Oxford Companion to ...

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25 beer drinking days till Christmas

YOU BETTER watch out, you better not cry: Christmas beer is coming to town. Here’s an advent calendar for the occasion.

1. Try something new. Debuts for 2011 include New Belgium Snow Day, a hoppy black ale, and Mikkeller Happy Lovin’ Christmas, flavored with pine needles.

2. Take a peek at the Sam Adams Winter Classics Variety Pack. They finally got the mix right by dumping fizzy Cranberry Lambic and the out-of-season White Ale and replacing them with a warming ...

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Line up now for Westvleteren 12

COMING TO America in 2012: The World’s Greatest Beer.

It’s Westvleteren 12, a Belgian rarity brewed at the tiny St. Sixtus Trappist monastery by a brotherhood of notoriously secretive monks.

Packaged in a plain brown bottle with no label, Westvleteren 12 has consistently ranked as either the No. 1 or No. 2 brand over the past decade at RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com.

Along with its less potent (but equally delicious) sisters, Westvleteren Blonde and Westvleteren 12 gift pack Continue Reading →

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Philly goes to Belgium, again

NO OTHER American city celebrates Belgian beer like Philadelphia.

I didn’t say that, but one of the nation’s biggest importers of Belgian beer did as Philly Beer Week hammered out details on a first-ever collaboration with one of Belgium’s iconic beer makers, Brasserie Dupont.

The makers of Saison Dupont, regarded by some experts as one of the top 10 beers Philly Beer Week 2012 logoin the world, will brew the official international beer ...

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Mike Royko and the great newspaper taste test

BEFORE THERE was Yelp and RateBeer.com and a million blogs to tell us who’s No. 1, there was the great newspaper taste test.

It was the 1970s, and American breweries were dying left and right. There were barely 100 of them nationwide and most produced the same boring, pale lager. Our favorite was either the cheapest brand or the one that sponsored the home team.

Then came Mike Royko, the greatest American urban newspaper columnist ever, to Mike Royko Beer ...</p><a class= Continue Reading →

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Faro foul?

YOU KNOW those Belgian lambics that are all the rage these days? Beer fans rhapsodize about their complex character, their funky aroma, their tart flavor produced through the vagaries of spontaneous fermentation. The brewers who make them are worshipped as artisans, and bottles valued at $30 or more are collected and traded.

It’s worth noting, though, that lambic wasn’t always so beloved.

As recently as 25 years ago, Belgian lambic was largely regarded as beer gone bad. The Continue Reading →

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