This Week in Craft Beer

Brew Year’s Resolutions

Early January: The time of year when gym attendance explodes, organic food sales jump, and bar crowds shrink ... for a few weeks. A sequence that unfolds every year, New Year's resolutions come and go faster than the delicate hop oils in a dry-hopped IPA due to one main reason: They're rarely any fun. That's why this year, I'm focusing my resolutions on enjoying life more with beerified twists on some of the classic New Year's goals.

Support Local Businesses: Drink At More Local Beer Spots

Sure, you could go to the same bar or taproom you always go to after work on Friday, but why not try somewhere new? With craft beer available at more local businesses than ever before, it's not hard to find a tasty brew at spots other than your go-to watering hole or bottle shop. Expand your search radius and you might be surprised by the specialty beers the not-quite-on-the-way bar, café, market, restaurant, or brewery is offering. Maybe you'll finally get a taste of that fabled barrel-aged stout you've been seeking!

Do Community Service: Share More Beer

The best part of drinking good craft beer isn't the flavor experience: It's the discussion that ensues with your drinking buddies. I can't count the number of times a friend or co-worker has opened a bomber or growler of great beer and offered a glass to everyone in the immediate conversation simply to share the experience of the beer. What better way is there to make new friends and keep the ones you have?

Save Money: Cellar More Beer

Saving beer for the future—otherwise known as "cellaring"—is just as big a part of the beer world as the wine world. Unfortunately, the seasonal nature of beer releases sometimes results in periods lacking exciting selections, which is when it's nice to have a stash of cellared brews on hand. Though by no means a cheap pursuit (even if, like me, you have the beers on your living room floor because you don't have space for a second fridge), aged beers will reveal aspects of their personality you never knew existed as they evolve in the bottle through the months and years. As long as you choose your beer well (anything previously aged in oak barrels will do nicely), consider this an investment in flavor.

Learn: Revisit Dismissed Styles and Explore New Ones

I long ago wrote off certain styles in pursuit of radical flavors, but 2014 was my year of rediscovery of the subtleties of certain "middle of the road" styles like pales, browns, and craft lagers. This year, I will continue exploring the beer world by tasting more of the tried-and-true classics that predate the American craft beer renaissance, including German wheat beers, Trappist ales and European pilsners. To truly love something is to appreciate it in all its forms, and it seems only proper to treat beer in the same manner.

Enjoy Life More: Take More Beercations

Craft beer is the perfect lens to visiting new destinations and revisiting old ones. Breweries often pull us away from regional attractions into the heart of a town where locals gather, rent is cheap and there's no one to complain about noise. In that regard, they offer a glimpse of the distilled essence of the surrounding urban world, making them the perfect place to visit when you have precious little time to take in a destination. Travel with craft beer in your focus and you'll discover worlds you never knew existed.

Though regarded as a mere alcoholic beverage by many, craft beer can provide a refreshing perspective on life and a steady rhythm with which to navigate it. Approached in moderation, it is a portal to camaraderie, adventure, sensory experience, and worldly knowledge. For those of us who have allowed it to influence our times of leisure and work alike, I hope that it continues to guide us toward better versions of ourselves as we move into the new year.