10 (mostly local) beer resolutions for 2017

Fossil Cove’s Andrew Blann holds a glass of his own creation for the brewery’s new “Saturday Series” of beers, which features original recipes by the Fossil Cove staff. Saturday Series #1 is an American Pale Ale featuring New Zealand Rakau hops.

Courtesy photo

With our Christmas presents open, it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. And since I think about beer 24 hours a day, I thought I’d go ahead and share my 2017 beer resolutions with you – with a special emphasis on the local beer industry.

1. Visit more local breweries.
I love all of the breweries in Northwest Arkansas – all for different reasons – but sometimes I fall into the rut of visiting the same brewery over and over again. It’s convenient for me since one particular brewery is just five minutes from my house (and also one of the best breweries in the area in my humble opinion). There are, however, a handful of local breweries I haven’t visited in a while. I’ve been especially shy towards the breweries in Benton County. A lot can change as brewers find their rhythm. There’s no telling what I’ve been missing out on. So no excuses – I’m going to diversify in 2017.

2. Attend a beer and food event.
The culinary arts go hand-in-hand with small and independent brewing. Both camps value quality ingredients and a willingness to push boundaries. There have been a number of beer and food events held in Northwest Arkansas over the past couple of years, though I’ve yet to make it to any. Next year I resolve to take advantage of the expert beer and food pairings offered in these here parts.

3. Get to know some of the new brewers in the area.
Let’s face it. Brewers are gypsies. I’m not talking about the brewers that own their particular brewery. They will be here for a while. No – I’m talking about the brewers-for-hire. They tend to move around in their careers. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. They’re just building their work portfolios. Accumulating different experiences makes one a more well rounded professional (whatever one’s profession might be). We have a handful of new brewers in Northwest Arkansas. My goal is to hear their stories in 2017.

4. Show my kids what responsible beer drinking looks like.
Back in the day it was taboo to take your kids to a bar. A brewery is not a bar, however, and is rather family-friendly in most instances. Perhaps no other bar exemplifies this family-friendly approach more than Ozark Beer Co. in Rogers. The weekends are prime time for families with low-key beer drinking, chit-chat, and music from some of the more eclectic musicians in Northwest Arkansas. Europeans have success modeling responsible alcohol intake for their children, why shouldn’t we? I plan to take my kids to Ozark next year so they can see what cool-headed adults look like when they enjoy beer the way it should be enjoyed.

5. Share more local beer with my extended family.
I’ve enlightened many family members on the virtue of good beer over the years. My father-in-law – who lives in Hot Springs – is now a big fan of Sierra Nevada Narwhal, for example. He drank industrial lagers for decades and now he enjoys a great big imperial stout. I consider that a feather in my hat. What I haven’t done is fully indoctrinate him in Arkansas beer. He needs to taste Core, Bike Rack, Saddlebock, and all the rest. Not to mention Lost Forty and Rebel Kettle in Little Rock. Heck, Bubba’s Brews Brewing Co. is only 15 minutes from his house in Hot Springs. I resolve to go there with him soon.

6. Make beer a part of a healthy lifestyle.
Beer drinkers have long been thought of as unhealthy. Beer guts, onion rings, and empty beer cans – the stereotypical scene ain’t pretty. The truth of the matter is that a lot of beer drinkers are indeed health conscious. For them it’s quality over quantity. Two IPAs are as satisfying as six industrial lagers. The IPAs might have more calories per serving, but fewer servings are typically had in total. Columbus House Brewery in Fayetteville is a brewery that celebrates health and wellness. The owners are young and lithe, and they host events that keep attendees lithe, if not young. Yoga sessions and running events are numerous throughout the year. I’m going to do one of those. And then I’ll drink a beer.

7. Return all of those plastic six-pack holders accumulating in my garage.
I remember when everyone used to worry about how many geese were killed by those clear plastic six-pack rings industrial lagers came in. Remember those? We were told to snip them before throwing them away, so as not to choke out precious wildlife when they inevitably made their way into nature. Nowadays beer – especially local craft beer – comes in these new-fangled hard plastic carriers. I’m not exactly sure what made them so popular. Are they more environmentally responsible? Less expensive? All I know is that they accumulate quickly in my garage. Right now I have a two-year old stack that approaches three feet in height. Fortunately the local brewers can recycle them. So in 2017 I resolve to take the purple ones back to Fossil Cove, and the black ones to Ozark Beer Co.

8. Attend as many local beer festivals as possible.
Northwest Arkansas has hosted a number of beer festivals over the last couple of years. Fayetteville Foam Fest, Dickson Street Oktoberfest, and Frost Fest (sponsored by Fossil Cove Brewing Co.) are just a few examples. I love beer festivals because there is so much great beer available, and because everyone in attendance is usually in a great mood. In all my years attending beer festivals I have yet to meet anyone who was having a bad time. People from all walks of life come together for a compressed period of time and celebrate something they love – something they have in common. Beer is the great equalizer, and I plan to attend as many festivals as I can in 2017. It’s good for the soul.

9. Savor the flavor.
Just about anything is good in moderation. Craft beer is awesome because it tastes good and it was made with love. I resolve to recognize the fine line between being a beer advocate and being a buzz chaser. ‘Nuff said.

10. Recommit to homebrewing.
It wasn’t long after I discovered good beer that I started homebrewing. I met a couple of guys who were into the hobby when I joined a new church (yes, church was my conduit to homebrewing). Ashley Goodwin and Steve Field were already masters of their craft. They took me under their wings and showed me that making beer was a meaningful and fulfilling pastime. I joined the Fayetteville Lovers of Pure Suds – the local homebrewers club – and dove straight into an obsession. At one point I was brewing a 5-gallon batch every month. Since then I have started a family, and my day job has become more involved. Brewing at home has slowed to a crawl and I don’t go to FLOPS meeting anymore. Next year I resolve to break out all that fancy homebrewing equipment that clutters my garage and put it good use again.

The local beer scene has grown by leaps and bounds since Ozark Brewing Co. opened in 1994. More than a dozen now call the area home. I hope you find inspiration from my beer resolutions because there is a lot to discover in Northwest Arkansas. Go visit a brewery you’ve never been to. Order a beer you never heard of. And consider brewing your own at home. Resolve to make 2017 your best beer year ever.