New Year’s Eve parties are a time of champagne toasts and tumblers of Scotch—is there any room for craft beer? I think so. At the end of the countdown, when the big hand and the little hand point straight up on the clock, why not hoist some sudsy goodness in lieu of more traditional libations? Why, beer geeks, deny the drink you’re passionate about simply because other liquids are more customary? Beer should be welcome in any situation where alcohol is present but there is a right way and a wrong way to introduce beer to a New Year’s Eve bash; follow these easy guidelines and the first thing you’ll sip next year will be a good brew.
Do find a limited release or rare bottle
It’s only January 1st, 2014 once, don’t play-down the occasion with a run-of-the-mill beer; honor the moment with a brew you don’t see on shelves every day. Have a quad that’s been aging in the cellar for a few years? Have a bomber of a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between three exalted breweries? Have one-of-three-hundred bottles that’s only released in the taproom on Leap Day? It’s time to whip that sucker out.
Don’t break the bank on said bottle
This may sound like a contradiction but it’s true: rare beers are pretty common. What I mean is, there are many, many well-known, expensive, and coveted beers on the market (e.g. Heady Topper, Pliny the Younger…etc.) but a beer needn’t be famous nor pricey to be both delicious and rare. Don’t spend your baby’s college fund on an overpriced brew (and, in turn, support the reprehensible activity of “beer scalping”); there are plenty of homegrown beers that fit the bill. You’ll save money, have a great, shareable beer, and support local businesses all in one swoop. Our Mutual Friend’s Winter Warmer, a taproom-only limited-release, for example, might be just the thing to treat your fellow party-goers without going bankrupt (this last batch has already sold-out but I’m sure there’s another brewery out there with a similar offering).
Do use proper glassware
Despite the fact that good beer should always be drank from proper glassware (but that’s a discussion for another time), we’re talking about New Year’s Eve; this isn’t a frat house kegger and this isn’t your Uncle Cletus’ NASCAR-themed wedding. A New Year’s Eve party ought to come with a little more pomp, a little more class than your average, everyday drinkfest. It doesn’t need to be a black tie affair but at least keep it Colorado formal (e.g. a clean pair of jeans, a button-up prAna shirt, and your “nice” hiking boots). In such upscale settings, the delicate clink of two stemmed snifters coming together as the ball drops seems more apropos than the clank of longneck bottles or the crunch of aluminum cans. You can break out the Solo cups on January 2nd, but keep January 1st and December 31st fancy.
Don’t expect everybody to be on board with your plan
We at Denver off the Wagon support the alcohol industry in all of its forms, be it wine, spirits, or beer. I, however, concentrate my efforts on craft beer as it’s my preferred drink and I possess very little knowledge of either the wine or spirits business. As a craft beer evangelist, I feel it is my solemn duty to spread the good word of suds and to convert non-believers to my favorite fermented beverage. Wine and spirits are well-ingrained in American culture whereas craft beer is still a fledgling—a conversion to craft beer from wine or spirits is a meager loss to the latter and a fantastic gain to the former (of course, there’s no law prohibiting anybody from enjoying multiple types of alcohol; it needn’t be a complete conversion, I just want craft beer on peoples’ radars). The point is that, if, at midnight, I can get you to put down the champagne and pick up an effervescent saison, then my mission is complete. I won’t succeed with everybody—some people are ardent traditionalists and some people just plain don’t like beer—but I’ll still try and I won’t get bummed if I fail; more beer for the rest of us.
Do bring an appropriate style of beer
This is totally subjective but it bears mentioning: Make sure you have the right beer. To make an accurate decision, you have to know your audience and you have to know your goal. If your goal is to satisfy a small group of beer geeks expected to attend the party, the right beer can be pretty much anything so long as it’s special enough to fit the circumstances. If your goal is to get a champagne drinker to switch over to beer, it may behoove you to find a beer with wine-like qualities in an effort to ease the craft beer greenhorn into the new libation. I find the fruitiness of a tripel, the acidity of a mild Berliner Weisse, or anything aged in a white wine barrel does the trick. While there are no wrong answers, you might consider shying away from very dark, very strong beers. The reason is two-fold: First, those unaccustomed to craft beer will be intimidated by the pitch black brew and immediately assume they won’t like it and second, it’s tradition to kiss somebody at the stroke of midnight and beers with intense flavors could potentially affect your breathe rather negatively.
Don’t come unprepared
A good Beer Scout is always prepared. There’s a chance you’ll be the only one imbibing a brew at midnight and there’s a chance everybody will want a sip of what you’re pouring. In reality, the situation will probably fall somewhere in the middle. You don’t need to haul in four cases of bombers but a single 12-ouncer isn’t going to cut it, either; it really depends on the size of the celebration but I find two bombers is enough to pass around the room and have everybody who wants a sip to get a sip. If you do come up short, try not to worry about it; it’s not your obligation to fill everybody’s glass. If somebody is empty-handed come the launch of 2014, it’s their own damn fault for not bringing enough drinks for themselves. You’re a sharing, caring friend, not a target for moochers.
Do play it safe
I’m not your mother and I’m not saying anything you’ve never heard before but, for the love of all things holy, don’t drive if you’re drunk off your ass. Sober friends, taxis, Uber, and Lyft are all great alternatives to wrapping your car around a light post. Don’t give the responsible booze hounds (yes, they exist) a bad name with your poor decision-making skills, get yourself a safe ride home.