Let posterity show that the last week of July, 2009, beer and its mythical powers to unite the irreconcilable became the number one conversation in America. Earlier this week I got an email I won’t soon forget, from NIGHTLINE, offering me a chance to comment on the so-called Beer Summit at the White House, which, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will recall was convened by President Obama to diffuse the tension following his comments on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge, Mass., Police Officer Sergeant Jim Crowley. Phew. So how could I resist? In the end, the three guys and Vice President Biden joined each other for an awkward exchange on a ridiculously small picnic table for beers, the brands of which threatened to overshadow the Very Important Reason for their little brew down in Obamatown. Here’s the result. Blink and you’ll miss me, right after Barbara Walters and Barack himself raise their eyebrows at all the considerable fuss.
The sky may be falling on Wall Street, but we’ll always have beer. It makes us happy; it’s inexpensive; it’s readily available. What’s not to like? And fall is an especially good time to drink it. The Great American Beer Festival is in just a few weeks; the traditional Oktoberfest in Munich started just two days ago—and will go for another 13—but there are plenty of reasons raise a glass of beer right now, and close to home instead.
For the last five years I’ve had the incredibly good fortune to join my friend Seth Fletcher in rating the best beers in the land (or sometimes the world) for MEN’S JOURNAL, a somber task we approach with monkish restraint (OK, we enjoy it mightily, but if we actually finished the hundreds of bottles we sample each summer the story would never happen. Much returns to Earth from whence it came. And we have notebooks, piles of them. We swear.)
This year’s list is on newsstands now, and this time, the premise was deceptively simple: if you like ‘X’ mass beer, try ‘Y’ craft variation. Are you a Guinness drinker? Then try Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter, available in 19 states and counting. With an eye toward America’s smallest, most artisanal craft brewers—some with only a handful of employees—we dedicated ourselves to coming up with a list of exceptional American (and in one case, Quebecois) craft beers that are a bit harder to find, but so worth the effort. Many of these beers are available in NYC, on tap or in bottles at bars likeThe Blind Tiger, Bar Great Harry, DBA, Against The Grain, Spuyten Duyvil, The Diamond, the Brazen Head, and more. There’s also a mini-profile of beer provocateur Vinnie Cilurzo (of California’s Russian River Brewing Company). Enjoy!
Last April I had the outrageous fortune of being invited to heliski the Tordrillo Range of Alaska, about 80 miles outside of Anchorage, with Chugach Powder Guides, on assignment for Outside Magazine. What miracles did I perform to deserve such an assignment? I’m still wondering. After 3 steady days of snowfall that kept our group very much indoors, we flew high into the hills for the first winter time descents in the 1500 square mile range. And, well, I’m not worthy: the terrain was absolutely incredible. There’s a brief writeup on that luckfest here, under the the Outside Magazine articles section (see “D is for Decadence”). And hey travelers, worried about SARS, Avian Flu? Fugheddabout it. OK, what about the measles? Think again. Also on my site, under the National Geographic Adventure slug, two doctors’ take on what is hype, and what is a hazard, when traveling the world, from this month’s issue of National Geographic Adventure.