Every January presents the opportunity for experts to opine about the forthcoming trends that will take the country by storm during the next 12 months. Don’t worry: This isn’t that type of article. This is more of a list of what I’d like to happen in the world of whiskey and beer, though it is tempered with a bit of reasonable expectation. So pour yourself a drink and at least consider how we can make these wishes a reality.
PLEASE, MORE OF THIS IN 2017:
One-beer nights. I just can’t get over how much I enjoyed my time drinking in Düsseldorf and Köln this past July. The craziest part of my experience? Each bar had a very limited selection—this brewery’s altbier, that brewery’s kölsch—but all excellent. Occasionally, take a break from tap-dancing and dig deep into one good beer.
Younger bourbon... but not too young. Now that very old bourbon (17 years and older) has become scarce and stupidly expensive, drinkers will (hopefully) rediscover how good 6- to 9-year-old bourbon is. It’s not cheaper, it’s different, less woody-bitter, more wild and in your face. Just save the 4-year-old-and-under stuff for highballs (more on that below).
Lagers. No, I’m not jumping on the bandwagon. I’ve been pushing the damned category for almost 20 years! But the problem with most of the cool new lagers is that they are whopper-hopped and cold-matured for IPA freaks who want to take over this style of beer. Brewers: Don’t monoculture another entire classification of beer. Give us Dortmunders, helles, long-cellared bocks and soft, beautiful, Czech-type pilsners.
Simple, reasonably priced cocktails. No need to break the bank on expensive mixed drinks. Try classic and delicious highballs, which consist of just a spirit and a mixer, like Scotch & Soda, Gin & Tonic or the beautifully American drink the Stone Fence, a mix of hard cider and applejack (you can use rum, too). Oh, and Boilermakers, the only so-called beer cocktail I’ll drink and drink with delight. Simple, solid and easy on the wallet.
Respect for blends. I ran into a friend and his dad this summer. Dad said, “Tell me, Mr. Whiskey Writer: Whatta you think of Johnnie Walker Black?” I didn’t hesitate. “I love it,” I responded, adding “especially this time of year.” “Right!” he shouted. “Tall glass full of ice, Black and seltzer!” Single malts are great, but so are good blends enjoyed the way they were designed to be drunk. Cutty Sark Prohibition with club soda? You bet. Monkey Shoulder with one ice cube? Yes, indeed.
Farm-estate distillers. I’ve become convinced that there is something to terroir in grain and distillation. Places like Hillrock Estate, in New York’s Hudson Valley, and Mississippi River Distilling, in Iowa, where they make whiskey from their own or locally sourced grain, have given my theory credence. I’d like to see more of these field-to-glass spirits on the market.
Good whiskey for under $50 a bottle. It can be done: Speyburn 10, Teeling Small Batch, Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Crown Royal Northern Harvest. Distillers: If you don’t get a good value whiskey on the market, you’re eating your young. Drinkers: When you see these, buy ’em and try ’em.
Bold Canadians. Speaking of Crown Royal Northern Harvest, could we get a bigger allotment of better Canadian whiskies in the United States? I’d like to drink Danfield’s Limited Edition, Alberta Premium, Wiser’s 18, Gibson’s Finest Rare and the Highwoods 90 on a more regular basis. And we need to pay more attention to the exceptional stuff we do get on a regular basis, like Wiser’s Red Letter, Lot No. 40, Crown Royal XO and the Forty Creek Confederation Oak. Wake up, folks—this is final frontier stuff.
More choice in session beers. The session IPA was inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be a killer of the easy drinking category. Notch (Salem, Massachusetts) brews a kaleidoscopic selection of lower-octane beers that are good for long drinking sessions and Yards (in Philly) sells a ton of its deliciously malty Brawler. And that’s not to mention plenty of sessionable sours too. Choice is good.
Fair allocation of rare whiskey. No, I’m kidding. There is no way to do this fairly. There are too many people who want too little whiskey. And no, guys like me don’t automatically get a bottle; I haven’t seen a full bottle of Pappy Van Winkle on my shelf in years. Yet somehow I survive. Think about it.
BY GOD, A LOT LESS OF:
Moonshine. You’re not Bo and Luke Duke, running ’shine in the General Lee. You’re a sucker, paying 8-year-old bourbon prices for 8-hour-old corn distillate. Stop making it, stop drinking it.
Waiting in lines for beer releases. Put away the camp chairs, this ain’t a Phish concert. If anything, you should be in a Stephan Stills state of mind, humming “Love The One You’re With.” Chances are very good that a brewery, a bar or a store near you is selling some excellent beers right now. Go get some and worry less about what you’re missing.
Whiskey snobs. There is no kind of whiskey that is intrinsically better than all others, only whiskey that you like better. Which is your opinion, to which you’re entitled, but it wasn’t handed down from on high carved in stone. And shut up about how we must drink whiskey neat, with no added water. Unless it’s cask strength, water was already added at the distillery.
Bourbon-barrel beers. Stop putting every kind of beer in a bourbon barrel. There are better things to do with them, like making Scotch. Which reminds me: Get out there and drink more sherry. We need those barrels to make Scotch, too.
Calling every beer an IPA. Black IPA. Red IPA. Green IPA. White IPA. Session IPA. Wheat IPA. You know what IPA stands for, right? Cynical brewers say it’s short for “Increases Profits Automatically.” A black IPA is just a hoppy porter that’s wearing a fake mustache and glasses. Let’s stop these shenanigans.
Wax bottles. This goes for both whiskey and beer. Wax may look cool and give a bottle a high-priced aura, but unless it’s done right (hint: pretty much only Maker’s Mark does it right), it’s just a pain in the ass to remove.