A Year of Unique Beer: Halfway Home

Well, we're officially halfway through the Year of Unique Beer, and things are starting to get interesting.  Running tally: 217 beers, plus about 15-20 homebrewed beers (mine and others').

For those who need a refresher, I accepted a fun challenge to drink no "repeat beers" this year.  The rules are pretty simple: if I drink more than six ounces of any beer, that's the only one of that label I get for the year, and I can't just keep drinking small pours of everything indefinitely - that would need to come from a sample-oriented interaction, like a beer festival.

Bottom line up front?  It's been both easier and harder than I expected, and while I haven't had to resort to wine-drinking yet, the pitfalls are starting to get wider and more numerous...

Smooth Sailing

On the one hand, this has been remarkably easy.  With more places than ever carrying craft beer, there's no shortage of good taps out there.  On the list of places where I can get local craft beer are less-likely locations like two local movie theaters, soccer matches, and school receptions.

It's also helped that new breweries keep opening up near me - three so far this year just in my immediate vicinity, and maybe as many as a dozen in the larger metro area.

Even at local brewpubs that I visit regularly, there are always 2-3 seasonal beers, collaborations, and/or differently-"gassed" variations (those count as unique beers if they exist separately in Untappd) to choose from.

And I also have the greatest beer friends in the world: whenever they travel, they haul back singles from their travels for me.  Great stuff.

Choppy Waters

It's not all beer and roses, though.  

I'm still having a tough time, of all places, at home.  My kegs are full, I'm running low on bombers, and I haven't even really hit the busiest of my brewing seasons (fall) yet - I'm starting to get concerned that I'll either need to chop back my brewing or use this as an excuse to buy more kegs!  OK, so maybe that's not ALL bad...

Visiting with friends and family continues to present a challenge.  I just finished my Unique Beer Year Waterloo: almost a week at the New Jersey shore with my extended family.  That trip chewed up all of my existing single reserves, and required trips to two bottle shops to fill out the haul, and at that I only came home with two cans.  Why two bottle shops?  Because one is a local supermarket and their "mix your own six-pack" selections are both narrow and static.  The things you learn in a challenge like this...

Finally, just like there are "crafty" beers (that aren't really), there are "crafty" beer bars.  The beers might be craft, but the bar isn't: it's the same eight craft beers on tap every time.  I've had to start weighing when it's time to pull the trigger on those macros, and as we'll see in the update below, two have now bitten the dust.

Did I Drink That?

As we reach the turnaround, I've just about reached the point where I can no longer rely on my memory to tell me if I've had a beer before.  I had one misfire - ordered a brown ale I thought I'd never heard of, was wrong, and had to give it away and order another - and a few more close calls.  Untappd has become my crutch and my cross.

Two macros are now off the list: PBR and, just this weekend, Yuengling Lager.  I'm treating those macro lagers like gold: they're ubiquitous and might save me in a pinch, so I'm trying to hoard them.  If I make it through the entire year with nary a Bud touching my lips, I'll consider it a victory, but it'll be a victory born of cowardice: I'm not avoiding it on principle, I'm avoiding it because I might need it someday, like a shady relative you can't stand but might need to bail you out of jail so you don't have to call your spouse.

I still maintain, though, that all it takes is to make it to September.  At that point, I'll be able to ride a rising wave of Oktoberfests, pumpkin beers, and Christmas beers right on through to 11:59PM on December 31st.  

What will I drink one minute later to toast in the new year?  Your suggestions are welcome.  

Keep it simple.

JJW