If you’ve been reading First Draughts for a while now, you know it’s easy to find really good beer just about everywhere. The best way to drink that beer is fresh at a brewery or bar. The closer to the source, the better.
In the event that you can’t do that—and if you have kids or a busy job, it’s often hard to spend your free time at a brewery tap room or good beer bar—here’s the best way to enjoy that good beer you buy.
1. Get It Cold
As the beer industry has grown, many stores have accommodated the influx of options with expanded beer fridges. Once beer is cold, it’s best to keep it that way. You can’t always get your favorite beer in the cooler at your store of choice, but if you can, that’s the best.
2. Get It Fresh
When you shop for beer at your local grocer or liquor store, be sure to get it fresh. Most breweries print a “best by” or “brewed on” day on their bottles or cans. If not, it never hurts to track down the store’s beer guy and ask him what’s fresh.
You don’t want beer that’s been sitting on the shelf for more than a couple of months, particularly with the hoppy flavor bombs. They’ll lose some of that punch if they sit past their prime. There are a few exceptions of beers that you “cellar” like wine, but the vast majority of beer is best when it’s fresh.
3. Get It From Somewhere Reliable
The same beer is not always equal from store to store. We’re big fans of Costco in our house. Where else can you get so many socks at once, or pepper mills the size of your arm, or enough chicken in one packet to fill your freezer? If you’re at Costco, Sam’s, or some of these other warehouse stores, you might see good beer at good prices.
Take a closer look. Remember the first two points: check to see if it’s fresh and cold. If it has been sitting in their distribution warehouse, and has now made it to the floor of your local store six months after they got their shipment, it’s probably not good anymore.
4. Get Your Beer in a Growler
In many states, breweries or grocery stores can sell you beer in a growler. Sometimes you have to bring your own, but getting it in bulk is the perfect way to get a beer you may only be able to get on tap otherwise. For just about every growler there is a pressurized tap you can attach to the top to keep your beer fresh. If you’re having a few friends over and want to showcase one of your favorite, hard to find beers, getting a growler may be the way to go.
5. Get It from Someone You Know
Develop a relationship with the manager of the beer department at your grocery or liquor store. When it’s someone you know, you’re more likely to get an inside track on the latest arrivals, upcoming releases, or even free samples!
6. Get It Home Fast
Once you’ve purchased your beer of choice, get it home and in the fridge fast. I live in Texas, where it can be a million degrees in the summer. When it’s August and I’m buying beer, I head home as fast as I can. I don’t make an extra stop by Target, swing by CVS, or detour for takeout. Get your beer home and back in the sweet, cold love of your fridge.
7. Get It In a Glass
Beer is a multi-sensory experience. You see it, smell it, and of course taste it. It’s much easier to enjoy a beer in a glass. Better yet, serve it in the proper glass for the beer type, but that’s a whole different column. Don’t ruin a great beer experience by drinking it out of can.
8. Get It In Your Belly Fast
Don’t let your beer sit around for a while. Buy fresh beer and drink it fresh. I make one, two, maybe three beer runs in a week. I drink what I buy within a few days of purchase. Do the same. It will ensure the best beer-drinking experience.
There you go. Follow those eight rules and you won’t ruin a good beer. Cheers!