Welcome to the start of a New Year(™). The bustle of the holidays, with all their bright lights and complicated dynamics, is behind us now. This should be a moment for relief, for a collective exhale.
Instead, we may find ourselves inundated with messages that it’s time for us to show “resolve.” Time to reevaluate our lives. Time to give up something we enjoy for nebulous benefits. Time to change our appearance, our habits, ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to spend my precious time.
Self-improvement can be an empowering undertaking, but in my opinion, New Year’s Resolutions sometimes have a specific flavor of guilt and obligation that can taint our goals and interfere with our inner peace. Kind of like ending a beautiful meal with a shot of Malort – however good things started, it all just took a bitter turn. Many of the most common resolutions revolve around sacrificing a favorite food, or even an entire nutritious food group like carbohydrates. Which leads me to every brewery, bar and restaurant’s least favorite tradition: Dry January.
Before we go further, I am not a doctor, a dietician, a treatment counselor or even a Tik Tok health guru. I’m just a commercial brewer who, by virtue of her trade, is literally surrounded by alcohol 40+ hours each week. I have spent a lot of time contemplating the principle of moderation. I genuinely encourage everyone to regularly evaluate their relationship with alcohol. The choice to cut back or be sober should not require justification. If going dry for a month or more feels right to you, you have my full support.
That being said, if you choose to imbibe, I’m not convinced a month of total abstinence is your only option for a healthier relationship with booze. If you feel the same, read on for some random musings on what it means to me to be a beer enthusiast and be invested in my health.
- The alcohol limits outlined in the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans are… kind of a bummer for anyone who’s ever enjoyed a boozy brunch or like, literally any woman who wants to have more than a single drink, like ever. (Google them – I’ll wait). It’s not that hard to exceed these guidelines, especially as a woman, but it’s good to know them so you can be conscious of safe limits.
- Our food and drink choices do not determine our morality. We are not “bad” because we chose spaghetti and wine for dinner instead of a salad and green juice. Removing words like “good” and “bad” from our nutrition choices can feel radical, but it is so freeing. Trust.
- It’s ok to visit bars and breweries and not drink. Sometimes we just want to meet up with friends or enjoy good food or live music. Many breweries in particular have become family-friendly community hubs, with farmer’s markets, drag shows, pet adoption events, and even book fairs. Enjoying these experiences doesn’t require a drop of alcohol (which is especially good news for any children in attendance). Just keep in mind that these are small businesses, so I encourage you to support them in other ways, like buying a meal or coffee while you enjoy their space.
- Speaking of coffee, some of my favorite area breweries offer outrageously good coffees and teas. You can just as easily enjoy a hot drink at their counter as a cold beer in their taprooms. Redemption Rock’s lattes of the month make my heart go pitter patter, and not just from the caffeine. Lost Shoe Brewing and Roasting Company in Marlborough is – you guessed it – also a coffee roastery. If you’re not familiar with the difference freshly roasted coffee can make, you are in for a treat. And in addition to beautifully complex barrel-aged beer, Wild Hare in Hudson (an experience curated by Medusa Brewing) has an extensive food and coffee menu showcasing super fresh Devoción coffee.
5.Last but not least, there are some real strides being made in the no- and low-alcohol realm. While I am not familiar with anyone in Central MA brewing non-alcoholic beer (please correct me if I’m wrong!!) Notch Brewing in Salem, known for their impeccably brewed session beers, has dipped their toes into this territory. CT-based Athletic Brewing has an extensive lineup and some of their Free Wave Hazy IPA is in my fridge right now. It’s even held up to blind taste tests with other beer industry folks.
I leave you now with my boss and head brewer’s favorite quote, adapted from Oscar Wilde: “Everything in moderation, especially moderation.” And if you disagree with everything I’ve just said, and are questioning all my credentials (what credentials?), what are you doing getting health advice from a beer column anyway? Until next time!