AVOID: The Beer Froster. This is a new mini-freezer I recently saw marketed to drinkers of mass-produced lagers. Apparently, standard 5-percent ABV lagers have a freezing point of 23 degrees Fahrenheit. The Beer Froster chills beer to exactly 24 degrees, thus giving you the coldest beer possible without freezing. It’s a horrible idea for anyone who cares about the flavor of what they drink, since 24degree liquid will completely numb your taste buds and prevent you from tasting anything at all.
BUY: A designated beer fridge (DBF). If you want to taste flavorful ales instead of slurping light beer slushies, find a used fridge on Craigslist and put it in your garage or basement. I bought a used full-size fridge in great condition for $60. You can set it to chill in the high 30s or low 40s, a much better starting temp for expensive craft beer. That may be warmer than you want to keep your milk, so not only are you giving yourself plenty of room to store cold beer, you are ensuring that chilling your beer to its ideal temp does not endanger perishable foods in your main fridge. Win-win. You also have the option of drilling a hole in it for a tap faucet and making your own kegerator on the cheap.
BUY: A wine cooler. Not Bartles & James—the appliance that keeps wine at the right temperature. The ideal temperature for cellaring expensive beers like imperial stouts and Belgian quads is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And about the only beers I want to drink that warm are very dark beers, so you don’t want to keep your DBF set to 50 degrees. Some folks use a wine cooler for longterm storage of beers they want to age. I happen to cellar beer in my basement, which ranges from 60 degrees in the dead of winter to 70 degrees in the middle of summer, and I’m very happy with the results. But if you don’t have a basement, a wine cooler is a great option.
AVOID: A beer drinking hat. You know, the one with the cup holders built in and the straw for drinking two beers at once? Come on.
BUY: Proper glassware. You don’t need a different glass for every style of beer known to man, but a few different types of glassware can enhance your drinking experience. The basics include a shaker pint (obviously), a weizen glass and some sort of stemware for Belgian styles. Bonus points if you also have a nonic pint glass for English style ales and a pilsner glass. And of course, never freeze your glasses. You want to taste your beer, right?
BUY: A small bottle opener for your key chain. They are tiny, they are cheap and they are life savers. You never know when you’re going to encounter a beer emergency. I’ve had a bottle opener on my key chain for over five years now, and there are few items of that size I’ve used more during that time. You can usually find these for free or selling for under a dollar at beer festivals and other similar events.
Speaking of beer festivals, the Southeast’s premier beer festival, Birmingham’s own Magic City Brewfest is coming up June 3 and 4, and tickets go on sale tomorrow, April 15. Go to MagicCityBrewfest.com for more info. This event continues to be a key source of revenue for Free The Hops in the fight to modernize Alabama’s archaic beer laws.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org