74. It's Last Call Here in 2022
2022 best beers, trends, and media; reflecting on what's behind us and ahead; some fun reminders; and tarot for G00D V1BE$.
You Say Goodbye [to 2022], You Also Say Hello [to 2023]
Look, you know what time it is. It’s the end of the year, which means end-of-the-year-round-up time. I don’t make the rules! I’d love nothing more than to fire off some deep, provocative, thoroughly reported think piece you could sit with over holiday downtime and feel all smug that I bucked the trend, but let’s be honest, the trend exists for a reason. It’s natural and logical and truly useful to reflect a bit on the year about to be behind us, as well as the coming year. And, everyone is very tired! I just got back from a vacation, which I’m excited to write about here in the new year because I am fired up about Mexico City’s beer scene, but that doesn’t mean I’m well rested—I’m now caught in a death spiral of trying to catch up on a workload that doesn’t feel year-end-wind-down at all even though it is indeed year-end-wind-down time and I’ve still somehow got gifts to buy and wrap and plans to make and all that
stressful af joyful shit.
Best Beers of 2022
I’m really excited I got to do an actual, official “best beers of 2022” list for none other than Craft Beer & Brewing. So, if you haven’t yet, go read that, and you can listen to the podcast episode on which I and other CB&B editors and writers discuss our picks.
David Nilsen, writer, Advanced Cicerone, and creator of beer-and-chocolate podcast Bean to Barstool, was nice enough to include me in the show’s own 2022 wrap-up, and the episode is packed with great writers and folks from the beer and chocolate world, so go take a listen! (Related: I obviously missed the boat on doing a Hugging the Bar gift guide, but this still feels like a good time of year to treat yourself or someone you like a lot to David’s Pairing Beer & Chocolate zine.)
Best Trends, and a Little Optimism Looking Behind Us and Forward
I talk about this in the above round-up, but I’ve been thrilled to see what feels like an especially enthusiastic embrace of variety again in craft beer, including traditional throwbacks and new innovations alike. Altbiers, grisettes, cold IPAs—tap lists are diversifying again, and I’d argue it’s been a few years since it’s been this exciting to be a craft beer fan. I know hard numbers and sales figures show a different picture, but when it comes to plenty of individual breweries who are invigorating to watch, it’s clear that they’re facing current industry and economic struggles head-on and tapping into creativity in the face of it.
Maybe I’m being uncharacteristically optimistic, but I believe that could help craft beer weather competition from other categories as it keeps longtime devotees engaged while simultaneously attracting new drinkers into the fold. Case in point, as Ruvani de Silva covered for The Washington Post: fruited sours. I’m cautiously confident that many craft beer fans are foregoing snobbery and style prejudices in favor of celebrating how much variety breweries can create, and how that variety can foster greater inclusivity.
Everything’s expensive and folks love canned cocktails and all that, and there are undoubtedly ugly struggles ahead that could very well lead to some shrinkage in America’s volume of craft breweries. (Per Brewbound, Bart Watson predicts 2023 will see a steady drop in brewery openings and we could actually stall out by 2024; it’s worth noting that there’s no doomsday-level expectation for closings, though.) The dust has long settled from 2020 and even 2021’s all-in-together-now, rallying spirit of throwing extra support behind craft breweries—and many don’t have the funds to do so even if they wanted to. 2022 feels like a year that fed craft breweries to the wolves. But, we’re still seeing creativity in styles and flavors and innovation in techniques, ingredients, and hopping methods—there’s even encouraging work being done in sustainability, like creating more environmentally friendly grains.
We might see changes in the next few years in the form of shifts like fewer breweries with more taproom locations, but don’t forget that craft beer’s really never been some kind of universally beloved animal enjoying an unshakeable cake walk. Amid obstacles and changes, I still expect to see artistry, variety, growing inclusivity (from styles and the way we talk about them to people and initiatives continuing to better this industry), strides in sustainability, and overall continuing reasons to explore and love craft beer.
My Favorite Issues of Hugging the Bar This Year
This feels egregiously horn-tooty, but if ever there was a time to do that, I suppose this is it, so…toot, toot (ugh, that just reminds me I probably need to join Mastodon…). I’m going to take a quick moment to highlight some of my favorite issues from this year—they may not align with what got the most clicks or biggest response (sometimes they do, though, too) but they were some of the most fun or fulfilling to work on. Perhaps you’ve missed these or are new here, so maybe take a look if you fancy!
32. That's Hot: Craft Beer's Wild Ride from Pliny the Younger's 2005 Debut to Now — This was a plain and simple fun blast from the past.
Hugging the Bar with Ruvani de Silva — I kicked off a Hugging the Bar podcast component with none other than the brilliant Ruvani de Silva!
38. I Made It Nice! Musings on Vegas Beer, NYC Beer, & RHONY — Who was pairing breweries with Real Housewives of New York for? Me, that’s who. Selfish, maybe; fun, definitely.
40. The Beerstrology Bonanza (by Azra Wood) — I got to introduce guest features! It meant a lot to start one of this newsletter’s missions, which is to feature writers from underrepresented groups. Which Patreon patrons help me do, by the way!
Hugging the Bar with Beth Demmon — The podcast joy continues with the inimitable Beth Demmon!
43. Beer's Baby Steps Toward Real, Total Inclusivity--and the Road Ahead — Inclusivity from an overarching value to equitable hiring practices and workplace systems to designing taprooms that welcome and comfort all is maybe the biggest and most important issue to me in beer, so this one hit extra hard.
44. Going Dutch: Why It's Easy to Relate to a 17th Century Brewer-and-Artist — None of you cared about this one—literally, I think it had the lowest open rate—but no worries, because I gave myself an issue to ramble about Jan Steen, huzzah!
46. Cult of Personality: Koch, Watt, Teetering Pedestals, & Debt — Lolz I watched “The Beer Jesus from America.”
Hugging the Bar with Infinite Ingredient Founder Katie Muggli — I’m so happy I got to talk with Katie about the incredible work she is doing and how Infinite Ingredient will make such a huge, positive impact in terms of mental health for members of the beer and beverage alcohol industries. This time of year is a great time, by the way, to donate to Infinite Ingredient!
57. Please Give This Issue Five Bottle Caps — Get in, loser, we’re talking about Untappd.
61. No One Gets to Tell Anyone They're Tasting Beer Wrong, Actually — I unpacked issues surrounding inclusivity and access in beer tasting and judging terms and education, and some really smart people helped me do so.
66. Who Is the Homebrewing Simulator For? — Does this make me a gamer?
69. NoBoDy WaNtS tO wOrK aNyMoRe (But Make It Gendered) — wHaT a TiMe To Be AlIvE.
My Favorite Things I Read and Listened to This Year
Technically, this would just be a list of all the stories and podcasts I linked to in each issue’s “boozy media rec” feature—a growing list, by the way, Patreon patrons can access!—so instead, I’m going to keep things pretty general here.
Like, there are some newsletters that if you haven’t subscribed yet…what are you up to over there? These are all excellent, engaging, and informative, and each cover a completely different aspect of the beer and beverage alcohol world, from the people to the business to the ingredients to the lifestyle.
Fingers, by Dave Infante
Prohibitchin,’ by Beth Demmon
The Share, by Stephanie Grant
Under the Jenfluence, by Jen Blair
Brew York, Chris O’Leary
Hop Queries, by Stan Hieronymus
In terms of publications and media outlets, the unfortunate truth is that there simply aren’t a ton of places covering craft beer, at least in any deep, thoughtful, insightful way. But, two good things: A, that makes the places that do do this shine all the brighter, and B, this seems to be slowly but surely changing! The space is growing, even if much of it is in fact independent newsletters.
Because the space is indeed so small, you don’t need me to tell you you’ll find the most valuable content on sites like Good Beer Hunting, Pellicle, VinePair, Ferment, and Craft Beer & Brewing—but one big development in this conversation for 2022 is the return of All About Beer!
Now, in terms of podcasts, the ones I’m tuning into regularly are:
Hannah Kiem’s Brews with Broads
John Holl’s Drink Beer, Think Beer
David Nilsen’s Bean to Barstool
Kindsey Bernhard’s Boys are from Märzen
Caroline King’s Bitch Beer Podcast
This reflection back on the year in beer media is so very much not comprehensive. In addition to all the outlets and stories and writers I’m thinking of now that I would simply have to write the world’s longest newsletter issue to devote proper attention to, there are probably even more I’ll kick myself for forgetting the moment this issue hits inboxes. I just hope it’s a little reminder to revisit some sites, try some new podcasts, subscribe to some new newsletters—and that I think with blogs and newsletters and podcasts continuing to offer so many fresh and varying perspectives, 2023 stands to be a great year on this front.
Patreon & Merch
Just a couple reminders before we close out the year:
If you haven’t yet, please consider becoming a Patreon patron. You help me feature other voices here, reach goals to make donations to impactful causes and organizations, and more. And, it’s just $3 a month and you get a discount on merch, free swag, exclusive content (like that handy media rec round-up), the ability to make announcements / advertise your events here, and a customized tarot reading! I’ll be doing a tarot reading for 2023 that will be on Patreon only, so don’t miss that!
If you prefer to make a one-time donation, you can do that here, and email email@example.com to access any of the above perks.
Plus! There’s so much new, fun merch here. Tees and totes with fun beer jokes and style odes, plus Darby! Speaking of which, shout-out to my friend Aimée Boettcher, the designer, marketer, retoucher, consultant, and more behind Two Moons Creative—Aimée’s helped me with plenty of logo and site stuff in the past, she’s a genius. She turned Darb into an image for merch, and by the way, there are also stickers now! If you want free Darby stickers, send your address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TapRm Variety Pack
Also, don’t forget you can order the TapRm x Hugging the Bar Gather ‘Round Variety 12-Pack! There are details in last week’s issue, but essentially, this is a round-up of 12 delicious craft beers, hard seltzers, hard teas, makgeollis, and more from women-, LGBTQIA+ -, BIPOC-, and/or AAPI-owned brands.
When you order this pack and subscribe to the newsletter, you get a discount code for merch and free swag! NOTE: If this is you, if you bought the variety pack and you’re now a new subscriber, EMAIL HUGGINGTHEBAR@GMAIL.COM for all your goodies. Also do this if you were already a subscriber and bought the pack. Let’s get y’all hooked up!
This week, I pulled The Sun.
This card, perhaps unsurprisingly, carries warmth, positivity, and fun. Yes, fun! Right here in the tarot! Our…naked baby, I think? is all proudly in their birthday suit because they’ve got nothing to hide—no shame, just vibes. They’re enjoying a victorious ride here, telling us we have either been enjoying success or are about to. Case in point: the bright sun radiating warmth upon us, casting light upon us and our endeavors. (I don’t know if it’s just me, but I actually think the Sun looks v. peeved here—ignore it if you see it, though; it’s not supposed to.) Basically, this card is all like, “Go you, get it! You’ve got this. You’re pretty rad, and all those ideas you have? They’re great. Big things in your future! Success! Being able to actually quiet your neurotic brain and enjoy that success!”
You know how we need vitamin D? And just being in the sun is good for us—like, you know, with sunblock and skin cancer awareness? To the point we have to look at SAD lamps depending on where we live, and also depending on where we live, many of us are in a six-month-long bad mood every year? The Sun can be interpreted one of two, or frankly both of two, ways: you’ve now got a theoretical sun in your life, in the form of good, positive, encouraging energy that will nourish you and motivate you. And/or, you are that sun for someone or multiple people, who look to you for support, inspiration, and fun. All in all, this card is a pretty good mood to head into the new year with.
Streetside Brewery in Cincinnati has a very appropriate beer called Here Comes the Sun. Right there, we’re working with the right, things-are-looking-up message. And as a Berliner weisse with lemon, orange, and vanilla sherbet flavors, this beer sounds like it would even taste sunny.
This Week’s Boozy Media Rec
Freshly home from a trip to a hotbed of “World’s Best Bars,” Mexico City, where I visited and greatly enjoyed a couple—not long before that, I also actually spent a lovely evening at Dead Rabbit, which features prominently here—I really appreciated Rachel Sugar’s VinePair piece, “Topping the ‘50 Best’ List Is the Bar World’s Highest Honor. Is It Also a Curse?” I don’t think this phenomenon is shocking; it’s been discussed in regard to things like the effect “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” has on restaurants it features. But this is a super interesting read on how the World’s 50 Best Bars list impacts bars, specifically. And beyond the sudden surge in demand and the ensuing pressure, one thing that’s worth considering is the near absolute impossibility of remaining on the list too long when you factor in changing drink trends and customer desires. Furthermore, is it even that terrible of a thing to fall off the list?
Ex-BEER-ience of the Week
Just last night, I went with my dad to see “Almost Famous” on Broadway, which completely tore to shreds one of my all-time favorite films, and then lit those shreds on fire, and then pissed on those ashes, and then laughed in my face while I watched in horror. I know they’ve been saying “rock and roll is dead” for decades, but I can actually quote you its time of death, which is whenever the “Almost Famous” production opened. Anyway, before that, we went to Beer Culture, which is an OG great beer bar I always forget is so conveniently located for theater evenings, truly an oasis in midtown! I usually trek to As Is, but that can get a little far from some theaters if you’re in a rush. So, if you’re in New York and forced to be in midtown, don’t be a dummy like me and forget Beer Culture. They had a stellar lager selection in the fridge last night, and this Hopewell joint was a shining moment of the night.
Until the week after next week, here’s Darby and a gingerbread house—HAPPY HOLIDAYS! (And PS: I’ll be in the Hugging the Bar chat, come hang!)