Moments before sitting down at home to write this, I popped open a beer – the deliciously malty Coloma Brown by American River Brewing Co. in Rancho Cordova – and poured it into a tall glass, admiring the toffee-colored foam as it climbed to the rim.
It made me think: This beer experience would be much better shared.
Yes, beer is social. It's inclusive. Men and women share it, analyze it, celebrate it. And yet it's not necessarily easy finding reliable beer drinking companions.
So I've come up with a list of appealing – and not so appealing – traits of a beer-drinking buddy.
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1. C'mon dude! One more.
OK, I hate this person. You're at a pub. You've got things to do later in the day. You've set your limit at two really good beers. But your "friend" won't let you go. He buys you a third, which you nurse awkwardly. Then a fourth. "C'mon dude!" he says. A good beer pal doesn't force the issue. Even better, choose a buddy who actually has a life – like you do.
2. The close-minded "beer lover"
"Let's try a Belgian farmhouse ale," I suggest.
"I hate Belgian beer," says the pal.
"OK, how about an IPA?"
"I don't like bitter beer."
"OK, how about you go drink with someone else?"
It's OK to eschew a certain beer because it's not well made, but to close your mind to an entire style shuts you out of too many worthwhile experiences.
3. The angry drunk
Let's be honest, most of us are more amusing after a beer or two. Then there are the 10 percent of drinkers who get mean and angry. They want to argue. They may even want to start a fight – even with you. These people are antithetical to the spirit of craft beer.
4. I'll get you next time
Cheapskates and tightwads are lousy beer buddies for obvious reasons. They always seem to forget when it's their turn to buy.
5. Shop talk aplenty
Constantly complaining about your job and your boss and the money you make is a great conversation killer. Give it a try and watch the room empty out.
The thing I most appreciate about husband-and-wife bloggers Daniel Barnes and Darcey Self-Barnes of www.hisandhersbeernotes. com (see the July 19 edition of Beer Run) is their zeal for tracking down and trying new beer. Lots of styles and breweries. They're everywhere and they drink all kinds of great beer.
2. The well-read, well-traveled beer geek
One of the great experiences with craft beer is talking about new breweries, wish lists and potential road trips. If you've got a friend who's up on all the blogs, reads BeerAdvocate from cover to cover and devours the new local Hops to Table the minute it rolls off the presses, you have a built-in tour guide, beer curator and drinking buddy all in one.
3. The nimble conversationalist
Talking about beer is great – in moderation. But interesting conversation shifts gears and topics with ease. A good beer buddy can opine on whole-cone hops, the best way to make risotto and still wonder, "What's the deal with Anthony Weiner?"
4. Open-minded yet discriminating
As noted under "unappealing," you're not really a beer lover if you limit your options. Try a style and figure out with your friends if the beer in question is a worthy representation of that style. A beer drinking pal who can put that into words is enlightening to be around.
5. An educated palate
As Daniel Barnes told me when we met, his palate has evolved. The more you try – and the more you stop and think about what you're trying – the more refined your palate becomes. That educated palate comes in handy when offering beer input to your pals.
If you'd like to weigh in on what makes a good – and not so good – beer-drinking friend, shoot me an email and I'll circle back to this topic in a future column.
Where we're headed: Davis Beer Week, Aug. 19-25. Carrying on the momentum created by the successful Sacramento Beer Week events in February, this weeklong celebration winds up with a Bike & Brew Fest benefiting the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis. For details, www.davisbeerweek.com
Call The Bee's Janelle Bitker, (916) 321-1027. Follow her in Twitter @JanelleBitker.