New York Times
Many of us enjoy the occasionalpint or two of beer, butcould it be good for you?Various studies over the past 20 yearshave related moderate alcohol consumptionto health benefits. In July2004, the National Institutes of Healthannounced that light to moderate dailydrinking (ie, one to two drinks per day)significantly reduces the risk of heartdisease and type 2 diabetes. In particular,beer's ingredients may help increasebone density, raise good cholesterol,lower bad cholesterol, and keep homocysteineblood levels in check, a recentarticle notes.
Of course, numerous studies pointout even greater health risks of bingedrinking (ie, five or more daily drinks),and there are circumstances (eg, pregnancyand preexisting diabetes) thatmake any amount of drinking unhealthy.To err on the safe side, manydoctors won't recommend even moderatedrinking. Still, it's nice to know thathaving a sip of one of the most refreshingbeverages is, well, a good thing.
A Good Pint in Town
It's becoming an even better thingwith the explosion of colorful independentbrews, which are gaining in popularity.Microbrews, or craft brews (ie,small breweries generally producing lessthan 15,000 barrels per year), are servinga satisfying alternative to the standardmass-produced lager. Ray Daniels,director of craft beer marketing for theAssociation of Brewers, explains, "Themass-market lagers are high-quality,thirst-quenching brews, but they onlyrepresent one small corner of the beerflavor world. Through variations inrecipe and production techniques,brewers produce more than 70 differentstyles of beer. And since we have morethan 1400 breweries in the UnitedStates today, there are many variationson each style, resulting in an amazingvariety of flavor choices."
You may be unaware of a great craftbrewer or brewpub right in your neck ofthe woods. According to Casey Caracciolo,bartender of Isaac Newton's inNewtown, Pa, which has over 300 independentbeers in stock, your best bet interms of locating one is word of mouth.Also, browse the Internet for diningguides (eg, CitySearch.com). BeerAdvocate.com is a fun, helpful Web site thatrates brews and pubs. Daniels recommendsthe following list of craft brewersin each region of the United States.
Brooklyn Brewing Co (Brooklyn,NY; www.brooklynbrewery.com)
Magic Hat Brewing Co (SouthBurlington, Vt; www.magichat.net)
Shipyard Brewing Co (Portland,Me; www.shipyard.com)
Goose Island Beer Co (Chicago, Ill;www.gooseisland.com)
Great Lakes Brewing Co (Cleveland,Ohio; www.greatlakesbrewing.com)
Summit Brewing Co (Saint Paul,Minn; www.summitbrewing.com)
Pyramid Breweries (Seattle, Wash;www.pyramidbrew.com)
Redhook Ale Brewery (Seattle,Wash; www.redhook.com)
Rogue Ales (Newport, Ore;www.rogue.com)
Anchor Brewing Co (San Francisco,Calif; www.anchorbrewing.com)
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co (Chico,Calif; www.sierra-nevada.com)
Stone Brewing Co (San Marcos,Calif; www.stonebrew.com)
Breckinridge Brewery (Denver, Colo;www.breckbrew.com)
Flying Dog Brewery (Denver, Colo;www.flyingdogales.com)
Odell Brewing Co (Fort Collins,Colo; www.odellbrewing.com)
Abita Brewery (Abita Springs, La;www.abita.com)
Indian River Beer Corp (Melbourne,Fla; www.irbeer.com)
Sweetwater Brewing Co (Atlanta,Ga; www.sweetwaterbrew.com)
Stepping into a good brewpub can beoverwhelming. It takes courage to swallowa Smuttynose or Bishop's Fingerinstead of your safe Bud, but the rewardsare sweet. Microbrews offer varyingflavor ranges, more so than wines,and pair well with foods. Specialty brews, due to their intensebrewing processes, often have higheralcohol concentrations (4% to 12%)than mass-marketed brews (3% to 5%).They also tend to be pricier—a goodintake moderator. spoke with some beer connoisseursand sampled a few at IsaacNewton's to give doctors an overview.Here's a rundown of the more popularbeer categories and our favorites:
History: Brown ale holds the distincthonor of being the very first beer styleever produced. Brown ales are socialbeers, the kind you nurse at a pub whileholding an intense conversation withyour friends. They're clear, brown, fullbodied,and lightly malted. Their chocolaty,almost brassy flavor and smooth,nutty aftertaste create a rich finish.
Drink with: Red meat and robust fish
Our pick: Old Brown Dog Ale (SmuttynoseBrewing Co, Portsmouth, NH)
India Pale Ale (IPA)
History: Craving their home ales, 19thcenturyBritish colonists in India concoctedan abundantly hopped ale that couldsurvive the lengthy passage because hopsact as preservatives. To their delight andours, they succeeded in creating a newbeverage. The modern American versionsof IPAs are very dry, smooth, andhave a pleasant, fruity taste with a moderatelybitter, hoppy bite.
Drink with: Cream sauces, cheeses,and spicy dishes
Our pick: Imperial IPA (Rogue Ales)
History: The American spin on theEnglish pale ale includes local hops andmalt from its West Coast origin. It runsa slightly high hop bitterness, flavor,and aroma, is moderately bodied, andranges in color from light golden toamber-and copper-hued. The very popularvariety has a relatively low alcoholcontent and a clean, mildly fruity finish.
Drink with: Cream sauces, cheeses,and fish dishes
Our picks: Jackman's American PaleAle (Left Hand & Tabernash BrewingCo, Longmont, Colo) and #9 (MagicHat Brewing Co)
History: Born in 1842 in the Czechcity of Pilsen, pilsners ushered in a newera of brewing. The most popular styleof beer in Europe, it is also incrediblywell liked in the United States. The lightgold-colored, medium-bodied pilsnersare perfect as a light and smooth alternativeto the more bitter, darker brews.Easy-drinking pilsners are great for justabout any occasion.
Drink with: Mild fish, meat, and saladwith creamy dressings
Our pick: Scrimshaw (North CoastBrewing Co, Fort Bragg, Calif)
History: In the 1600s, strong beerswere called stouts. Thanks to Guinness,the term has evolved to mean a dark-roasted,barley brew that is surprisinglylow in alcohol content. Flavors rangefrom bitter, unsweetened chocolate, todry grain, to sweet and creamlike. Thereare generally two types—Irish andsweet stouts—but there are severalother varieties, including some thathave oatmeal, chocolate, milk, or evenoyster juice brewed into the mix.
Drink with: Red meat, robust fish,chocolate, and rich desserts
Our picks: Oak Barrel Stout (OldDominion Brewing Co, Ashburn, Va)and Chocolate Stout (Rogue Ales)
Wheat (or White)
History: Known as white beer for itslight color, wheat beer is an offshootof the Belgian witbier and Germanweissbier, some of the oldest brewsaround. Malted wheat and barley(ingredients available to its originators—medieval Germanic tribes) giveit a refreshing profile. Its sedimentaryyeast provides distinct fruit and vanillanotes. Light, fresh, and slightlyspicy, wheat beers are quickly gainingpopularity in the United States.
Drink with: Mild fish, salad, and fruit
Our pick: Sunrise (Victory BrewingCo, Downingtown, Pa)