THE HISTORY OF ST. PATRICK’S DAY

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st_patricks_dayHey, I love to party just as much as the next guy on St. Paddy’s Day. I’m down with drinking some Guinness and feasting on some corned beef and cabbage while I’m decked out in green garb. But I’ve always felt compelled to know why I’m celebrating this holiday. So I decided to look into the history of St. Patrick’s Day.

History of St. Patrick

The story of St. Patrick starts in 5th century Britain where a 16-year-old boy, whose name was Maewyn Succat, was kidnapped from his family by Irish marauders. He remained a shepherd slave for six years until a bishop directed him to escape. Upon his return to Britain, he was beckoned by visions to help the people of Ireland. So he took his vows, became a priest and adopted the Christian name Patrick. In 432 A.D. he returned to Ireland on a mission, converting the Irish to Christianity, while helping to build schools and monasteries along Ireland’s north and west coasts.

A popular myth has Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland; Truth is, there were never snakes on the island. This is probably a metaphor for Patrick’s cleansing the island of Paganism. Another myth involves Patrick using the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity. This legend is possible although Patrick never wrote about it in his autobiography The Confession.

National Holiday in America

So why does the holiday fall on March 17th? Supposedly, this day marks the day that Patrick died in 461 A.D. Since then, Irish-Christians have marked the anniversary as a holy day. Beginning in the Middle Ages, Irish Catholics would close shop and attend services to honor the Feast of St. Patrick. Then it was time to party. The holiday falls during Lent, the season before Easter when Catholics give up their vices as penance. The Feast of St. Patrick was a one-day reprieve from Lent, a day when Irishmen could down a pint or two of ale. However, this custom really took off. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Colonial America occurred in Boston in 1737 with a parade organized by the Irish Society; New York City followed in 1762. Today, New York’s parade down 5th Avenue is America’s largest and rowdiest St. Patrick’s Day tradition.

Corned beef and cabbage

During the 1840’s, while Ireland was starving from the potato famine, millions of Irish were forced to leave the country. The mass migration sent the Irish to Canada, Australia and America. Once the Irish settled in their new countries, they brought along many old customs and invented a few new ones. In the United States, it became customary to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Near the end of the 19th century, the smell of corned beef was pouring from Irish-American neighborhoods. The traditional Irish meal had been boiled bacon and potatoes, but in The States, immigrants purchased a cheap cut of beef, tenderize it with brine and slow cook it with cabbage. This dish remains to be a delicious St. Paddy’s Day tradition.

Erik St PatsAs the Irish in America gained influence in politics and culture, their exclusive holiday became a nationally recognized celebration. And it all began more than 1,500 years ago, when a young boy was torn from his family in Britain! Little did Patrick know, his life would inspire food, parades and the hoisting of a few pints to honor this special day!

So, this St. Patrick’s Day be sure to raise a pint to St. Patrick. And as always, make sure that you enjoy responsibly and have a safe ride home so that you can enjoy it again next year. Sláinte!

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

WHAT ARE YOU SERVING AT YOUR SUPER BOWL SUNDAY PARTY?

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With Superbowl Sunday coming up this weekend, there are sure to be a lot of great parties to attend. If you happen to be hosting one, choosing the right beer and food selection is vital. But first, let’s review some stats…

This Sunday, Americans will consume more than 50,000,000 cases of beer. Yes, that’s 50 million cases! And that’s just here in the U.S. With the Super Bowl being an international spectacle, I image that this number more than doubles when you look at international beer consumption. Here in America, we will spend more than 10.8 billion dollars on beer that will be consumed on Super Bowl Sunday (enough to buy 10 Stealth Bombers!). We will make 1.4 billion trips to the bathroom and that will require 2 billion gallons of water to flush down. Stats show that more people go during the game action so that they do not miss the commercials. Crazy!

So, why so much beer? Well because beer is delicious and it pairs well with a variety of foods! And since Super Bowl Sunday is second to only Thanksgiving when it comes to food consumption in America, we will need all that beer to wash down the more than 1.2 billion chicken wings, 14 million hamburgers, 11 million pounds of chips, 4 million pounds of pretzels, 8 million pounds of tortilla chips, 13 million pounds of avocado’s that we eat during game-day parties. Don’t forget the pizza… According to Domino’s Pizza, they will sell more than 11 million pizzas this Sunday alone.

So with all of this great food on the table, let’s make sure that we have the right mix of beer. This year, at my party, I will serve a mix of great local and national craft beer as well as some domestic and light beers.

I’ll start with a local favorite, Adirondack Bear Naked Ale. I like this beer because it is a nice, easy drinking, “middle of the road” beer. It is not overly hoppy nor overly sweet. It goes down easy and pairs with a variety of great food. At 5.2% alcohol, it’s stronger than most domestic beers but won’t kick your butt too bad if you have a few of them.


I’ll also serve a national favorite, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This beer to me is the perfect beer! It leans toward hoppy at 37 IBU’s and has a perfect malt touch to keep it balanced. This beer is 5.6% alcohol, but surprisingly only has 175 calories in 12 oz bottle. This beer pairs perfectly with wings, ribs, burgers etc. and does the nice job of cleansing the pallet after each bite of food that you take. Wanna mix it up a bit? Try them in 12oz cans. Delicious.

Finally, a must have at all parties is a domestic light beer. I know, I know…the craft beer nerds will get all upset that I say this, but consider this: out of the 50,000,000 cases of beer that will be consumed in America this Sunday, 94 percent of them will be domestic light beers. That’s 47 Million cases! So I offer this beer at all of my parties because statistics tell me that is what people like to drink. Plus just because I’m a craft beer enthusiast, does not mean that everyone else is. It’s only 4.2% alcohol and 96 calories so people can enjoy a few without filling themselves up too much.

Regardless of what you serve this Sunday or where you indulge in the game, please be responsible and have a designated driver. Martin, Harding & Mazzotti is providing FREE cab rides from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. If you have too much to drink on Super Bowl Sunday, please call 1-800-529-1010. Enjoy responsibly! That way you can join one of the 7,000,000 people in the USA that will call in sick on Monday!

My Pick: Bronco’s 24, Seahawks 23

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

THIS HOLIDAY SEASON…GIVE THE GIFT OF BEER!

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I love going to holiday parties. It’s a time of year where my friends and family are truly festive and for some reason, the parties tend to turn it up a notch. Everyone that shows up to the party gives the host a little gift and I notice that, more often than not, it’s a bottle of wine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

But what about beer? Is beer a secondary beverage that is not good enough to give as a gift? Absolutely not. In fact, many breweries have beer offerings that come in 25.4oz cork finished bottles, which make for the perfect gift for your host. Throw it in one of those wine gift bags and watch the pleasant surprise on your friend’s face when you present them with this gift.

brooklynlocal1For instance, Brooklyn Brewery does a line of bottle fermented 25.4oz bottles that make the ideal gift. Brooklyn Local 1, Local 2 and Sorachi Ace are delicious and pair well with a variety of foods.

Ommegang presents their entire beer line up in these big bottles year round, but a couple of them really pop in the winter and make great gifts. Ommegang Abbey Ale is a big, robust Belgian style Dubbel, perfect for the cool winter months or just to sip around the fire. Their 3 Philosophers is also a home run hitter (play on words since they are from Cooperstown). Ommegang makes a very cool gift pack that includes some year round favorites as well as a specialty beer called Chocolate Indulgence. Bring that to a party and you’ll be a hero!

Winter_ClassicsAnother great option to bring to a holiday party is a craft beer winter Variety Pack. These offer a variety of 3-4 different styles of winter beers and 3-4 bottles of each. Sam Adams Winter Variety is clearly the fan favorite but Saranac, Long Trail, Magic Hat, Otter Creek and Harpoon all present some great beers in their Variety Packs.

If YOU are hosting a holiday party and you’re having guests from out of town, it’s a no-brainer to offer of LOCAL beers for your event. All New York brands could be considered such as Brooklyn, Captain Lawrence, Keegan Ales or Ommegang to Browns, Adirondack, Olde Saratoga and Lake Placid. Serve your guests some beers that they can’t get where they are from.

sierranevadacelebrationFinally, an absolute MUST HAVE for any holiday party, office party, grab bag party, or ugly sweater party is….Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. If you ask me, this beer is the kingpin of all holiday seasonals! People clamor for it and many people buy up a bunch and store it to drink long after the Holiday season.

Whatever you serve, please enjoy your holiday beers responsibly. Have a plan to get home safe. Where that’s a taxi number or designated driver plugged into your phone before you go out.  Cheers to good beer…and enjoy the holidays!

 

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

IS THAT ROTATING TAP KNOB REALLY THAT GREAT?

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I am a fan of many styles of beer.  There are very few that I do not like.  I prefer “cold” or “free” but when I do buy a beer, I’m game to try something new.  Lately I am seeing more and more bars and restaurants that are flirting with serving craft beer and putting in additional draft lines.  I love it!  Nothing like having a great selection to choose from.  However, many of these establishments are committed to only bringing in very rare beers or beers that you’ve never heard of and they are just rotating beers through their taps.  While I like the idea of mixing it up a bit, I’m afraid that this practice leaves the average beer consumer in the dark.

beersontapThere are a few local bars that I frequent where EVERY TIME I go in there are new and different beers.  The problem with this is sometimes I want to drink what I had the last time that I was in.  I ask the bartender, “What happened to such-n-such Ale that I had last time I was in”.  The response has been, “Well that beer was so popular that we sold through a keg in 2 days!”  OK….so you took it OFF TAP?  That’s like your favorite restaurant taking a steak off of the menu because it sold so well.  I just don’t get it.  While it is fun to surf around and try new things, it’s important for “beer bars” to include the more popular brands on tap to satisfy the consumer that just wants to come in and have what they know they like.  Sure I’ll drink ONE of a specialty beer….but like most beer drinkers I will then tend to migrate towards one of my old favorites.

Sugar TapAnother thing that I see some bar owners doing is pushing a draft line-up that consists of many big, Imperial, high-alcohol beers.  While having one or two of these on tap may makes sense, tying up multiple draft lines with these beers actually slows beer sales by leading the consumers to drink less and stay at the bar for a shorter duration.  Many bar owners fail to realize that their bar stools are actually money-generating real estate.  What’s better if you’re a bar owner?  Having a patron stay for 2 hours and drink one, maybe two $7 Imperial Pints?  Or having a patron stay 2 hours and drink four or five $5 sessionable Ales?

I think the ideal draft line up should have a variety of the most popular STYLES such as a Stout, an IPA, a Wheat Beer, ect.  It certainly should include some of the proven sellers on tap such as Guinness Stout, Sam Adams Lager, Harpoon IPA, a local favorite, and stoutalelageryes…Coors Light.  Why?  Because beer drinkers’ spending habits dictate that they WANT these beers.  Sure, save room for a couple of rotating taps to keep it interesting and occasionally bring in some big beers.  And it’s always good to have a couple of taps to dedicate to great seasonal beers.  But make sure that when a customer comes back for a return visit that the beer menu hasn’t changed completely.  People tend to want what they are familiar with.  Oh yeah…I also think that any bar with 8 or more draft lines should also feature a Cider.  They are delicious, pair well with many foods, and they can be used in many mixed drinks.

I’m sure there are a lot of opinions out there on what should be on tap in the bar.  If you had 8 draft lines in your place, what would you put on tap?  Talk to me people…..

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

BREAKING NEWS…SHINER COMES TO TOWN!

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Shiner

When I first heard that Spoetzl Brewing Co. was finally bringing their great products to the Capital Region I got very excited. I have been aware of Shiner Beer for years and drank it when I was living in Arkansas back in the 90’s. Spoetzl Brewery is currently ranked as the #4 Craft Brewery in the United States and they are ranked as the #10 brewery overall. The #1 and #2 craft breweries are already here with Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada. And #3 is still at least a year or so away (I’m hearing) from coming to our market. So Shiner coming to New York is a BIG DEAL.

Spoetzl Brewery opened in 1909 in Shiner, Texas where it still stands today. Granted, it has gone through some major expansions. They began making their recipe for their flagship brand, Shiner Bock back in 1913 and the recipe has been the same ever since. There are not many American beers that can stake a claim to having a 100 year anniversary. And I can see why this beer has been around for 100 years….it’s light, sweet and extremely drinkable. It pairs well with a variety of foods and, likely due to its Texas roots, it tastes especially well with Barbeque. Although it does say Bock on the label, Shiner Bock won the gold medal at the 2012 Great American Brew Fest for American Style Dark Lager. If the GABF judges love it…it’s got to be good! (unless of course you don’t like that style). At a mild 4.4 percent alcohol, the beer is very sessionable and you can enjoy Shiner Bock without feeling overly full or getting intoxicated after one beer. Shiner Bock is available on draft plus in 12-pack and 6-pack bottles as well as 12-pack cans called “Box o’ Bocks” or 6-pack cans called “Lil Box o’ Bocks.”

Shiner Holiday Cheer

Shiner brings with it a formidable seasonal line-up as well. The year, they rolled into the market with a super-tasty brew called “Holiday Cheer.” This beer is a German-Style Dunkelweizen made with Texas peaches and pecans. Truly like no beer that I have ever tried before. I knew as soon as I drank it that it would be what I am serving with dessert for Thanksgiving this year (along with pumpkin and apple pie of course)! Holiday Cheer will be followed by their Spring offering which is a lightly spiced, malty beer with a banana/clove nose called FM966 Farmhouse Ale. I can’t wait to try this when it hits our market this January! Shiner is now rolling out their newest beer called Shiner White Wing. This Belgian Style White Ale will definitely give the AB produced Shock Tops of the world a good run for their money. Shiner is supporting the product with something that you rarely see from craft breweries…TV commercials. I got a sneak peak at them last week and they are hilarious. Check it out for yourself:

Please join me in welcoming Shiner to the Capital Region of New York. And when you are out and about this holiday season be sure to give one a try. I think you will agree that Shiner is a delicious addition to our rapidly growing beer selection. Cheers!

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

PUMPKIN BEERS…YOU WIN!

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I’m not sure why, but over the past 20+ years of me being a beer drinker, I decidedly did not like Pumpkin Beers. I’ve said that I really do not enjoy them. I never scoffed at them…I am not a beer snob. They just simply were not for me. So basically, I stopped trying them about four to five years ago.

pumpkin_beersWell, apparently our tastes can change in a way similar to what we are allergic to changes. At a beer tasting that I hosted recently, I included a Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin beer into the mix for no other reason other than that I know pumpkin beers have become immensely popular. I had the guests sample the beer and tried it myself. I have to admit, I was really taken aback by how much I liked it. It was malty and smooth, did not have an artificial/in-your-face pumpkin flavor and it went down really smooth. After the tasting, I went back to that beer and brought a few home with me. Now I’m cursed with wanting to try every pumpkin beer out there! I love them. Well most of them.

Pumpkin beers were extremely popular in early Colonial America. Our nation’s earliest brewers embraced pumpkins as a popular ingredient in beer mainly because pumpkins were plentiful. Back then, the settlers did not celebrate Halloween, make Jack-0’-Lanterns, or go trick-or-treating. They did however, brew beer. And pumpkins grew everywhere.  They served as a fermentable sugar for their brews while barley was not always readily available. And they tasted good.

Today, pumpkin brews have made a massive comeback with beer lovers clamoring to try different versions. I will caution…some pumpkin brews really try too hard. Some use artificial flavoring or are trying to make it taste too much like Pumpkin Pie. These can be a bit overwhelming. Look for a pumpkin beer that has balance. Malty and sweet with a touch of pumpkin in the nose and at the end. Some are balanced nicely with a slight cinnamon and/or nutmeg flavor. These go especially well with desserts such as chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, or Pumpkin Pie (go figure).

This holiday season, I highly recommend giving yourself the treat of a pumpkin brew.  There are dozens to choose from, with some of my favorites to the left. My highest recommendation is to find a pumpkin brew that you really like and then mix it ½ and ½ with an imperial or chocolate stout. Now you’re onto something! Serve some of that up at your football party or Thanksgiving feast and watch your guests….they’ll be thankful indeed!

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT THE GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL?

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Well, EVERYTHING really! First off, it’s in Denver, Colorado which is one of the coolest cities in the country to visit. It has breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, friendly citizens, and of course, plenty of breweries. Great place to party! But seriously, The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is all about the beer, people and partying. I know, I know…the beer snobs will be like, “it shouldn’t be a drunk fest!”…but at the end of the day…well anyway.

GABFThis year, from October 10-12, the GABF will assemble the largest gathering of U.S. Breweries in one place and feature a private beer competition as well as public tasting events. The event brings together American brewers while showcasing what makes the USA the world’s greatest brewing nation, OUR BEER.

Since its inception in 1982 the festival has grown and evolved along with the American craft beer revolution. The original GABF featured 22 breweries. Last year it had more than 575! This year…well, I’ll let you know when I get back!

As an attendee, GABF is simply awesome. It’s held in the gigantic Colorado Convention Center where there will be four general sessions from Thursday through Saturday. I’ll never forget walking into the fest the first time. They give you a three ounce glass with a one ounce pour line. One ounce!? I recall thinking…”What the heck can I do with one ounce??” Well two hours later, when I was gripping the earth to keep from falling off, I thought, “Thank God these are only once ounce pours!”.

The Convention Center is lined with booths for as far as the eye can see. The booths are set up in sections based on regions of the country. Last year, I spent a whole afternoon in the “Pacific Northwest” going table to table just sampling beers from Washington, Oregon and Northern California. I was able to sample dozens of beers that I have never heard of nor were they available where I’m from (Troy, NY). It’s fun to visit the different areas of the country and try their great beer all while under one roof. But I enjoy hitting the whole festival and trying the styles that I like. One year I spent an afternoon just trying Pale Ales and IPA’s. The next day I just tried different brewery’s Porters or Stouts. It was a good way to circle the whole place and keep it fresh.

There’s also plenty to do besides drink beer. There is a Beer and Food pavilion, a DD Lounge, bookstore, merchandise, home brewing exhibits, and my favorite…the Silent Disco! It’s hilarious…especially after 30 or more one once samples! Yes, I cut the rug!

If you’re a beer lover, the GABF has got to go near the top of your bucket list. I’d put it just underneath attending the Oktoberfest in Munich.

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

Oktoberfest….shouldn’t it be “Septemberfest”?

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Oktoberfest eventWell not really…but it is a catchy headline, don’t ya think?

When it comes to our favorite beer drinking holidays, it struck me a few years ago that I really didn’t know what we were celebrating. I know for Mardi Gras that I would cruise to New Orleans, grab a 32 oz beer from a booth wedged between 2 bars, and stumble the streets as the women exposed themselves and the men drunkenly threw beads to them.  I know on St. Patrick’s Day that I would dress in green, drink green beer or Irish Stouts, and wake up the next day only to ask my friends to fill me in on my behavior the night before.  And I know for Oktoberfest that I would attend local festivals and drink awesome German beer and make fun of all the dudes that were wearing lederhosen.  I knew that we were celebrating something, and that we were pretty good at it…I just didn’t know WHAT it was that we were celebrating.

You’ve probably noticed the selections in the stores and beer bars shifting over the past couple of weeks from light, crisp, sometimes fruity Summer Seasonal offerings to a multitude of Octoberfest offerings.  Well that’s because Octoberfest is right around the corner!  But what is this Oktoberfest??  Why is it celebrated?  And should I spell it with a “c” or a “k”?  Let’s dive in shall we?

Basically, on October 17, 1810 the Crown Prince of Bavaria was married to a Princess (nevermind their names, not important for this drill) and all of the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the week long festival to celebrate.  They were held in a field in front of the Munich city gates.  That same field, known to the locals as the “Weis’n” is where the festival is still held every year.  According to German Law, only beer brewed under the German Purity Law called “Reinheitsgebot” (can only be produced with barley, hops, water,) and only beer brewed within the Munich city limits may be served at the festival.  Technically, only these beers should have Oktoberfest spelled with a “k”.  Other beers of this style, typically a Marzen Style Lager, should spell Octoberfest with a “c”.  (Although many American craft breweries spell it with a “k” and I really don’t hear any complaining.)

To make a 200+ year old story short, Oktoberfest became an annual tradition and the entire city of Munich rallies around it.  Eventually they prolonged the festival and moved it ahead to September to take advantage of better weather conditions.  Today, the festival lasts for 16 days with last day always falling on the first Sunday in October.  Tourists flock from all over the planet to attend, dressing in Lederhosen and Dirndls, drinking great German beer, and basically “getting their German on” for a hell of a party.

I have had the luxury of attending the festival 2 times over the past few years and I can tell you…if you have to spend the rest of your life trying to get there…GET THERE!  It will be an experience that you will never forget.  In the meantime, be sure to keep your eyes open for upcoming local festivals…so you can get your German on!

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

WHICH ARE YOU? BEER SNOB? BEER GEEK? OR BEER LOVER?

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Welcome to Budrakey’s Beer Nose. My name is Budrakey and I’ve been in the beer game for the better part of the past 20 years. From home brewer to brewpub manager to brewing instructor to salesman to marketing manager…I’ve had a wide array of experiences in the beer world that (I hope) make me qualified to speak intelligently about beer.  But never mind “intelligent”…as this blog grows, I plan to sniff out “all things beer” and I intend to keep it upbeat, interactive, and most of all…fun.

Beer_Definitions

Speaking of “fun”…this brings me to my first blog topic which is TYPES OF BEER PEOPLE (see left). I am a BEER LOVER and I will admit that I am also a bit of a BEER GEEK. I am always picking my beers apart trying to identify the flavor profiles and guess the ingredients. I love to hear the stories behind breweries and the beers that they produce. I find that knowing the story behind a particular brewery/beer makes the beer that much more enjoyable. I especially enjoy visiting the breweries and talking with their Owners and Brewmasters. I find that once I do this, I then have a “relationship” with that brewery that I can take with me and relate to whenever I drink their brews.

I am not a fan of BEER SNOBS. BEER SNOBS ARE NOT FUN. They are not even cool. In fact, they are generally very annoying.  You probably know someone that fits the bill. You know the guy…he’s at the bar discussing his take on a particular beer.  Perhaps he says all of the things that a BEER GEEK might say. The difference is the BEER SNOB talks down to all in his presence, including his beer. He knows more about beer than anyone in the bar…or on the planet for that matter…just ask him, he’ll tell you. BEER SNOBS are also quick to put breweries or brands either on a pedestal or in the dumpster. “This beer is better than that beer” or “why would anyone ever want to drink that beer?” The BEER SNOB is a god in his own mind. Whatever Dude! Shut up and drink.

I tend to view beer a lot like the way I view music. I view craft brewers in a similar light as I do musicians. Musicians are not so much competitive with each other as much as they are just hoping someone will listen to and like their music. Musicians hang out together, listen to each other’s music and genuinely root for other musicians to be successful. Craft Brewers hang out together as well. They taste and drink each other’s beers and usually root for other craft breweries to be successful.  Most craft brewers that I know can’t stand BEER SNOBS and could really care less about the snobs rating of his beer.  A Brewer or BEER LOVER just wants a beer that tastes great. No need to beat it up if they don’t like it.  No need to pound on their chest if they do like it. They just like it. Point is, if you see a BEER SNOB out there, be sure to point out to them that they are being a snob. Have fun with it!

Erik Budrakey is a beer connoisseur who makes appearances on Q103 Radio Albany. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.