Beer

Beer Education: Drinking Alcohol with Diabetes

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There are a lot of factors that go into my identity, including my passion for craft beer. Another is the fact that I am Type 1 Diabetic. Join me today, November 14, in wearing blue to spread awareness on World Diabetes Day.

I am often asked if I am even “allowed” to drink beer as a diabetic. The short answer is yes, as long as I do so responsibly. For my fellow diabetics (or friends of diabetics) out there, I thought I would share this great infographic I found about Diabetes & Alcohol:

diabetes and alcohol
Source for this awesome infograph: Drinking With Diabetes

Thank you for all of your support in spreading awareness and searching for a cure. Living with a chronic illness that is so often misunderstood can be completely infuriating at times, but the love and hope from my support system is what gets me through.

Today I raise my beer to toast all my fellow Diabadasses out there, living everyday with their heads held high.


Join me and JDRF on our journey to create a world without T1D, ending its impact on millions. jdrf.org/T1DLooksLikeMe

Beer

Beer Education: Hosting a Craft Beer Tasting Event.

A picture of Amy from Polka Dots and Pints sitting a table with beer tasting mats and a growler vase full of flowers with the text "Hosting a Craft Beer Tasting Event."

Yesterday I hosted a Michigan IPA Tasting Event at our home. Six of us gathered around the table and shared beer, stories, and laughter. I had a lot of fun hosting, so if you’ve ever considered it, I say – do it! Here is a little advice to get you started:

Pick a Theme

Do you want to sample beers from one brewery? Do you want to sample the same style of beers from a variety of breweries? Do you want to share with people your favorite beer of each style? Once you decide the theme of your tasting, it will help determine what comes next.

Picking my theme was easy, because I had beer that I needed help getting rid of. Generally IPAs are meant to be enjoyed fresh, and my cellar was piling up with an abundance of Michigan IPAs that needed to be drank fast!

Pick Your Guests

First, you’ll need to determine how many guests you’d like to invite. Do you plan on having an intimate around-the-table tasting, or a larger mix n’ mingle party? It’s also a good idea to take into consideration the types of guests you want to have. If you’re planning on a more formal tasting event that thoroughly dissects the appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, etc. – make sure you are inviting experienced and knowledgeable beer drinkers. If your event is going to be more casual and will include people with a variety of beer experience, make sure you facilitate it accordingly. You don’t want to disappoint your fellow beer junkies, and you definitely don’t want to scare off or intimidate new craft beer drinkers.

For yesterday’s event I invited friends that appreciate craft beer, but all have different levels of knowledge on the beer spectrum. In this instance, the environment was a positive one which facilitated an open discussion of beer knowledge.

Pick Your Beer

Once you know your theme and how many guests you plan on having, it is time to pick your beer! It’s fun to serve rare or unique beer your guests have never had before, but it might also be good to serve familiar beer to act as the tasting ‘control group’ to the other beers. How many different beers do you plan on having? We had 12 different IPAs, divided into two rounds – but I think if I were having a more formal tasting event, I would limit myself to 6 in order to prevent palate fatigue and mental exhaustion. Now is also the time to determine how much of each beer you will need. Are you having enough people to warrant a pony keg, or do you just need a couple bottles from your local bottle shop? Remember, a tasting event is different from a drinking event – each guest only needs a couple of ounces of each beer. Also keep in mind that a couple of ounces can add up to a lot of ounces, depending on how many different beers you are serving.

Supplies

  • Beer. Purchase your beer ahead of time, and make sure you store it in a cool, dry place. On the day of your event, make sure the beer is served at proper tasting temperature for the style. Beer that is too cold is hard for our taste buds to taste.
  • Tasting Cups. Remember, these only need to be a few ounces. I used clear plastic cups with a wide mouth, so guests could easily evaluate color and catch the aroma.
  • Tasting Mats. I made tasting mats for each round of tasting, with ordered, labeled spots for each beer. I also included other information about the beer, like the brewery name, ABV, and IBUs.
  • Beer Score Cards. While my event did not include formal judging, I wanted to provide my guests with a place to take notes about each beer if they were so inclined. I also printed off a page with some tasting “suggestions” and some simple beer vocabulary.
  • Snacks & Water. I intentionally picked snacks that act as palate neutralizers or that traditionally pair with beer. We had pretzels, popcorn, bread, and cheese. Make sure you also provide your guests with plenty of water. The idea behind the snacks and water are to help clear the taste buds between beer samples, and also to help prevent any major drunkenness caused by an empty stomach. Aside from the snacks, our group was small enough that we were also able to order carry-out once the event was underway.

Day Of

On the day of your event, set up as much in advance as possible. I set out each spot at the table with the tasting mats, beer score cards, pens, napkins, and suggestion sheets well before everyone arrived. I also threw some flowers in an old growler, which made a beautiful centerpiece. I put snacks out and poured waters 15 minutes prior to everyone’s arrival, and started playing music 5 minutes before showtime. In case of late arrivals, I advise you do not start pouring beers until everyone is there and ready to start. Talk to everyone, and make sure they are comfortable and enjoying themselves. Keep an eye out for overconsumption, and be aware that as the host you may have to provide a way home or a place to crash for the night if someone goes over the top. (Fortunately, I did not encounter anything remotely close to this last night.) Consider having a party favor you can send home with people at the end of the night – mine was simple, I sent my guests home with a variety 6-pack of the beers they ranked the highest.

Overall, my tasting party was a success and I am really glad that I did it. My guests were great, and brought some of their own delicious beverages to share – including a homebrewed Classic American Pilsner and some homemade wine. Thanks to everyone that came out! I look forwarding to hosting my next one.

A photo of 12 different Michigan IPAs for a craft beer tasting event. Includes beer from Perrin Brewing, New Holland Brewing, Short's Brewing, Dark Horse Brewing, Bell's Brewery, and Founder's Brewing.
An photo of a beer tasting scorecard, some beer tasting tips, and a mat for beer flights.
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Have you ever hosted a beer tasting event? What did you find that worked and didn’t work for you? If you were to host a beer tasting event, what would your theme be?

Beer

Beer Education: On Craft Beer Floats.

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Boozy ice cream treats have been a thing long before the recent fad of Not Your Father’s Root Beer floats (just ask the character Doc in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row). Before we get into a big discussion about whether or not NYFRB is even a beer, let me say up front, that is not what this post is about. This post is simply about floats made with craft beer.

The story goes that the original ice cream float was invented by Robert McCay Green in 1874 when he made the serendipitous decision to use ice cream in his sodas when he ran out of ice.  Some of the most common varieties of ice cream floats are root beer floats, coke floats, and Boston Coolers; and in Australia and New Zealand ice cream floats are called “spiders”. Thanks to creative mixologists and at-home beer & ice cream lovers, beer floats have earned a spot in today’s culture.

As a lover of craft beer and a lover of ice cream, I’ve been mixing the two for quite a long time. The question I’ve always been faced with is: Is it in poor taste to mix an artfully-made, quality craft beer with ice cream? I have friends that strongly protest fruit garnish for beer and beer cocktails horrify them – so the idea of tainting their beer with ice cream is something they turn their nose up at. On the contrary, I also know brewers and other members of the industry that love these decadent treats, and even promote their beer to be used in this dessert. Personally? I don’t feel guilty indulging in the craft beer float, but I do keep the below guidelines in mind:

Guidelines for Making A Craft Beer Float:

  1. Respect the craft. Craft beer is an art form. Before diving into a beer float, drink the beer by itself the way it was created to be consumed. Explore the flavor and nuances of the beer, and respect that this beer is someone’s art.
  2. Complement the craft. If you drive a luxury car, you put premium gas in it. If you drink craft beer, don’t put cheap ice cream in it! Find a quality made, carefully crafted ice cream to go with that quality made, carefully crafted beer! I personally recommend Love’s grass-fed dairy ice cream or Graeter’s handcrafted French pot ice cream – but look around for other craft ice cream in your area. Additionally, make sure you are using beer styles and ice cream flavors that complement each other. My favorite combination tends to be vanilla ice cream with dark, malty beers (my personal favorites usually include notes of burnt caramel, toasted malt, espresso, and bourbon!)
  3. Pour with care. When the carbonated beer hits the ice cream, it’s a recipe for overflow. Pour slowly and carefully, and prepare to slurp up the excess! Enjoy!

How do you feel about the combination of craft beer and ice cream? Are you a fan of craft beer floats? What is your favorite beer/ice cream combo? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!