Beer

Beer Education: Alcohol and Mental Health

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I have a mental illness, and I choose to drink alcohol. I know that I am certainly not alone in this boat, and I don’t necessarily think that it is a bad thing. Having a mental illness makes many aspects of life more complicated – including drinking alcohol, but it can certainly be doable if you are informed, safe, and intentional.

Know Why You Drink.

I drink beer because I love the art form of brewing. I drink beer because it smells and tastes good. I drink beer because I enjoy sharing the experience with people. I drink because sometimes I just plain like the way it makes me feel. All of these reasons are fine reasons to occasionally drink beer.

When I find myself wanting to drink because I am stressed, or because I am sad, or because I had a bad day – these are warning signs.

When I find myself wanting to drink to numb my feelings or to checkout of reality or to black out – these are MAJOR red flags.

All people, but especially people struggling with mental health, should take the time to evaluate why they drink.

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Know How Your Medication Interacts With Alcohol BEFORE You Drink.

Many people with mental health challenges are prescribed medications, or choose to self-medicate using illegal substances. Mixing both legal or illegal drugs with alcohol can be absolutely lethal. If you are on a new medication, find out how it interacts with alcohol. This can usually be done with a quick Google search. Keep in mind that even if an alcohol/drug interaction isn’t deadly, drinking could still significantly impact the drug’s effectiveness.

Don’t stop taking an antidepressant or other medication just so that you can drink. Most antidepressants require taking a consistent, daily dose to maintain a constant level in your system and work as intended. Stopping and starting your medications can make your mental health worse.1

Know Your Limit.

Everyone’s body reacts to alcohol differently. Keeping this in mind, there are a few standard things to consider:

-Smaller individuals are effected by alcohol faster than larger individuals.

-Food slows down the rate of absorption – that’s why alcohol affects you more quickly on an empty stomach.2

-Alcohol has a more severe effect on a biological female’s liver than on a biological male’s. As well as being unable to ‘break down’ alcohol as quickly, it takes longer to repair itself when damaged.3

-National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that men should not exceed 4 drinks per day or a total of 14 per week and women should not to exceed 3 drinks a day or a total of 7 per week.4

-Alcohol affects you in a way that changes your judgement, depth perception, as well as vital motor skills required to drive safely. It’s easy to think you are driving normally when truly you are not.5

-Give alcohol-free days a-go. If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. This is why many medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking to ensure you don’t become addicted to alcohol.6

Know the Facts.

-Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps regulate your mood.6

-People with bipolar disorder turn to alcohol in an attempt to quiet their symptoms, especially manic symptoms.7

-Extreme levels of drinking can occasionally cause psychosis. Psychotic symptoms can also occur when very heavy drinkers suddenly stop drinking and develop a condition known as ‘delirium tremens’.6

-More than one-third of suicide victims used alcohol just prior to death.8

-Nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.9

-In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).9

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Get Help.

This applies to all people, but is especially pertinent to people with a mental illness: You should control your drinking, your drinking should not control you.

If you are starting to feel out of control of your drinking, if the idea of going a day alcohol-free seems impossible, or the symptoms of your mental illness are getting worse – get help. Talk to your doctor, or seek other professional help. Additionally, here are some resources for individuals challenged with a mental illness or who need help controlling their alcohol intake:

Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 from anywhere in the USA.
Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org/
If you are concerned with a drinking problem, wish to learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous or want to find A.A. near you, we can help you.

Sources:

¹ http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/antidepressants-and-alcohol/faq-20058231

2 http://www.knowyourlimits.info/know%E2%80%A6-how-alcohol-works

3 http://www.knowyourlimits.info/know%E2%80%A6-about-women-and-alcohol

4 https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

5 http://www.quitalcohol.com/dangers-of-drinking-and-driving.html

6 https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-and-mental-health/

7 http://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-and-alcohol#Bipolardisorder1

8 http://www.mces.org/pages/suicide_fact_alcohol.php

9 https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics


I want to say that I am writing from a personal perspective. I believe that there is a social stigma surrounding mental health, and I feel the best way to challenge this stigma is to talk about my experience. I am faced with multiple mental health obstacles, perhaps the most challenging being major depressive disorder and hypomanic episodes. I have gone through counseling and therapy, I have tried many types of medicine, I have been through inpatient treatment at a psych hospital, I have participated in multiple wonderful partial hospitalization programs, I have experienced success, I have experienced progress, and I have experienced failure. I know people challenged by mental health, and I have lost people to their mental health. What I’m writing about today is one perspective, my own, and in no way do I mean to offend or step on anyone’s toes – I merely wish to share my thoughts in hope of helping and informing others.

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:

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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!