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Try a flight for better balance with your brew 

click to enlarge A flight of beer from Copper Leaf Brewing in Pittsford.

PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

A flight of beer from Copper Leaf Brewing in Pittsford.

Beer has been an inextricable part of my adult life, both the drink and the culture surrounding it. So the idea of telling you to consume less beer to enjoy it more is hard to swallow.

Around six months ago, I realized I needed to make a change and cut way, way back on beer. I had developed a routine, which the pandemic set in stone. I’d get up, go to work, run errands, then come home and savor a pint or two. Weekends by and large revolved around picking up fresh cans from whatever brewery piqued my interest.

That’s not to give the impression I was a raving alcoholic. In fact, my routine was more or less in line with federal dietary guidelines, which recommend that men limit their alcohol intake to two or fewer drinks per day to reduce the risk of alcohol-related damage. For women, the recommendation is one drink a day. There are plenty of studies that suggest a drink a day is good for you.

But I suffered for it. Sleep eluded me, my stomach churned throughout the day with post-IPA regret, and the exhaustion I felt made me anxious. The money I spent on special beer releases was getting embarrassing and expensive.

My change happened like this: I limited myself to three pints in the evening two days a week, typically on the weekend. Almost immediately I slept better and had more energy. My anxiety lessened and I even dropped weight.

These were positive developments, but I was left with the problem of how to actively keep beer in my life. It was a situation that involved a philosophical question — how can I have a healthy relationship with something I truly love, while that thing can be, when consumed in excess, poison?

I wasn’t alone in wrestling with that question. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 percent of Americans said they drank more as the result of pandemic-related stress. An April 2020 article on the beer culture website Good Beer Hunting openly asked how brewers can ethically market their products during a time of rampant overuse.

Overindulging in alcohol is a social norm. Ads for Budweiser or Bacardi show beautiful people having the times of their lives. Meanwhile the rest of us drink to celebrate, to lament, to socialize, and to detach. For many, the words of Homer Simpson ring true: “To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

The solution for me was in embracing flights of beer — an assortment of brews, usually four to six, served in sample-sized glasses, A typical flight glass holds five to seven ounces, compared with 16 in a pint glass. Most craft breweries offer flights, but many beer bars have them, too. An option that had once been reserved for helping me figure out which beer to order was now the main event. Four pours adding up to a single pint was an opportunity to try more styles of beer in a sitting, while drinking much less.
click to enlarge CITY beer columnist Gino Fanelli drinking a flight at Copper Leaf Brewing in Pittsford. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • CITY beer columnist Gino Fanelli drinking a flight at Copper Leaf Brewing in Pittsford.

There were ancillary benefits. When I cut down on beer, my palate became more astute, allowing me to better note even the subtlest flavors.

At home, smaller servings are now the norm. Two pints of a double IPA, which was once a typical evening for me, is now an indulgence I would struggle to complete.

The change brought me to the realization that I love beer, but not alcohol. I appreciate the flavors of malts and hops more when I can sidestep their side effects.

For the years I’ve been writing about beer, I’ve maintained that beer is for everyone. I still believe that, and I believe that includes people seeking a healthier relationship with alcohol.


DRINK THIS NOW, FLIGHT EDITION:

Faircraft Brauhaus
25 Parce Ave. Suites 100-105, Fairport
Faircraft embraces a fiercely loyal interpretation of classic German and European beers. It serves mainstays such as Märzens and helles as well as more off-the-beaten path offerings like rauchbiers and Scottish 70-shilling ales.

Eli Fish Brewing
109 Main St., Batavia
Since opening in 2018 as Genesee County’s first brewery, Eli Fish has made a splash with a tap list of varied, eclectic offerings. From near-extinct styles like the Dortmunder strong ale known as “Adambier,” to fruit punch-imbued sour ales, Eli Fish is a dream stop for curating a perfect flight.

Copper Leaf Brewing
50 State St., Building G, Pittsford
Copper Leaf opened in spring 2021 and came out of the gate with stunning forays into wild-fermented ales. A flight at Copper Leaf can run the gamut from funky, fruit-laden sippers to the understated spice of a prime roggenbier.

Strangebird Brewing
62 Marshall St., Rochester
At Strangebird, American wild ale godfather Eric Salazar and brewers Nicki Foster and Micah Krichinsky pump out some of the most inventive beers in the state. For example, an imperial interpretation of the Polish smoked beer Grodiziskie or a tequila barrel-aged ale laced with grapefruit mimicking a paloma cocktail. While you can handpick your flight, each brewer offers a set of four pre-picked brews showcasing their unique styles.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.
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