There’s a long slog between today and the spring.
For the next eight weeks or so, we’re going to endure sleet, mid-winter ennui, and biliously cold temperatures punctuated by the occasional random burst of warm weather and the head colds they spawn.
February is the month of isolation wherein we have trouble mustering the will to leave the warmth of our homes and, on the occasions we do, have trouble finding a reason.
Breweries provide a genuine cure for cabin fever. Access to other people and something good to drink.
An excuse to travel
Maybe this is the month to travel for beer. There are something on the order of two-dozen breweries within an hour’s drive and, for those of you who haven’t been to one at all yet, at least one brewery within a few miles of your house.
Most people in the country live within 10 miles of a brewery, for many people, there’s one within walking distance.
If you haven’t yet visited a brewery, you should know that they nearly are as bored as you are with the weather and work to keep things interesting.
Most have games of skill or chance, from cards and board games to darts, and all have developed a kind of destination feel that wasn’t always the case for craft breweries.
Not too long ago, there wasn’t much to do at most craft breweries on Delmarva besides drink beer. Brewers quickly realized, though, that people liked to hangout. Craft breweries became secondary town centers and eventually grew out to include add-ons like food trucks (or, in some cases, kitchens) and areas for congregating.
In the dead of winter, when there are fewer people and fewer things to do, taprooms have kind of a holing-up feeling, as if they’re a staging area where people fortify themselves against the cold to come. It’s a way of checking in with the rest of civilization while also not being at work.
Participating in events
The other, and possibly primary, upside is that, since this is a resort area, many breweries have a little more downtime than they will come mid-March. Brewers all over are cranking out even more and different beer releases than usual, taking the opportunity of the quiet times to try out new beers.
Many if not most of the breweries in the region are having release parties for one beer or another. Sometimes they are themed, sometimes they have food, sometimes they are last minute, but if you check out one that interests you (or a brewery you are close to) you will find a reason to go.
If you’re not familiar with them, release parties are really just a way to focus the gathering on a particular beer, but at this time of the year they’re also a chance to get to feel like you’re not the last person on earth.
Having an authentic experience
In the wider beer community, there’s a debate about whether beer on draft, or from the bottle or can is better. Realistically, a person would have to have a superior palate to recognize a vast difference. That is, except in the case of having a beer that was brewed a couple feet from where you’re drinking it.
One of the great appeals of craft beer is this sense of authenticity. For so much of what we eat, drink and buy there are a million intermediaries between the production and the consumption. But when you’re sitting at a brewery, you often can see where the beer is being made and put into kegs.
You can talk to the people who make and sell it, and to a bunch of other people who enjoy it. It may be one of the few places left where strangers have open and honest conversations with one another about their likes and dislikes without worrying about stepping on toes or hurting feelings.
If you still can’t justify braving the cold, just remember that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.