PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Even when performing the most enjoyable tasks, there's always room for improvement.
Covering the beer industry and writing about beer is a pleasure on most days and nearly on par with drinking beer on its best days. The brewers are fascinating, the search for new brewers and beers leads to some of the most worthwhile stops on the map and the approach to beer by people in various places tells you quite a bit about who they are and what they want out of life. Its core is what's brewing in the tuns and kettles, but its hidden gems lie in beer aisles, on barstools and in gatherings large and small.
We're entering our fifth year of beer and craft beer coverage here at TheStreet and it's been an enlightening ride from our first look at pumpkin ale in 2010 to our chats with folks such as Boston Beer's Jim Koch, the Craft Brew Alliance's Rob Widmer, Sierra Nevada's Ken Grossman and New Belgium's Kim Jordan. We've learned quickly that beer isn't just a product. It's a portion of brewers' heritage and buyers' memories. It's an ideal worth petitioning the government over and pedantically defining down to its smallest details.
It matters and, more importantly, it matters a lot to you folks. If our stories about beer weren't read and those reading them weren't asking for more, this writer would likely be reassigned to the pork bellies beat. Beer stirs passions that few other commodities can, and it has a connection with people that we want to continue to explore in years to come.
But we want to do it better. Just like the holiday host who thinks he or she could stand to lose a few pounds after finishing off this years leftovers or the procrastinators who decided that this is the year they finally see the rest of the world or do that one thing that's been scaring them senseless all these years, we know there's work to do. That's why we've come up with a few resolutions of our own this year we hope some of you will join us in keeping:
1. Try everything
We mean everything. We know that you know that tallboy of Rainier isn't brewed in Seattle anymore and is basically malt liquor. Taste it anyway. We know that Herman Joseph's Private Reserve is made by AC Golden, a subsidiary of MolsonCoors. Taste it anyway. We're fully aware Goose Island is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev now and that its Bourbon County Stout is now an A-B product. Try it anyway.
Does a beer sound really bitter? Try it anyway. Does a beer have chili in it? Try it anyway. Is it coming out of a cask, a nitrogenated tap or a hop-filled device known only as Randall? Try it anyway.
Knowing beer isn't about posing with a pint of Pliny the Elder and showing the world how cool you are. It's also not about putting down as much of a 30-pack as you can before kickoff. It's about exploring what's out there and informing your decision. It's about hearing the ignorance warning you off a particular beer and shrugging it off in favor of personal experience. It's about giving a retiree's brewery and taphouse in the suburbs the same chance you'd give a renowned brewer's new brewpub in the adjacent city.
In short, it's a continuing education. It's learning the styles, learning the process behind it, learning what you like and learning why people like beers you don't. As with just about any area of study, the moment you're ready to learn everything about beer is the moment you accept what you don't know about it.
It's why gifted brewers still make pilgrimages to Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic and elsewhere and apprentice under brewers whose families have been making beer for centuries. It's why beer lovers visit Trappist monasteries and adhere to their rigid rules just for a taste of their beers. It's why stout lovers will try Guinness in both Ireland and Nigeria and why a witbier enthusiast will visit Naka, Japan, just as readily as he or she will head to Hoegaarden, Belgium.
Beer isn't as much about what you know as it is about what you can learn next. If you approach it with an open mind, we'll do the same.