Beer, like coffee, the Lower East Side, and condiments, elevated its lowbrow status years ago. Now it's a beverage fit for the image-conscious. Beer snobs are as vocal as any sommelier, and, as any of the cicerone-certified folks who walk among us will tell you, the podcast form is well-suited for spouting off about mead, ale, lager, and microbrews.
These seven podcasts will round out your beer education without making your eyes roll into the back of your head -- and pair perfectly with a nice cold brewski.
The Beerists has the highest ABV of its category. Many beer podcasts aim to re-create a just-off-work, happy-hour vibe, but The Beerists' barflies drink and talk like it's closing time. Host John Rubio and his stable of recurring guests manage to make an R-rated podcast that still honors the rituals of beer obsessives. And between all the genuinely funny dirty jokes, they share decades' worth of craft knowledge and food pairings.
"How Beer Works" is the perfect primer for the aspiring brewer or brew scholar. Stuff You Should Know repackages the brilliant theory that beer is as old civilization itself -- which would mean that people flocked to cities because that's where all the beer was. Then the episode backs up its claim by giving a history of just how far we'll go to get a drink of it.
A given episode of the design podcast 99% Invisible uses brilliant soundscaping to conjure images in the space between your headphones. This episode begins by throwing shade at Americans, who took a Belgian abbey-crafted, small-batch beer called Westvleteren 12 and declared it "the best beer in the world." (If Trappist monks made it, you know it’s good.) A frenzy ensued, and today, no one can get a crate of it. Luckily, with host Roman Mars' descriptions, you can almost taste it.
Each episode of The Beer Geeks places one brewery center stage, cracking open its beers and chatting with the brewers and owners who make the taps flow. The structure of the podcast helps keep its hosts focused on one cross-section of the burgeoning microbrew scene, and the belly-up-to-the-bar conversation loosens up the party. As its title suggests, The Beer Geeks is an advanced course in beer drinking, which makes it a must-listen for seasoned vets looking for a pint.
If you suffer from well-developed Catholic guilt, there’s nothing better than the reminder that “the pint, the pipe, and the cross can all fit together.” For reasons divine and serendipitous, brewing beer became the domain of monks and Jesuits. This episode of Catholic Stuff You Should Know keeps the spirit alive, daring to get philosophical about the pastime of downing beers.
As Homer Simpson once said while giving cheers to Springfield, “To alcohol! The cause of -- and solution to -- all of life's problems!” If you’ve never quite reconciled your love of beer with the collateral damage of alcohol consumption, look no further than Freakonomics for answers. Writer Stephen J. Dubner and economist Steven D. Levitt peddle in hard data to understand the real-life incentives behind those of us that tempt fate for a drink. The episodes compare teetotaling to drunkenness and ask listeners to seek a middle ground, a place where we’re all buzzed, the cops are out, and no one steps behind the wheel.
First things first: pour one out for Strange Brews, which ended its 75-episode run in October 2015. Unlike other hardcore beer podcasts, this one has production value and a well-known backer: Chicago’s WBEZ public radio station, the company that birthed This American Life. The hosts Andrew Gill and Alison Cuddy throw around terms like “fruit-forward,” “heady,” and “profile” after on-air taste tests, and while you might think they’re beer snobs, there’s nothing elitist about their podcast. Start at the beginning of Strange Brews.
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Eric McQuade, Laura Standley, and Devon Taylor run The Timbre, a site dedicated to the emerging art of podcasts. Follow the site on Twitter @timbretweet.