Full Circle Brewing Tour: Road Diary #25

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By Mahalia Breen

Monday, September 18, 2017

Day 27: Ohio

Miles Driven: 165

Travel Time: 3.5 hours

Beers: unlabeled grocery store growlers

Great Lakes Brewing's Elliot Ness made in Cleveland, Ohio

This day was spent with my aunt, cousin and her family in Elyria, Ohio. I hadn't seen them in person since Ryan and I were married in 2009.

My aunt pretty much raised my father, who died eleven years ago from colon cancer. She was ten years older than him, and he idolized her.

This side of my family is Irish, and it is a widely recognized stereotype that the Irish enjoy a drink. Even in some of the oldest existing Breen family photos there are a bunch of smiling people sitting around a table dotted with bottles of beer.

So it was no surprise that we would have a few beers on this day. My cousin and her husband brought a couple of growlers from their local grocery store, but the filler didn't label them, and they couldn't remember what they were.

Grocery store growlers and hand beers are a definite sign of a shift in the drinking culture in America. It shows that craft beer is being normalized.

As the American public has become more educated, they have begun drinking more responsibly. Data suggests that the less educated a person is, the more likely they are to binge drink and make bad decisions, which is why the first grocery stores to offer this as an option were the upmarket ones.

My grandfather was killed by a drunk driver in the early '80s when there were around 145,000,000 drivers and 30,000 fatalities from drunk driving each year. Compared with in 2017 when there were less than 10,000 fatalities and there were more than 200,000,000 drivers. 

Even though the data is encouraging, even one death from an alcohol-related accident is too many.

I want to make it absolutely clear that while we have been driving around this country drinking beer, we have been drinking responsibly.

How to Enjoy Craft Beer on the Road:

1. Share a flight with a friend. A usual sample size is 3oz., and they usually only give you four samples because you shouldn't drive within an hour of having 12 ounces of beer. If you split four 3oz. samples with a friend, even if you both only weigh 90lbs, you will probably not be impaired.

Often on this trip, Ryan and I have split eight 3oz. samples with food and water. We rarely finished the samples, and we both weigh over 200 pounds.

2. Don't drink bad beer. It may seem impolite or like a waste of money, but as the saying goes, "life's too short to drink bad beer." If you order a beer that is clearly flawed, stop drinking it and tell your bartender. If the bar or brewery is worth its salt, they will not only take it off your tab, they will thank you for it.

It could help the bar or brewery raise its game, and it could help keep you from over-drinking by releasing you from a self-imposed obligation.

The same should go for beers you just don't like. Don't drink 'em. Now, you'll still be on the hook for paying for these, but it will help you learn more about yourself as a consumer, and it will help you drink less.

3. Drink a lot of water. What we haven't written about on this trip is how much water we both drink. We have matching 24-ounce water bottles which we fill up and drink between 2 and 4 of each day. If you like to drink beer, you owe it to your body to drink water before, during and after.

4. Get a ride. If there are a bunch of breweries in one area that you want to try, get a taxi, Uber or a ride from a friend and walk between them. Then do the same to get home. It may cost a little money, but it will certainly be cheaper than a DUI.

5. Walk. You could find a hotel nearby the breweries you want to visit and just plan to walk, but I will also caution you about the dangers of walking while impaired. More pedestrians are killed by drivers than other motorists, and people who are walking around under the influence are more likely to get themselves into a dangerous situation.

6. Travel with a buddy. You can take turns being designated driver and hold each other accountable for making good decisions.

7. Get it to go. Nowadays a lot of breweries and bars fill growlers or crowlers.

If you know you feel like throwing back a few and you don't have a ride, you can take it with you!

I never got to know my grandfather because someone made a bad decision one night. A good beer should be something for a family to enjoy at get- togethers, not a reason for a funeral.

Make good choices. Live long. Prosper.

(Editor’s Note: Mahalia Breen and her husband, Ryan, are relocating their brewing business from Vermont to North Carolina. Before that, they embarked on one last grand adventure: The Full Circle Brewing Tour. They did a big lap around the country for the whole month of July, driving through 26 states, doing six collaboration brews with breweries across the country and seeing some of the best sites this country has to offer.)