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Food & Drinks

Beer hacks: from warm booze to missing openers, tips and tricks for your favourite drink

Ben Robinson’s illustrated guide of 100 tips, tricks and projects involving beer will make you a better beer drinker. Here are some of the highlights

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 8:01pm

Beer snobs, turn away. Ben Robinson has some hacks involving your favourite foamy beverage.

The editor-in-chief of New York online newspaper the Observer has written an illustrated guide of 100 tips, tricks and projects involving beer.

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Heading to Munich for Oktoberfest or perhaps just out to a sports game? He has the best ways to partake. Forgot that bottle opener? Robinson’s got you covered. Want to stash some for later? You can do that under the right conditions.

At 37, Robinson, from Long Island, has been drinking beer since his college days. But why write an actual book about the stuff? It’s still a passion, he says.

“I went to college in Wisconsin, which is a place that is very devoted to beer in many ways,” he said. “In college is really when I had my first very good beer. There was a brew pub called the Angelic that we would go to. Back then, if you went to a bar with your parents [before the age of 21] and your parents said it was OK, they would serve you beer.”

These are some of the highlights from his Beer Hacks, otherwise known as how to make yourself a better beer drinker:

1. Make them cold quick

Warm beer. If it’s not your thing, it’s your nightmare. When you’re really, really thirsty and you come home to a beerless fridge, Robinson has some ideas.

Wet a rag, paper towels or a tea towel, wring out the excess and wrap up your brew for a trip into the freezer. On top of an ice tray or in actual ice is even better. A standard 355ml (12-ounce) can or bottle should take 10 minutes or less to get to an enjoyable temperature.

If you’re in a really, really big hurry and need your beer in, say, 20 to 30 seconds, always have a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher handy. Just put the warm beer in a bucket and fire away in quick blasts of one to two seconds. Quickly rinse.

But remember these words: carbon dioxide fire extinguisher. Not a monoammonium phosphate version.

2. When you don’t have an opener

Option one: find a sturdy disposable lighter and use the end that doesn’t make fire as a lever. Option two: do some magic by folding a standard piece of computer paper in half, then again and again until it’s thick. Six or seven folds should make it stiff enough to do what you did with the lighter.

There’s always the open-one-beer-with-another-beer trick, using the cap. Robinson begs off when it comes to the teeth method.

3. Storage doesn’t have to be fancy

It’s easy to overspend on high-end fridges. Most of the priciest are for wine, anyway. Robinson said resist. Go on Craigslist for a stand-up freezer and purchase a digital temperature controller outlet thermostat for US$30 or so. It plugs into any outlet and will regulate the temperature of your new freezer to turn it into a perfect beer fridge instead. Set it to about 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit).

Beer cans and bottles should be stored upright to last as long as possible. The enemies of beer are light, heat and oxygen. Only brown glass and opaque containers such as cans can stop light from breaking down beer and changing the flavour.

Fluctuations in temperature will have the same effect as light on beer. Consistency is key. When you open it, drink it! Remember that whatever storage place you choose should be kept dark 99 per cent of the time. Use your basement, dark garage or the inside of a wardrobe.

Also remember, Robinson said, that not all styles of beer are cellar-worthy. Ones which are exceptionally hoppy are intended to be consumed as fresh as possible. Most beers with ABV (alcohol by volume) below 7.5 per cent won’t last very nicely long term, he says.

4. Around the house

Beer isn’t just for getting things dirty. For gold and gold-plated jewellery, drop some into a glass of beer and soak for a bit before polishing. Robinson says “good” beer cleans jewellery worse than the very cheap stuff.

It’s the slight acidity, he says, and this also works on greasy, grimy pots – copper pots especially.

In the garden, know that slugs love beer. Bury a plastic cup or a few around plants that slugs have taken to, with the lips of the cups slightly above ground. Fill three-quarters of the way up with light beer. No, you won’t get every single slug to slime on over, drink and fall in, plus it’s ethically your choice to decide on their beer deaths.

A hack for the weary: pick up a bag of hops at a local brewing supply shop or order online. You’ll need “leaf” hops, not pellets. Rub liberally on your pillowcases for some help falling asleep.

5. How to order beer

At a professional sporting event, Robinson urges buying the biggest beer they sell. Your cost per millilitre generally declines as the size of the cup goes up.

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At beer fests, take advantage of those long queues to pace yourself, and consider that the beer is probably better than those to be had in the shorter queues. Also, realise that Oktoberfest in Munich actually begins in September.