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2017’s Best Reads on Drinks and Drinking

This year, we charted the astronomical rise of Heady Topper, remembered San Francisco's now-shuttered Marlena's and questioned whether the craft cocktail movement is over. Here, twelve of our favorite stories on all things drinks and drinking from 2017.

“Beer poptimism”—the notion that macro beer from the likes of Budweiser and Coors is as worthy of consideration as the double-hopped IPAs coveted by beer geeks—has been gaining momentum in recent years. As Big Beer garners the attention of celebrity chefs and craft brewers alike, who have touted its consistency and drinkability, Eater asks, “What comes after the beer snob?” [Eater]

Off the coast of Nova Scotia, the remote Sober Island is home to fifty year-round residents and a third-generation oyster farmer who has, for decades, been aligning his brand with the Sober Island name. But when an entrepreneur decided to open the island’s first brewery with a flagship oyster stout, what seems like an ideal partnership deteriorates into a turf war embroiling the entire town. [Narratively]

Historical studies have long posited that alcohol is a by-product of civilization rather than the other way around. A new school of thought, however, suggests that the production of alcoholic beverages—which is unique to humans—has been crucial to the development of arts, language and religion throughout history. In National Geographic, Andrew Curry outlines our millennia-long relationship with booze. [National Geographic]

For many years, The Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont—population 5,000—was little more than a quaint neighborhood bar. But word soon spread about the double IPA, Heady Topper, being brewed in the basement, then surreptitiously bottled in the bathroom and taken off the premises. Before long, it became an attraction, with beer-inclined newlyweds taking their honeymoon in Waterbury just to get a taste of the limited release. Sam Riches chronicles the journey from small-town pub to international craft beer destination. [Longreads]

Craft beer has steadily been carving out a space for itself in an industry long-dominated by a select group of macro brands. But much of its success is owed to a few dozen nomadic canning operations, like Iron Heart, which help connect startup brewers to customers without the overhead cost of machinery—an expense which can run upwards of $300,000. Kyle Stock on the role of mobile canning operations in the survival and success of the craft beer industry. [Bloomberg]

In Prohibition-era America, Roy Olmstead was a household name. Known as “the good bootlegger” for his eschewal of the more sordid aspects of his profession, Olmstead was nonetheless convicted by the Supreme Court in 1928. Centering on evidence gleaned from a tapped phone line, the case has since become a landmark in the ongoing debate over privacy in the U.S. [The New Yorker]

Is the craft cocktail revolution is over? Kevin Alexander argues that, inundated with new bars, the industry faces a dearth of innovative and original ideas. Should this be a cause for concern, or should it be embraced as the new era of the cocktail? [Thrillist]

Italian traditions have played a significant role in American drinking culture since the 19th century. Historian David Wondrich traces the evolution of the Italian-American cocktail from after-dinner amaro to disco drinks. [The Daily Beast]

Anne Fadiman, daughter of writer Clifton Fadiman, who penned The Joys of Wine, has spent much of her adult life pretending to enjoy the sole subject of her father’s eight-pound book. At age 40, she finally admitted that she might never love wine, and turned to science to find out why. [The New Yorker]

Having weathered the devastating fires that leveled entire neighborhoods, displacing nearly 100,000 people, California’s wine industry is bracing for another potential loss: Many of the undocumented immigrants that the industry depends upon do not qualify for disaster aid, prompting a potential exodus. [New York Times]

Responsible for the visual identity of Mikkeller, one of the beer world’s most sought-after brands, Keith Shore seeks to match the complexity of what’s in the bottle with what’s on it. A novel idea when he began working with the brand, Shore has since set the industry standard for a number of breweries seeking to create entire visual worlds. [October]

“There was no such thing as a normal night at Marlena’s,” writes Mayukh Sen of San Francisco’s beloved and now-shuttered Christmas-themed drag bar. This holiday season, Sen remembers the impact of the Santa-studded bar as it became a neighborhood institution over the course of more than two decades. [Munchies]

And on PUNCH, Jon Bonné tracked the life and afterlife of New York’s pioneering wine bar, Terroir; Robert Simonson chronicled the many lessons (and secrets) that Venice’s Harry’s Bar keeps; Zachary Sussman contemplated wine’s post-election significance; Michael Snyder went deep into the heart of Mexico’s historic pulque capital in search of its last artisans; Garrett Snyder chronicled the long relationship between America’s Chinese restaurants and tiki; Aaron Goldfarb told the story of how a homemade blend became one of the most coveted bottles of bourbon in America; Allie Lazar took us on a tour of South America’s aperitivo capital; Drew Lazor visited Pennsylvania coal country to drink boilo, a Christmastime punch that has been a staple there for generations; Kara Newman went inside Covert Cocktail Club, a real-life Brooklyn speakeasy; and much, much more.

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