(Today’s cover photo comes courtesy of Akasha Brewing Company.) 

My adult beverage of choice is beer, while Louisville’s civic doctrine currently is articulated as “bourbonism.” If I’d have been raised in Bordeaux, perhaps both these scenarios would be subject to alteration, although there remains a flip side to alcoholic beverages of all types in the sense of a potential for overuse and abuse.

Consequently I don’t have anything negative to say about the concept of Dry January, which comes to us from the United Kingdom, circa 2011. At the same time, I’m choosing to side with my favorite beer writer Jeff Alworth in pointing to a third way — neither blotto nor barren, but espousing the merits of thoughtful and intentional “long haul” moderation.

A few years ago Alworth penned a column to this effect: Dry January. It’s very much worth revisiting.

“Dry January” (is) a health phenomenon that has gained substantial cultural currency in the past two or three years. (I personally know several people abstaining this month.) I highly endorse moderation and designating a month for abstinence has given people a window where they are free(r) of the expectation to drink. A month without alcohol is certainly a healthy one.

Though I support the month and any travelers journeying through it with fridges full of La Croix, I do wonder if it’s not actually the shadow of the unhealthy relationship Americans have with booze to begin with. As a stopgap it’s fine, but is there a better way?

Alworth points to binge drinking as the source of many societal problems involving alcoholic beverages, and asks whether there might be another approach that doesn’t involve drinking too much (“10”) or not at all (“0”).

It seems more healthy to find a way to turn the dial to a sane 3 and leave it there all year instead.

This has been my approach over the past several years. It’s partly a function of age, partly a guardrail for my job, and partly just a way to avoid wild swings. It doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes have a longer session that pushes my BAC above .08, but the default setting is to stop well before that point. My standard session is two beers, and a serious decision point arrives if I’m eyeing a third. I’ve tried to restructure my relationship to alcohol so that it’s focused on pleasure rather than effect, and changing my relationship to alcohol has made it sustainable rather than ascetic.

Alworth’s insights about purposefulness in one’s drinking life mirror my own, having evolved over a long period of years. Naturally there’ll be times when I drink too many beers (or other alcoholic beverages); however, my daily aim is to practice moderation as a lifestyle choice.

If a month of abstinence works for you, then by all means proceed with it. Self-prohibition is always superior to the sort customarily mandated by governmental or religious interests, wouldn’t you say?

All of this being acknowledged, Alworth has offered a timely update in the form of this supply-side corollary: In 2024, How About Pub “January?”

January is a terrible time for pubs and taprooms even in normal years. This year, when draft sales are projected to be two million barrels below their 2019 baseline, the situation is especially dire. Breweries and pubs never fully rebounded from the Covid pandemic, and the longer the malaise lasts, the harder it is to survive. A record number of breweries closed last year, including some historically important ones. Another bad winter will inevitably lead to more closures.

He has an idea.

Make this month #PubJanuary. Stop in for a quiet pint, grab dinner out, spend the afternoon playing a board game. It doesn’t really matter what you do—you don’t even have to drink alcohol—but if people kept up their July pace of pub-going, it would make a big difference. We’re not talking the salt mines, either; going out is fun! Consider it a vacation in an evening. In fact, January is typically the deadest time of the year—a perfect opportunity to connect with friends. Enjoying other humans is good for your soul.

Louisville Ale Trail has chimed in on this general theme with “Five Ways to Support Louisville Breweries During Dry January:

  • Buy Merch
  • Gift Cards
  • Attend Events
  • Promote Their NA Menu
  • Engage Their Social Media

You know what to do, and when to do it.

My New Year’s writing resolution is the same as before, to consider all these years in beer with a mind toward the simplest, most elemental beer pleasures I’ve enjoyed along the way. The past always informs the future, and these ruminations will lean heavily toward the beer classics – the greatest hits of beer, and the golden oldies.

In college, I was advised by my expository writing instructor to write about what I know. Consequently, this year I’ll likely not be writing about ales redolent of “cinnamon bun with apricots, or tart cucumber juice with acai berries,” or Key Lime Milkshake IPA, but cask-conditioned Mild, St. GeorgenBräu Keller Bier, and the contents of Moss the Boss’s beer cellar at L’ Eblouissant in Namur back in 1995.

It’s going to be wonderful year in beer, according to the beers I prefer to drink. As Lyndon Baines Johnson once advised, “Let’s reason together.”

Roger Baylor is an entrepreneur, educator, and innovator with 42 years of beer business experience in metropolitan Louisville as a bartender, package store clerk, brewery owner, restaurateur, writer, traveler, polemicist, homebrewing club founder, tour operator and all-purpose contrarian.
As a co-owner (1990 – 2018) of New Albanian Brewing Company Pizzeria & Public House in New Albany, Indiana – founded in 1987, 1992, 2002 and 2009 – Baylor played a seminal role in metro Louisville’s contemporary beer renaissance. He was beer director at Pints&union in New Albany from 2018 through 2023.
Baylor’s “Hip Hops” columns on beer-related subjects have been a fixture in Food & Dining Magazine since 2005, where he currently serves as digital editor and print contributor. He is a former columnist at both the New Albany Tribune and LEO Weekly, and founder of the NA Confidential blog (2004 – 2020). Visit RogerBaylor.com for more.