Naptown Pint: 'It's okay to change your mind,' and other beer truths...

Victory's Swing Session Saison; Annapolis Beer Week Hops-n-Tots event at the Annapolis Maritime Museum.
Victory's Swing Session Saison; Annapolis Beer Week Hops-n-Tots event at the Annapolis Maritime Museum. (By Liz Murphy, Carroll County Times)

Annapolis Beer Week was a lot of fun. Mostly because I got to drink a lot of beer and eat a lot of food and meet a lot of great people... and also drink a lot of beer. (Did I mention beer?) And as expected, most events weren't geared toward being terribly profound; I was there for the beer and to stuff as many oysters, tater tots or wings in my face as possible - in the most ladylike fashion, of course.

Sounds amazing, right? It's what some might call, "Living the dream."

Well, in a zippy twist of fate, my favorite thing about Annapolis Beer Week ended up having nothing to do with drinking beer. Or tater tots.

It was the people.

Whether it was with a longtime friend or a new acquaintance - Hi, Lowell! - the memory of everything I did last week is punctuated by thoughtful discussions on everything from favorite beer styles to industry-specific gender issues. Some conversations were fun and full of belly laughs, while others were quite frank, personal and often moving.

So today, since I'm feeling inspired by those insightful conversations, I want to share with you a few of my own personal beer-related philosophies. Hopefully these will move you to form some of your own.

Or at least drink a beer. That's fine, too!

You can (and will) change your mind. Many times.

Without sounding too much like a "very special episode" of Full House, learning about beer is a journey. Okay, that was still incredibly hokey, but my point still stands. As you open yourself to new things, you learn more, you challenge yourself and your palette inevitably evolves.

Using my own personal experience as an example, I used to hate IPAs - any beer a skinny-jeaned hipster could call "hoppy," for that matter. I didn't want to venture outside of my comfort zone, because I was not only so sure I knew what I liked, I was convinced that would never change. I clung to my stouts like they were Jack, and I was Rose, "never letting go," as the Titanic sank into the ocean.

But much like Rose, I was not to be trusted; I definitely let go. It was like a light switch. One day I had an IPA - Victory's Hop Devil, as some may recall - and I really liked it. A lot. Now I'm a huge fan of well-made IPAs - especially Imperial IPAs.

Beer recommendation: Flying Dog's Double Dog is an American Imperial IPA that used to turn me off completely back in the day. But its strong malt backbone strikes a perfect balance with what could be an insufferable juice bomb - citrus and pine from the hops are deliciously grounded by earthy and nutty notes. On draft or out of the bottle into your favorite glass, this beer doesn't disappoint. Just make sure it's not too old. Hops aren't shelf stable.

You don't need to belong to a special club to appreciate beer.

There are a lot of jokes out there about craft beer snobs, and some of them are hilarious. ("I hope you don't mind that I brought my own tulip glass to your bar. You see, I'm a beer blogger.") But there is a certain type of beer snob I do not like: Those who turn their nose up at people who are new to craft beer, like they're interlopers who are not worthy enough to "really" enjoy craft beer just because they don't know what a mash tun is. These craft beer malcontents seem to view themselves as pioneers who discovered "Craft Beer Island" first and have licked it to claim it as their own. Like a 5-year-old.

Look, I know bandwagon fans that spend their lives perpetually waiting in the wings to latch onto the "Next Big Thing" are annoying. But, in the end, most people are cool, and it doesn't matter how or when they got into beer. Beer should be accessible and not be hoarded for the enjoyment of a select few. Moreover, you are allowed to enjoy beer to whatever degree you want. You don't have to learn about the 80-plus varieties of hops out there if you don't want to. You can drink it simply because it tastes good. End of story.

Beer recommendation: Oskar Blues' Mama's Lil Yella Pils out of Colorado is a Czech-style Pilsner I love to share with those who are used to more of the "yellow fizzy stuff" many beer nerds abhor. It's bright, crisp, refreshing and full of flavor - a bit of bread-y sweetness, with a nice bitter finish. Fun fact: Oskar Blues was one of the first breweries to brew craft beer exclusively in cans.

There is no such thing as "beer for women."

It's like nails on a chalkboard whenever someone asks me, "Can you recommend a great beer for women?" What's even more mind-boggling is how often I get that question from other women. Newsflash: Beer doesn't belong to men. Beer belongs to everyone. And most male peers I've discussed this very subject with are equally annoyed by this stereotype.

I'll tell you all what I told those who attended the "Women in Beer" panel at 1747 last week: "The best beer for women is any of the beer that's sold in your local store."

A better question to ask might be, "What's a good beer for someone new to beer?" If that's you, I would say to think critically about what you like drinking now. People generally gravitate toward favored ingredients, tastes and notes across food and drink alike. So look for beers that mimic things you like already.

Beer recommendations: Are you a white wine drinker? Try Goose Island's Sofie, a Belgian-style farmhouse that starts slightly sweet and finishes with a delicate tartness. If you're a red wine drinker, I've found many of you guys like Unibroue's Terrible, a Belgian-style strong ale out of Canada. It's deep ruby in color and tastes like cloves, prune and spice. It also brings a lot of drama to the table with no burn from the alcohol. And if you're into scotch and whiskey, well, you're in luck: Bourbon barrel-aged beers are huge right now.

And finally, don't apologize for not drinking beer.

If you're around someone who is passionate about craft beer, don't apologize if you don't also want to drink beer. This has happened to me on a number of occasions recently, I kid you not. Remember: I drink beer because I love beer. You should drink whatever strikes your fancy at the time.

I'm not on a one-woman crusade to rid the world of every alcoholic beverage aside from beer. That would make the world a very sad place. Plus, I still appreciate a good single malt or a big, bold, peppery Cabernet. I'm not alone, either. Most craft drinkers worth their salt exercise their palettes with something that doesn't contain hops every now and again.

Also, the less beer you drink, the more there is left for me. See that? That's only-child logic, and it works every time.

Beer recommendation: There's no recommendation for this philosophy other than to drink what you want, whenever you want. Just don't forget to challenge yourself occasionally. Except at work. Don't challenge yourself with new alcoholic beverages at work. That's probably ill-advised.