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10 Signs You Learned to Drink in Northern California

by Monica Puccetti Jan 24, 2018

California has always been known for alcohol, but these days people seem to forget that Northern California was the birthplace of American wine and craft beer. After all, Napa Valley has been producing wine since the 1800s and the Bay Area heralded the new age of beer in the US in the 1970s and 80s, long before the rest of the country let go of their unhealthy attachment to Coors. Needless to say, if you came of age north of Fresno, you are bound to have a few discerning quirks around alcohol because let’s be honest, you learned to drink on the good stuff.

1. Your first true love was Sierra Nevada.

The Chico-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. opened in 1980 and forever changed the face of American beer. Their classic Sierra Nevada pale ale created a whole new category of beer, the American-style pale ale, and has since become so ubiquitous that I once found a bottle for sale in Phnom Penh. There is simply no way you learned to drink in Northern California if you didn’t fall in love with this little green bottle at least once.

2. You only drank the “big” beers as a teenager or at frat parties.

I drank Miller High Life exactly once and even then it was only because my college dorm was named Miller Hall. We thought it was funny until we tasted the piss water. You see, even as college-aged babies, we knew that wasn’t beer and only drank it as a last resort… unless we were playing beer pong, we knew not to waste good beer on that.

3. You are a snob about hops.

Okay, so sticklers will say, “Wait, I thought Cascade hops were first grown in Oregon?” and they would be right. However, those famous hops weren’t released to brewers until 1972, at which time only California and Colorado had entered the craft-brewing scene. California beer was an early adopter of the “more hops the better” mentality and if you grew up here, you probably agree. Let’s be honest, it’s not an IPA if it’s under 50 IBUs.

4. And while beer is wonderful, your second true love is wine.

Millennials and Gen X-ers came of age in a delightfully rich and diverse beer scene, but those who came before us weren’t so lucky on the hops and malt front. Instead, any true Boomer learned to drink on the very best of American grown grapes, courtesy of Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino, and more. Luckily for us Millennials, the beer scene has not replaced the wine scene in California and we have all learned to love the red stuff.

5. You’ve gotten drunk with your parents while wine tasting.

Boomers love wine, Millennials love free wine, thus wine tasting with your parents is probably the best thing since wineries introduced tastings. I mean who hasn’t spent a day pretending to know what tannins are while not so secretly getting drunk with your mom? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

6. Your hangover food of choice is a breakfast burrito.

Learning to drink means testing, and often surpassing, your limits. This is an unfortunate fact of alcohol, but if you grew up in the Golden State you know exactly where to head when your stomach roils and your head pounds… your local taqueria. That’s right, the best hangover food in town will always be a greasy, egg-y, carb-y breakfast burrito, the more chorizo grease dripping out the bottom the better.

7. You compulsively check any new city for a local brewery or winery.

With 3,674 wineries and 2,822 breweries that call California home, it is no surprise that any trip calls for a foray into the local booze scene. We Californians feel that the best way to get to know a new city is to get to know their booze and we aren’t often disappointed; after all, California is home to more wineries and breweries than any other state.

8. You probably took a class on beer or wine in college.

I may be biased, but at my alma mater, the University of California Davis, we took it a little further than your usual college drinking. At UC Davis we could make a career out of our love for the liquid with our world famous Viticulture and Enology and Brewing Science degree programs. While these courses may sound a bit new age-y and not at all pretentious enough for your classic university, they have been around for decades, with the brewing science program starting in 1958 and the viticulture and enology program starting in 1935 after the repeal of Prohibition.

9. You know that the beach can improve any beverage.

There is nothing more Californian than sipping your Double Bastard IPA while lounging on the warm summer sand of our beautiful coastline. If you grew up here, you have undoubtedly sipped at least once beverage on the beach. However, it is important to note that alcohol is not legal on all California beaches so check before you imbibe or just head over to Carmel, Paradise Cove, or maybe Kehoe Beach for a legal sunset sip.

10. You order margaritas approximately the size of your face.

We can wax poetic about our beer and wine, but we do not discriminate against any alcohol and will readily order massive margaritas to go with our superb Mexican food. Here’s a local tip: the cheaper the margarita, the more it will resemble a fish bowl.

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