beer

In the late 1970s, a young Southern California beer enthusiast named Bill Sysak began doing something quite novel at the time. He bought cases of beer and stashed the bottles in his basement to age like wine. Over several years, Sysak discovered that some beers could develop rich flavors — like toffee and caramel — not present in their youth. Excited by what he found, Sysak ramped up his cellaring program and made it a full-time hobby.

Columbia? Taken. Mississippi? Taken. Sacramento? El Niño? Marlin? Grizzly? Sorry, they're all taken.

What's the healthiest libation for ringing in the New Year?

Beer, says Charlie Bamforth, a professor of brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis. Though it's been blamed for many a paunch, it's more nutritious than most other alcoholic drinks, Bamforth says.

"There's a reason people call it liquid bread," he says.

Tailgating, camping trips and wedding receptions are just some of the occasions when many Americans down a few beers in one sitting. For those who prefer high-alcohol microbrews and other craft beers, that can lead to trouble.

But a growing trend is offering another option: Session beers emphasize craft-beer taste with alcohol as low as or lower than big-brand light beers.

You've heard it before — that quip to describe crazy college days: "I minored in beer studies."

Well, now you can.

Paul Smith's College, a small, isolated campus in the northernmost reaches of upstate New York's Adirondack Mountains, is among a handful of higher education institutions tapping the ever more potent keg of the craft beer explosion.

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