Thursday, 24 March 2011 13:45

Your Gateway to Craft Beer Heaven

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If you partake in the following beers, be warned. You just might enjoy them so much that you’ll step up to the ‘other stuff’ later.  That’s right, that pleasure invoking, thirst quenching, beer spectrum widening, artisanal, full flavored, archetypical, hopilicious, slightly carbonated, adjunct-free, grin causing… stuff.

And yes, it is addictive.

Many of you reading this likely already realize the magic of the malt, have experienced the powerful deluge of aromas and know that craft beers are just too good to be used for beer pong.

But for those new to this craft beer revolution or renaissance rather (or whatever you want to call it), may I suggest delving into something just out of your comfort zone?

Indulge and discover regional specialties. Move towards the unique and progressive brewery and you’ll be much more than pleasantly surprised.

For those that are already craft beer lovers, what was that first beer that propelled you to try different beers?  For me, it was in the mid-90’s and a couple of the first beers I tried - other than for the sake of catching a buzz in college – was good ol’ Sam Adams and Bass Ale.  

They had flavor, and something called…malt.  That wasn’t something I was used to when I drank Keystone Light.  Hey, give me a break. Even beer writers gotta’ start somewhere, right?  I wasn’t even legal drinking age and there was no Stone Levitation Ale to be found!  But Sam Adams and Bass became my new staple beers.  I suddenly forgot about those mass marketed, fizzy (but wallet-friendly for the college student) beers.
Now, personally, I’m not sure craft beer is something you need to slowly learn about and be trained into liking.  Hell, jump right in!  Buy the DogFish Head 120 min. IPA, even though you’ve never had an IPA before (not sure I recommend THAT particular choice if you’re a hardcore Miller Lite drinker)! Try the beer with the coolest label.  When it comes down to it, it really just depends on personal taste.  With the multitude of flavors and strengths of beer in the market today, there’s surely something to appeal to nearly everyone.  So, my advice?  Experiment!
But, here’s a great start, if you’re a little hesitant.

1.    Stella Artois – the now ever-present grocery beer isle and bar staple. Honestly, it’s not the best beer made (by far), but it works in this case – somewhat bland and light and drinkable.

2.    Blue Moon – this is a Belgian White. It’s awesome during warmer months.  It’s smooth, with flavors of citrus and coriander and crisp wheat.  It’s very drinkable and usually garnished with an orange slice. This is great for those not used to making an extra trip to the specialty beer shop or liquor store.  You’ll find this in the beer isle in most grocery stores, mostly because it’s owned by Molson Coors Brewing. Blue Moon is just fairly well-balanced.

3.    Sam Adams Boston Lager – it’s a more graduated gateway beer, as it’s actually a bit hoppy.  But, it still is a lager, and that’s always a good start (and hey, it worked for me!). The drinkability is easy.  This was the definition of a session beer when I was drinking 5 + and playing pool in my late 20’s.  And yes, I usually ran the table.

4.    Wyder’s Cider – Yeah, I know, it’s a cider.  I have this friend who only drank white wine – cheap white wine. As a red wine lover as well, I found myself cringing as she reached for ‘rose’ and so tried to give her sips of whatever it was I was drinking. The drink that has now introduced her to the world of beer (albeit very slowly, she’s now drinking Corona)?  Wyder’s Pear Cider.

5.    Lindeman's Framboise Lambic – this is a Lambic style beer.  If you’re a white wine drinker, this is another great one to try.  You’ll taste notes of raspberry, white wine and bursts of sweet and tart.

6.    Chimay White – If only those crazy Belgian monks knew how they would be benefitting the craft beer industry. Belgian beers have more in common with wine than most other styles and they are not as hoppy and bitter as most other beers (which is the primary complaint of those Bud or white wine drinkers). But make sure you note that it’s 8% ABV and not your typical 4-5%, because it is cleverly disguised here.  You’ll find fruity notes like bananas, pears and apples along with hits of spices and hops.  It’s delicious.

There are many more, but the point is - play the field. Be promiscuous. Craft beer is the way beer is supposed to be.

For a great way to get started and have some fun, see my other article on beer clubs!
When quality begins to out way quantity or it’s time to move on from the Stroh’s, try something new. Don’t worry, it won’t lead to heroin.

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