An Intro to Craft Beer- The Beer List

intro craft beer list bar
The first thing you’ll probably do upon entering a new brewery is check out their beer list. Depending on the brewery, the beers on it could vary tremendously. There are some core ideas though, that you’ll probably see in most every brewery you visit.

The Information on a Beer List

Firstly, you’ll see the names of the beer. Duh, right? But give them a little thought, they will clearly showcase the atmosphere that the brewery is going for. Is there a theme? Do the beers have their style in the name? Are they funny, clever, obscure, etc.? The beer is a brewery’s business card, and they’ll want them to showcase the company’s personality and character.

craft beer list wood display

Aside from the names, you’ll probably find some other information. If the styles of the brews aren’t incorporated into the names, they’ll most likely list the style as well. This is the best guideline for new craft beer drinkers. Have you had a pale ale that you liked? Grab another pale ale from another brewery to compare. Want something a little more intense? Maybe step up to an India Pale Ale (IPA) for a bigger beer with more aggressive flavors. Want something dark? Check out the stouts, porters, and brown ales on the list. Each style provides a different take on a malt forward beer, see what you like the best and then branch out. Of course, if you want something on the lighter side, try out some lagers or a pilsner for a more crisp and refreshing beverage.

How Drunk Will it Get You?

In addition to the names and styles of a breweries offerings, it is typically required to display the Alcohol by Volume, or ABV. The amount of alcohol in a beer is crucial information for many reasons. Craft beer tends to be stronger than marco-brews to enable a larger flavor profile. You might be used to having a few Bud Lights and be unaware that beer weighs in at 4.2% ABV, so a 10% Imperial IPA might knock you right on your ass. The entire industry of alcohol advocates drinking responsibly, and consumers need to be aware that ordering a craft beer at a brewery might not entail the same effects as ordering a beer at a more typical restaurant or bar you frequent. Do your research and know your limits.

How Bitter Will it Be? (Not as much as she is…)

The last piece of information that’s becoming fairly standard to display is IBUs. IBU stands for International Bitterness Units. While they don’t correlate directly to how “hoppy” a beer is, they do tell you objectively how bitter it is. The malt and grains in a beer are there to sweeten the brew and stimulate alcohol production during fermentation. The hops balance out that sweetness. While IBUs don’t tell you how hidden the bitterness is by other flavors, they’re a good baseline to begin evaluating your options. If you know you don’t enjoy the bitter aspect of beer, keep it on the lower end, under 40 IBUs for example. If you’re curious about the hop craze, step up the IBUs on each beer to try to find your ideal interval. While IBUs don’t tell you how much hop flavor is in a beer, there’s a pretty good chance that a more hoppy beer will be higher in IBUs.

There could always be more information presented on any brewery’s beer list, but these are the tidbits that are most essential for you to scope out what might be your favorite thing on the list. Other stats like OG (Original Gravity) and specific ingredients used are more for homebrewers and beer geeks and don’t offer much to a craft beer novice. It never hurts to ask though. If you see anything else on the list, always feel free to ask the bartender, I’m sure they’ll be happy to clarify.

Have you seen anything not mentioned here listed on a breweries beer list? How crazy and detailed was it? Let me know in the comments below!

 

An Intro to Craft Beer- The Basics

craft beer basics intro

Your Craft Beer Primer

Craft beer is exploding in popularity. If you’re checking out this post, you’ve probably tried and enjoyed some craft beer. The Brewers Association just celebrated the number of breweries in the U.S. climbing beyond pre-prohibition levels. We’re now at over 4,200 breweries, the vast majority of which are far from the macro-breweries that supply the majority of this country’s beer.

Craft beer has a different sort of character than the mass produced American lagers out there. There’s a culture establishing itself around the industry. Weirdly enough, there’s a lot to know about craft beer, it is the second oldest beverage in the world after all. Luckily, drinking beer is a social activity, which makes it pretty easy to spark up a conversation at your local brewery about what’s up. If your curious about the basics before heading in for a brew though, here are some of the basics.

Firstly, I tend bar Upslope Brewing Co. in Boulder, CO. A huge part of what I do at Upslope is talk about beer with interested patrons. I got into craft beer and homebrewing shortly after I turned 21 when I discovered that there’s something out there aside from Natty Light. I used to splurge on a good 6-pack to split with my friends when I picked up a few 30 packs of cheap beer for us at the liquor store. That way, we could start the night with something nice before continuing on in a more typical college-y way. I still enjoy a Natty Light, or similar light American lager, from time to time, but there are so many more interesting brews out there.

Well then, let’s get started. Here are some of the basics of craft beer.

craft beer basics intro-2

The Ingredients

Beer consists of 4 ingredients on a basic level: water, malt, hops and yeast. There is even a law in Germany about them called the Reinheitsgebot, or the German Purity Law. It states that those are the only four ingredients that are allowed to be used in beer, with barley being the specific malt. It is still in effect to a degree today, although many German breweries have branched out to include other less traditional ingredients in their beer. The law, somewhat humorously, was put in place to conserve wheat and rye to be used for bread so that the country’s grains weren’t all turned into beer instead of food.

A Little Prohibition History:

American breweries got a bit of a kick-start after prohibition, which has resulted in a huge amount of experimentation and innovation in the field. That innovation also came along with a relative disregard for the old world rules about beer, resulting in the plethora of options we have today. Shutting down all of the traditional breweries rid us of any preconceived notions once it was repealed. Prohibition seemed like a pain in the ass in its day, but we have it to thank as it indirectly made the U.S. beer scene more unique than ever.

Huge Beer style chart

The Styles

There is a style of beer for almost everyone, regardless of how they feel about beer. We have a lot of fun at work with people who bring in friends or family members who don’t like beer. We have 24 beers on tap and I can always find something that they’ll have at least one glass of. One of my fiancé’s friends from Australia told me that she had never finished an entire beer before and stuck to cider. She had 2 glasses at the brewery and loved it. There is truly a beer for almost anyone out there.

Styles range from light and refreshing lagers and blonde ales, to deep and robust stouts and barrel aged sours. BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) featured 34 main styles of beer in their 2015 list, each one with a multitude of subcategories. Styles are also evolving every year, as well as re-emerging into prominence. A gose(a German salted, soured ale) is categorized as a historical beer by BJCP standards, but they’ve just been coming back into popularity in the past few years. Needless to say, there are a lot of styles out there. If you find something you haven’t seen before, give it a try.

The India Pale Ale:

The most popular style of beer in the U.S., among competitions, is the American IPA. Any beer competition will have a little bit of everything, but they’re always flooded with American- style IPA category entries. India Pale Ales feature robust, refreshing hoppy flavors, and a crisp bitterness that can get a beer drinker hooked. It’s a style that people acquire a taste for though. IPAs are aggressive and overwhelming to your palate. In fact, it’s very natural to have an aversion to overly bitter beers. It’s based on an animal instinct to avoid bitter tastes, as they often correlate with poisonous plants.

craft beer basics intro-4

The Experience

A big part of why people are interested in craft beer is for the experience. Almost everyone above the age of 21 has had a Bud Light, but there isn’t much to be excited about with a Bud. Light American lagers are a bit bland, but that’s part of the reason they’re enjoyable. They’re simple, light, refreshing and easy drinking. They have their place, but they can get boring after awhile. Craft beer makes drinking an experience again, beyond just the effect alcohol plays in the fun.

Rather than just knowing that you like beer, you can try out a variety of styles and figure out what specifically you like about the beverage. Through that knowledge, you can find similar beers that showcase that characteristic specifically and discover other beers you’ll love. It sounds crazy, but once you have a firm foundation in craft beer experimentation, it’s really fun to try out new beers and talk about them. There’s way more to talk about than you might think.

The End

Well, that’s enough for now, go out and have yourself a beer. This post will be the first in a series introducing different facets of craft beer as a hobby. Be sure to let me know what you thought of the post or if you have any specific questions about beer in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Images and references courtesy of: Medical Bag, The Brewers Association, the L.A. Times, The Craft Beer Academy

Zombie Dust Might be My Favorite Beer So Far

Zombie Dust - 5

We had an awesome patron of the brewery I work at bring us a gift the other day. He said that he’d been a fan of Upslope‘s beer since moving here and sees us as the best around. As a thanks, he offered us some of what he thinks of as the best beer from his home state of Indiana. That beer was Zombie Dust by 3 Floyds Brewing Co. and holy shit was he right.

3 Floyds Backs Up the Hype of Zombie Dust

Zombie Dust is one of those beers with a reputation that precedes it. Most everyone who is into beer at the level I am has probably heard of it, but not everyone has had the pleasure that I am now lucky to say I have.

Zombie Dust is the first beer that I’ve tried with crazy hype around it that’s managed to back it up. It’s just about exactly what I want in a beer and I now need some more of it because I only got 2 bottles and am saving one. Everyone’s palate is different and you’re free to disagree with me, but this is in the running for my favorite beer ever. I love Citra hops, I know that’s a crazy opinion, but this is the best showcase I’ve had from them and the body on it is perfect.

Maybe My Perfect Pale Ale, Thank You Citra Hops

The level of the body and malt character is exactly what I look for. Pales are getting paler, and Zombie Dust is just a little darker with a hint of red coloring. The bigger grain build helps the malt flavor stand out a little against the rush of hops. The malty sweetness is at a great level to complement the citrus notes that could easily take over this pale ale.

Zombie Dust is a little bitter at 60 IBUs, but that’s right in my sweet spot. Besides that, Citra hops aren’t about the bitterness. These hops are on fire right now and they’re hard to get.  This is probably one of the reasons 3 Floyds is only present in 5 states despite the demand, and Zombie Dust is all about them. I get a ton of grapefruit out of this, which I love, along with a refreshing hint of tangerine and a nice resinous quality.

We’ve got a great Citra Pale Ale on tap at Upslope that shares a good amount of these qualities, but it’s just a little bit lighter on the late addition hops and the malt character when compared with Zombie Dust. It’s almost the exact same abv, only .1% off of the 6.2% abv of 3 Floyds brew, but you can tell it was brewed to be a little bit of an easier drinking beer with a more universal appeal among our customers. I don’t disagree at all with our brewers as that beer has been a smash with our crowd and it’s great in it’s own right, but I do understand the hype behind Zombie Dust a little more now.

Thank you craft beer, and 3 Floyds Brewing Co. specifically this time!

It’ll be Great in My Estus Flask Next Week!

Zombie Dust -4

I’m not saving my other bottle of Zombie Dust for just any rainy day by the way. Look at that metal as shit label and tell me this beer won’t be amazing with my first play of Dark Souls 3 next week! What beer could be better suited for the chosen undead hollow?

Let me know what you think of the beer, my thoughts, or other bad ass beer art in the comments below!

Photo Credit to 3 Floyds Brewing Co. and From Software

3 Functional Features You Should Look for in a Beer Glass

tulip glass craft beer

Craft Beer Glassware Has Been Proven to Enhance Your Drinking Experience

Craft beer is a growing rapidly in the U.S. and worldwide with over 15% of the beer market that has long been dominated by the macro breweries like Anheuser Busch and Miller-Coors. Along with the growth of America’s taste for craft beer, so has the appeal of glassware specifically designed to accentuate the flavor and aroma of your favorite beers. Many people think that beer specific glassware is all about the marketing, brands want you to be seen with a glass bearing their logo, that’s true in some circumstances. Pint glasses are incredibly popular because they’re cheap and durable, but they’re meant for water not beer. A ton of brands choose to brand pint glasses for the same reasons, but pint glasses have none of the glassware features that can enhance your drinking experience. Here’s a breakdown of the features that will optimize your beer drinking experience.

1. The Stem

Stems aren’t just for wine glasses! You wouldn’t believe how much heat is transferred from the palm of your hand into your beer when you’re using a pint glass, stem in glassware allow you to either hold the beer or the stem so you can mange its temperature accordingly. Stems don’t have to be dainty and impossibly thin glass components, they can be any part of a glass that narrows so that as much of your beer is protected from your hot hands as possible. This makes glasses with stems even more important fro summer day drinking.

2. The Bulb

The part of the above tulip glass that looks like a light bulb. It protects the flavor and the aroma of your brew and aims it right wear you want it. A bulb directs a beers signature aroma out of the center of the top of the glass right where your nose is while you drink so that fully experience its aroma. The narrow top of a bulb has been proven by Japanese researchers to catch ethanol vapor around the rim of the glass to keep it as part of the flavor and prevent it from interfering with the beers proper aroma. 

3. A Narrow Mouth

Head is an exceedingly important part of your beer, that’s why a perfect pour still has a healthy head on top. The head of a beer protects the flavor and aroma from air and oxygen after its been poured out of the bottle or can. A narrow mouth on a beer glass promotes the perfect head on every pour and helps to keep it around for longer after its initial pour. This keeps your beer tasting fresh for as long as possible, which is just great.
 
 These 3 simple features allow you to get the most out of every beer you drink, whether it’s Pliny the Elder or Miller High Life. And, despite all the benefits for your favorite beer, these glasses are barely more expensive than the branded pint glasses you were about to pick up and there’s actually functional reasons to spring for them. Most people don’t want to get a glass for every beer variety, and for most of us that isn’t at all necessary. A nice tulip glass will complement every beer variety with each of the features listed above. 
 
Keep you pint glasses for water and soda, but when you’re enjoying a beverage that real work and craftsmanship when into, get a glass that can handle the responsibility. Let me know what you think in the comments below!