Thirsty Thursday: Beer 101
Beer is one of the most consumed beverages on the planet.
There are dozens of different types of beer and has a history that predates civilization. Beer has literally shaped the way that our society has grown. Today we consider it a treat, but in the days of poor sanitation, it was essential to life because it contained water, protein, and carbohydrates.
Besides water, tea, or the occasional cocktail, beer is one of my most consumed beverages as well.
When I first starting drinking, I wasn't a huge fan of beer. But around the same time I started exploring different flavors and styles of beer, the craft beer world has blown up.
I'm always seeking a new & unique experience...what haven't I tried before? What is out of the ordinary? What is on special today only? And this has only transgressed into my beer tasting experience...what's new? What's different/experimental? What are you not going to have on tap tomorrow?
My boyfriend and I make a point to visit as many breweries as possible and tasting as many different beers as possible while traveling. I always take advantage of the opportunity to visit certain prestigious breweries across the nation: Stone in Escondido, CA; Russian River in Santa Rosa, CA; Lagunitas in Petaluma, CA; Coors in Golden, CO; Three Floyds in Munster, IN followed by a Block Party at Goose Island in Chicago where we got to try dozens of beers never to be released again; and Sam Adams in Boston, MA.
Currently I am studying for my Cicerone Beer Server certification, so I have been learning more about beer than ever before. I feel fortunate to have the beer knowledge that I do, but it doesn't hurt that all of the study material is extremely interesting.
Some basics everyone should understand about beer:
The craft beer craze is not a fad. Although more than half of the beer market is dominated by big name brands like Anheuser Busch, it is estimated that every American lives within 10 miles of a craft brewery. But what makes these crafter breweries more appealing that picking up a six pack at the grocery store?
First, craft breweries are serving fresh, ready to drink beer. Their beers are made to be consumed at the peak of freshness and don't require preservation additives to ensure that they don't go bad before their bottles make it to your fridge at home. Bottled beers must be packaged and shipped before sitting in a store's inventory, waiting for you to buy them. During that time, your beer may be brought back to room temperature, causing it to "skunk" which ruins the flavor.
Second, craft breweries employ real members of your community. Every time we spend money, we are literally voting with our dollar. Would you rather root for the community that you live in and boost your local economy by ensuring that your money is supporting this small business or funnel your money back into these corporate companies that spend more on advertising than anything else?
Furthermore, these craft breweries make an effort to give back to the community. I have attended dozens of Yoga or fitness classes that included a beer with the price of the class, fundraisers, art shows, and so much more.
Also, you should understand that no 2 beers will taste the same. Stone has a line of "Enjoy By" beers where they include a date, typically a holiday, to enjoy the beer by. These "Enjoy By" beers are the same recipe, but taste different because of the season in which the beer ingredients were grown.
Beer is literally an art form that everyone is going to digest differently. There are countless variables that come into play when developing a taste including the ingredients, the brewing process, the fermentation process, the distribution process, how quickly it gets from the brewer to your glass, and even which glass the beer is served in.
There is a vast spectrum of potential beer flavors: from bitter to sweet, light & crisp to heavy & malty, from sour to umami, and everything in between. Today, there are so many different experimental beers being developed using just about any flavor you could hope to find. I've had countless citrus beers, dozens of fruit beers, chocolate or coffee flavored beers, I've even had beer brewed with CBD, the non-psychoactive component to cannabis.
Know what you like, but don't be afraid to try something new. Don't feel pressured to try beers that you don't like, but also, don't allow yourself to miss out on the opportunity to try a new beer that you may fall in love with. I was not a huge fan of IPA's when they first starting growing in popularity, but now I understand and appreciate all the hard work that goes into making this unique craft beer and will often try them for the sake of trying them. I feel as though many brewers panicked when they were pressured to create an IPA and threw as many hops as they possible could into one beer resulting in an overly bitter, flavorless beer. I know today, that I would prefer a citrus IPA, white IPA or even a coffee IPA over a generic "hoppy IPA". There are sometimes I will order an IPA, but there are sometimes I try an IPA and know that I could never finish a full serving of it.
If you really want to get more information on beer, I suggest checking out my Pinterest page here or reading some books on the topic. On behalf of the Cicerone Certification Program, I recommend starting with Tasting Beer: An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher.