Beer glor-i-ous BEER, so yummy and suds-y. Beer Mar-vel-ous BEER, drink it in spite of a big REAR.. Okay I’ll stop singing and turn this post over to Brad the author of one of this beer girl’s fav blogs Beer In Baltimore (I’m loving the timing of this guest post too.. a new beer for each weekend of the playoffs and SUPER BOWL…GO CHARGERS!)
Beer can pretty freakin awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I spend most of my days either writing about it or Tweeting about it. Though to some folks, beer can be a tasteless and nasty experience, thanks mostly to the big (“macro”) brews… and the “Lite” movement. But to some, this is all they know when it comes to beer!
Fortunately, there’s a whole new world out there if you are looking for flavorful, natural, robust beers. This whole new world is open mostly thanks to the 1,600+ smaller breweries in the U.S. called “craft breweries.” You’ve likely heard of many craft breweries. Especially here on the east coast. Names like Clipper City Brewing Co. (now Heavy Seas), Dogfish Head, Sam Adams, Victory Brewing Co., Troegs, Flying Dog, etc. Believe it or not, these 1,600+ craft breweries only make up about 3% of the entire beer market in the U.S. The “Big 3″ (Budweiser, Miller & Coors) control the other 97%. But the good news is, sales of craft beer continues to grow, as people are finally realizing the great choices they have in terms of buying good beer; while sales of “the big 3″ are declining. This is also good news for those who fully support the “Buy American” movement, since Budweiser and Miller are no longer American-owned companies (Belgian and South African owned, respectively); and Coors is now partly run by Miller. Lost yet? Stick with me here!
So getting back to tasty beers. There are tons of options out there. Lots of different styles and brands. For those who aren’t really following the craft beer scene, it can be a tad overwhelming.
What should I try?
Will I like it?
I usually drink ____, so what is comparable?
So let’s start with your usual go-to beer. For many, it’s either Miller Lite or Bud Light, right? And let’s be honest, you’re not really drinking it for the taste. You’re drinking it because it doesn’t taste particularly awful, it’s “pound-able” and you can drink a few over some time. The problem with these beers is, like we mentioned – they just don’t taste good. In fact, they really don’t have a taste at all. It’s basically carbonated water with some barley, yeast, *some hops* and corn. Corn? Yeah, corn. Beer isn’t supposed to be brewed with corn! But the fact is, these big international breweries brew their beer with adjuncts such as corn, rice and cheap grains because it’s cheap filler. The problem is, these adjunct ingredients cut just about all flavor from the beer.
Almost all good craft beer uses just 4 main ingredients: water, hops, barley and yeast. No adjuncts. But it’s the type and amount of hops, barley and yeast which creates such wonderful flavors in many craft beers. The big guys are catching on too. They see the increase in craft beer sales. They know that people would prefer their beer to actually have taste. So they too are getting on-board with their own sort of craft beers. Ever heard of Blue Moon? Thought it was some sort of small brewery’s beer? Nope. Blue Moon is a Coors product. There is no “Blue Moon” brewery! Shock Top beer? Anheuser-Busch! Though you likely won’t see any traces of these big brewery names on the labels of these beers. Pretty slick, ‘eh?
Soo, you’re a Miller Lite gal looking for a quality alternative. The most logical next step would be a Yuengling lager (oldest brewery in the US and still family-owned) or a Sam Adams Light. Both have more flavor than your usual go-to beer and both are technically “craft beers.” This girl loves both of them. Yuengling is amazing and if you can’t get it where you are and want to try it email The Nuggets we’ll figure out something. Sam Adams Winter lager will be on The Nugget Super Bowl table for sure. FYI Yuengling also has a BLOG
But what if you’ve already had those “next step” beers and want to try something with even more flavor and character? Something a bit more exciting. Lucky for us here in MD, we’ve got two fantastic breweries in our state who produce lots of very good beer.
Heavy Seas / Clipper City (Baltimore, MD) is Baltimore’s largest and most successful brewery. Their biggest selling and probably their most delicious beer is called Loose Cannon. It’s a bit more “hoppy” than your average beer, but has enough sweet balance where the hop flavor does not become too bitter for a first-time Loose Cannon drinker. This is a delicious beer and even better at its freshest (thank goodness they’re so close!) Heavy Seas also brews more “mellow” beers like their Gold Ale, Marzen and McHenry Lager. These are lower in ABV % (alcohol by volume) and still have plenty of flavor. And as you become more comfortable with these tasty, lower ABV beers – you’ll discover that Heavy Seas also makes even bigger beers, in terms of both flavor and ABV %.
Flying Dog (Frederick, MD) is also doing some exciting things when it comes to beer. They recently won a gold medal in 2009’s Great American Beer Fest as the country’s “Best Mid-Sized Brewery”. Flying Dog makes some tasty beers, many of which are also lower on the ABV scale, which make them very drinkable, especially to the new-to-craft-beer person. Some examples include their “Old Scratch” (an Amber Lager), “In Heat Wheat” (a Hefewiezen style), “Tire Bite (Golden Ale) and “Doggy Style” (Pale Ale). And as we mentioned with Heavy Seas above, Flying Dog also makes bigger beers.
And don’t forget many of the local area brewpubs. Here in Baltimore, we’ve got places like Pratt Street Ale House, Brewer’s Art and Red Brick Station. There is delicious beer being brewed in the same building you’re having lunch! Tasty and local!
With almost 2,000 craft breweries in the U.S, we could write a few hundred pages about other beers we think you should try. And if you’re really up for that, you could always email me and we can chat it up. BUT, there is a simple way to try lots of different beers for yourself. Many beer/wine/spirit shops now sell craft beer. Not only do they sell craft beer, they sell single bottles of craft beer! What’s this mean for you? It means that instead of dropping $10 on a 6-pack of beer which you may or may not fully enjoy, you can instead spend about $2 on a single bottle and decide whether or not you like it. It doesn’t get much easier than that. And if purchasing single bottles, check the label for things like style (lager, pilsner, pale ale, etc.) as well as ABV %. But be careful, many of these craft beers can be up there in terms of ABV and hide it well, because of the many flavors going on at once!
MOST IMPORTANTLY – Do not drink good beer from the bottle! There is a true saying – 90-95% of what you experience is through your sense of smell. Pour your beer down the center of a glass. The wider the glass, the better. Hell, even a plastic cup is better than directly from the bottle! Give the head a minute or two to soak back down into the beer. A nice foamy head will eventually lead to even more flavor in your beer. If you are truly interested in tasting your beer to the fullest extent, click here to read 4 basic steps.
So go out and try everything! There are so many exciting beers from breweries all over; from Delaware to California and everywhere in between, these guys & gals are all making some of the best beer on the planet!
We promise you one thing – once you have a tasty craft beer, you’ll forget you ever even had one of those “Lite” carbonated waters! And do the craft beer community a favor – once you fall in love with a good beer (and trust us, you will!), tell a friend who will hopefully tell a friend, who will…. you get the idea. Spreading the word of good beer – it’s what I love to do and I hope that you soon will love to as well. Cheers!
- Brad Klipner