Fake It 'Til You Make It: Beer
Happy October everyone! Or as the Germans call it… Oktober! Over in Germany, Oktoberfest is in full swing, there’s lederhosen, pretzels, spaetzles and of course…BEER.
Beer snobs are out in full force this month. You’ve probably seen them in the corner of your local bar complaining about the lack of craft beer in the joint and chuckling at the people ordering Blue Moon, thinking it’s a craft beer (sorry, it isn’t and neither is Stella).
The biggest sin you can commit in front of a beer lover is ordering a Bud Light or similar. Unless you are at a sporting event and then you have no choice but to pay $12 for skanky, poorly crafted, domestic beers.
Like dining out with a foodie, the most important thing as a beer novice is to remain open. Try a lot of things until you find a kind of beer you like. A lot of good brewpubs will have flights available so you can try different beers, or have a tasting on your own. Beer snobs are more than happy to help you. What’s great about beer lovers, and wine lovers for that matter, is that if you describe things you like in a beer, you can get them to hook you up with a proper beer. Just don’t compare it to anything like Keystone or Miller, be creative and descriptive. It will challenge and intrigue the beer snob.
Want to impress your brother-in-law? Going out with your flag football team to a beer garden?
Let’s get a little more in depth.
Beer is made by brewing malted grains, hops, yeast, and water (I know, but I said the basics). Usually the grain is barley or wheat, sometimes people use corn or rice. Fruits, spices, and herbs can also be used to add flavor.
There’s ale and there’s lager. Ale is an all-encompassing term for be pale ales, porters, stouts, and lambics. It has to do with the type of fermentation the beer goes through and the type of yeast used. This is the style that most home brewers make. Because of the fermentation method, ales should be consumed soon after completion and served at room temperature.
Lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures and include most German and Czech brews and pilsners. The word pilsner sound familiar? That’s what most domestic mass produced beers are, like Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. Lager yeast can survive longer than ale yeast, so it generally keeps better and is served at cooler temperatures.
These terms are essential for beer talk. Without them, you could be in danger of outing yourself as a fake beer lover.
Hoppy: This is describing the taste. Hoppy beer is bitter.
Malty: Tastes like a malted milk without the milk…a Whopper without the chocolate.
Floral: Tastes sweeter and has many tones and flavors, this can be coupled with malty as a taste descriptor.
Body: The consistency, thickness, and mouth-filling property of a beer. Some crazy beer snobs call this “mouthfeel” (no lie), but something about that term feels dirty, so I’m gonna stick with “body”.
IPA: India Pale Ale. Like Biggie and Tupac, the IPA world is split between the East Coast and the West Coast. East Coast IPAs are have a stronger malt presence which balances the intensity of the hops whereas West Coast IPA’s feature the hops more, possibly because the West Coast breweries are closer to hop fields in the Pacific Northwest. East Coast IPA’s also tend to be spicier.
Porter: A dark beer that is well hopped and made from brown malt. It tastes spicy, sometimes a bit chocolaty and the hoppiness should be mild. A stout porter or just stout is a particularly strong beer.
Session Beer: A lighter, maltier beer that one might expect to have more than one at a sitting. In other words, drink up!
Craft Brewery: The churches of the beer snob religion. A craft brewery is a small, independent, traditional brewery. This means it’s annual production is less than 6 million barrels, less than 25% is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member (i.e. big beer) and half of it’s volume must consist of malt beers.
It is all about the beer. So here are 5 craft breweries in the U.S. that beer snobs know and love that craft highly rated brews.
Dogfish Head: Milton, DE. Dogfish Head is considered one of the leaders of craft brewing. Delaware’s first brewpub, they’ve been brewing their original 60 Minute IPA for over 20 years. Dogfish Head now brews over 40 beers from their year round brews to seasonal varieties in an over 100,000 square foot old converted cannery. They sell their brews across 25 states.
Stone Brewing Company: Escondido, CA Known to be one of the most innovative craft breweries, Stone it was named the #1 on the All-Time Top Breweries on Planet Earth list by Beer Advocate. Their flagship brew was the Stone IPA, but since they are known for “bigger character” beers, you might venture to the Arrogant Bastard Ale.
Founders Brewing Company: Grand Rapids, MI. “The beer for renegades and rebels” is what the founders of Founders call their brews. The beer that’s really put them on the map and on the top of Beer Advocate’s Top 250 beers is the Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a stout that’s bourbon barrel-aged.
Russian River Brewing Company: Santa Rosa, CA. This brewery was original owned by Korbel, yep, the champagne guys. It became it’s own entity in 2003 when the brewmaster that came from a wine background started craft brewing. Russian River’s brewmaster is credited with pioneers the really hoppy West Coast brews that went on to influence other breweries like Stone. Two of it’s IPA’s, Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, are at the top of Beer Advocate’s Top 250 Beers
Goose Island: Chicago, IL Since Anheuser-Busch owns 58% of Goose Island, it is technically not a craft brewery. But this Midwest company crafts some of the highest rated beers in the land so it is worth knowing about and tasting. They are best known for their 312 Urban Wheat Ale and Honker’s Ale. But it’s the Coffee Stout that cracks the top 5 best beers.
Beer snobs love to impress each other with the crazy brews they’ve tried and the weird locations of the microbreweries they’ve been to. The good news is that since beer snobbery is relatively new, everyone’s faking it just a little bit. So say anything remotely close to this and you’ll be golden as a hefeweizen in July.
“That Stone IPA is just a little too hoppy for my taste, I’m more of an East Coast IPA drinker”.
“If you don’t like beer at all, just give the Magic Hat No. 9 a try.”
“I stopped drinking draft beer altogether unless I’m at a brewpub or beer garden.”
FOR MORE INFO
About to move to Portland and really need to get up on your beer knowledge? Or does the sound of sitting outdoors at a beer garden sipping brew sound like your heaven? Here are some books, movies and sites that will help you be the best at the brewpub!
Movies: “Beer Wars”, “How Beer Saved The World”, and “Suds County, USA”