A Novice’s Guide to Craft Beer

Posted on 20/06/17

Craft beer clubs are all the rage today – you’ll find craft beer served everywhere from your local brewpub to some hairdressers and even the White House. This popularity has allowed a development of an incredibly diverse range of brands and styles. You will find a rich experience in the world of craft beer, but it can be a confusing place for those new to the industry.

Beer has existed for just about as long as wine has but the evolutionary changes of the beer world has caused a bit of a shift in the drinking habits of the common beer drinker. Macro brewed adjunct lagers have dominated the beer industry for over fifty years but times are changing for the mass conglomerate beer industry with the mainstream movement of craft beer.

So what differentiates this from ordinary beers? For a start the term ‘craft’ doesn’t have an official meaning. It’s a point of much conjecture but it often represents the attitude towards brewing, not just the finished product. These beers are often seen as experimental in nature and are often brewed within a broader range of ABV (alcohol content) than conventional beers. For example, some of the world’s weakest craft beer weighs in under 1% ABV while some of the strongest are tippling the booze scales at  55% ABV and some over 65%. All in all a much more experimental range than the standard 4% mild associated with conventional brewing practices.

Whilst the more traditionally mass produced breweries produce very similar beers in terms of taste, craft bееr is far more diverse. Some of the popular flavours in craft beer are; chocolate, соffее, oak, саrаmеl, mоlаѕѕеѕ, flоrаl hорѕ, dark fruіt, smoke, grареfruіt ,oranges, lemon, coriander, pumpkin, hazelnut, and any number of other notes.

Through creativity and ingenuity, microbreweries have the freedom to craft beers that include variations in ingredients, utilise different fermentation processes and create experimental flavours unique to their brand. Crаft beer often tаѕtеѕ muсh bеttеr because craft brewers tend to ѕреnd thеіr tіmе fосuѕіng the quаlіtу оf thеіr bееr first in foremost rаthеr thаn focusing оn thеіr marketing campaigns and stock prices.  That comes along too but the mantra is normally – bad beer just won’t  do no matter what it looks like or how you spin it. Craft brewers put their heart and soul, as well as, lots of amazing ingredients into every beer they brew and don’t cut any corners.  Thе bіg bееr соmраnіеѕ, оn the оthеr hаnd, are on a different mіѕѕіоn with a different goal. They’re focus is the bottom line, sales, turnover and image. It may sound like a sweeping statement but could you differentiate between the 5 lagers on tap in most pubs? With such a wide and somewhat bland spectrum all that separates one from the other is marketing attitude and branding – it’s not really the flavour.

A craft brewer is independent. Again not dictionary definition but generally accepted. That means that the in the main the brewer itself has most of the ownership, thereby having all of the control.  This helps the experimentation with taste and flavours offered by craft beer brewers can soar to new heights. A more common marriage of these flavours, again much more than the mainstream beers is with food pairing. Craft beers’ broad range of flavors, aromas, and textures make it a perfect match for nearly any kind of food, from a rich blue-cheese hamburger to the most luxurious of gourmet dinners, almost like like a fine wine. A couple specific interactions are the balance provided from hop bitterness to sweeter richer foods and sweet maltiness to spicy more acidic foods. Similar flavors will enhance one another such as the perceived spiciness from hops to the spiciness of hotter foods; while other combinations will complement one another, like roasts nut brown ale to the smooth creaminess of a New York style cheesecake. That being said, not all pairings go as expected and that is why practice makes perfect and the only way to find out what works best for any individual is experimentation, which, in my opinion, can be the best part!

As one can see the world of beer has so much to offer and is certainly more interesting than the bland, yellowish, fizzy liquid most are used to. With the variety, quality, and food pairing possibilities available from craft beers, let us raise a toast to continually expanding our horizons and trying new things! Cheers!

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