Back in my college days at Texas State University, I was never a big fan of fancy beers, because there really wasn’t room in the budget for those sorts of expenses. It wasn’t until two years ago, (once I had a full-time job and a little more of a financial cushion) that I discovered craft beer and I was hooked!
So what exactly is craft beer and why is it so popular? According to the Brewers Association, craft beers are produced by small, independent, and traditional breweries that create distinctive, innovative, and high quality brew concoctions. Consumers must be loving their craft beer, because sales have increased by 15 percent in the past year alone. This jump in sales is partly attributed to new legislation (across some states) that is now allowing craft breweries to distribute to wholesalers and retailers. Prior to that, most craft breweries could only distribute to patrons at the brewery itself. Plus craft breweries are trying to attract more beer connoisseurs by incorporating a dining and social experience through the addition of restaurants, tasting rooms, or even an outdoor space for live music.
If you are a relatively new craft beer drinker (like myself), you may be overwhelmed by the variety of the different style of beers. To help you out, some of the more popular styles include the following:
Pilsner – Pilsners are pale in color, have a citrus flavor, and spicy, herbal, or floral aromas.
Wheat – This type of craft brew consists of a mixture of barley and wheat grains. Wheat beers usually have a cloudy appearance and are often paired with an orange slice, lemon wedge, or even fresh fruit (such as raspberries).
Brown Ale – Brown ales have a dark amber color, have a slightly hoppy and caramel flavor and are brewed from 100 percent brown malt.
Pale Ale – A popular style of beer that has a strong malty flavor and is made from pale malt.
India Pale Ale (aka IPA) – A classic beer style that made its debut in the early 1700’s. IPAs are hoppy and stronger in flavor and have a golden amber to light copper color.
Double IPAs (aka Imperial IPA) – Double IPAs have twice as much hops as a traditional IPA and have a kick of malts to balance the hoppy flavor. Double IPAs have a strong malty flavor and a fruity undertone.
Porter – Porters are dark in color and has a mild flavor of chocolate or toffee notes. Most porters are brewed with slow fermenting yeast.
Stout – Like a porter, stouts are dark in color, but the head of a stout is usually thick and is tan to brown in color. Flavor undertones consist of coffee, chocolate, licorice, and molasses.
If you are a new brewer, a bartender, or even a server at a restaurant, you can learn more about beer styles and serving techniques by taking the Brewers Association Beer 101 course or the Learn2Serve Bartender & Server Essential package which includes the following courses, the Brewers Association Beer 101 course, plus Improving your Tips, Tips on Getting Larger Tips and Intro to Wine.