A Beginner’s Guide to Craft Beer

by A Manly Guest Contributor on April 29, 2010 · 62 comments

in Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Tim Akimoff.

It could be said that beer was the downfall of the hunter gatherer, the man of the woods, mountains and streams, the man with spear in hand whose need for meat was matched only by his need for shelter. After all, it was likely the propagation and harvest of the materials required to make beer that caused the famous bipedal wanderer to settle in one location. Or, you can think of it like this: Beer changed the world.

Whatever your view of history, that fermented juice of water, barley, hops and yeast certainly played a big role in it.

Whether consumed from a tall can, a frosty mug or a pint glass, gulped by sailors or sipped at baseball games, men and beer have a long history together. Let’s start with that history and then move into how modern man can more fully enjoy this ancient brew.

A Brief History of Beer

We’ll start this story after the last ice age, at a time when mans’ domain shrunk like the ice bridges between what would become Asia, North America and Europe. No one really knows how it happened, only that somewhere in the cradle of civilization some bread or cake made of barley must have fallen into water, where it germinated, providing the sugars necessary for conversion to alcohol, a process that was likely helped out by the sun and whatever wild yeasts happened to be floating through the air. How a person would have known to drink this gift of the gods remains a mystery, but the process of brewing beer was born.

Early history saw the production of beer become the domain of woman, whose duty it was to produce strong ales in order to keep her family alive during decades of plague, famine and unsanitary drinking water. As large swaths of humanity were wiped out from devastating disease in the Middle Ages, the religious orders picked up beer making, which turned the practice into a communal activity complete with the very first beer halls. Because it was profitable and in high demand, men became the principal brewers in each community.

Naturally, when kings realized the profits available from the production of such a simple recipe, they moved to control the grains used in brewing and fought ferocious battles over production and distribution. The state breweries were born.

Beer found its way to the New World aboard the ships of early explorers. The crew of the Mayflower abandoned plans to sail further south from Plymouth Rock after they realized they were low on beer.

The crafting of fine ales in the New World enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the early years as few restrictions were placed on brewers.

As the nation grew, Czech and German immigrants brought their Pilsner-style lagers with them, and American breweries looking to sell beer beyond their small communities adopted the new style for its storage and mass production qualities. The American light lager was born, and names like Miller and Schlitz became known in households across the country.

Then came the temperance movement, the aim of which was to shut down the production and distribution of alcohol in order to curb sinful and criminal behaviors. More breweries closed in the wake of this thinking than did when Prohibition was ushered in fully. In the Great Depression and World War II and the years that followed, the reintroduction of beer to American households took the form of light lagers brewed with corn. This mass-production beer would travel well and store for long periods of time with little cost. Miller, Coors and Budweiser ruled the roost. Prohibition officially ended in 1933, though many restrictions still limit the craft brewing industry to this day.

The tide turned in the 1970s as homebrew fever spread across the land. Men who had tasted good foreign beers during tours of duty in Europe, Korea, Vietnam and in military service around the world could not find those styles in their hometowns, and so many took up home brewing. Some started small breweries and many ventures failed until laws were changed and brewing as a business became easier in the mid-80s.

Today, there are more than 1,390 regional craft breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs in the United States, according to the American Brewer’s Association. And the variety of styles available is nearly incomprehensible.

Jumping into the World of Craft Beer

Recently I walked into a craft brewery in Stevensville, Montana, where a dozen men at the bar sat decked out in the mottled browns and crusty grays of ranchers and farmers. Grizzled men with facial features worn like the crags on the nearby Bitterroot Mountains. I asked the bar tender why they were all drinking dark beer, unfamiliar as I was with the sight of men of the land drinking anything but Coors or Bud Light.

The bartender gave me a knowing look and told me she’d trained them up on a light, blond ale and moved them to an even amber and eventually to the brewery’s signature Black IPA, perhaps the strongest of popular beer styles today.

“You only opened four-months-ago,” I said, incredulously.

She winked at me and smiled.

There has often been an unfortunate association between beer and low brow masculine behavior; it is after all the go to beverage for guzzling through a funnel or imbibing via a keg stand. But like fine wine, as one learns to appreciate the basics of beer, the core ingredients and the role they play in flavor and experience, one is prone to move up the taste scale and into a world of unimaginable flavors where it becomes enjoyable to sip and savor rather than guzzle.

What Is Craft Beer?

Beer is grain, water, yeast and hops. The grain is heated in water and the starches converted to sugars. The resulting sugar water is eventually boiled to get rid of contaminants. At or near the end of the boil, hops, the flowers of a certain vine, are added to create a bitter balance to the sweetness leftover from the grains. This is then cooled and yeast is pitched and shaken to create a fermentation whereby the yeast digests the sugars and spits out alcohol. Each stage of this process creates different flavors. Grains can give off grassy, roasted or sweet flavors, while hops create bitter, floral and citrusy characteristics. Yeast provides earthy and bready flavors in some beer varieties, and the resulting alcohol adds certain characteristics like heat to the mixture.

Below I offer a brief introduction to several varieties of craft beer and recommend a few specific brands that you may want to try as you explore the world of craft beer:

Ales

The majority of craft-brewed beers are ales, and there are numerous styles within that category, including pale ales, brown ales, porters, stouts and hefeweizens. Ever wonder why some servers put a big wedge of lemon or orange on the rim of those cloudy looking wheat beers? The German-style hefeweizen, a beer brewed using wheat, was originally brewed using a European yeast strain that offered a citrusy breadiness to the beer. American brewers like Kurt and Rob Widmer, who brewed the original American-style hefeweizen, used typical craft brewer hops like Cascades, which gave a bigger citrus characteristic to the beer, and which actually goes well with a lemon on the rim. The general rule here is don’t add a lemon if you’re not drinking a Widmer Hefeweizen. Here are some example of some popular ale styles:

  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Pale Ale
  • Thomas Creek Brewing’s Appalachian Amber Ale
  • Big Sky Brewing Co.’s Moose Drool

Lagers

Lagers are bottom fermented as opposed to top-fermented ales. They often sit for a longer period of time than ales, which can go from production to bottle to shelf in a matter of weeks. Lagers are generally smoother than ales with fewer taste variations. If you currently drink Coors, Bud or Miller, you are already familiar with the lager family. There are many wonderful versions of craft brewed lagers, and they can make a great entry point if this is a style of beer you really like.

  • Victory Brewing Co.’s Prima Pils
  • Full Sail Brewing Co.’s Sessions Lager
  • Sam Adam’s Boston Lager

Beer with Body and Soul

Brown ales, porters and stouts, while produced year round, can also be called seasonal beers brewed for fall and winter. These can offer a more robust taste experience through the use of roasted grains, more hops and higher alcohol content.

  • Deschutes Brewing Co.’s Black Butte Porter
  • Abita’s Turbodog
  • North Coast Brewing Co.’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

The Big Leagues of Beer

If you drink wine, think about India pale ales as the Zinfandels of the beer world. It’s a big, bold beer with nothing to hide, and which might actually overpower many other beers or food choices. India pale ales got their name and design when England colonized India and needed to make stronger beer that would last the long sea voyage around the horn of Africa. Additional hops were used along with a higher alcohol content to preserve the beer. A good West Coast IPA will be overbearing to someone who is used to the East Coast or even English-style versions of the beer. But the West Coast IPA, originally developed by brewers in Oregon, Washington and California, has certain attributes that come through when you familiarize yourself with the style. Flavors like grapefruit, pine and resin dominate, and strong floral scents often overwhelm the nose on this style of beer.

  • Ninkasi Brewing Co.’s Total Domination IPA
  • Pyramid Brewing Co.’s Thunderhead IPA
  • Green Flash Brewing Co.’s IPA

Barrel-aged bourbon beers, sour beers, India brown ales and blended beers are a category unto their own and should wait for another post.

The best advice anyone could give on learning all that the craft beer world has to offer is to simply recommend picking a point and jumping in. Running up the taste scale is not a bad way to educate your palate about beer, but you may jump in at any point along the way and find that you like the beer. The main point is to jump in somewhere!

Prost,

Tim Akimoff

www.grizzlygrowler.com

What are your favorite craft beers? Share your recommendations in the comments.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Home Wind Generators April 29, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Beer did change the world – For the better!

2 myles April 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Hold on where is the Dieu de Ciel, Dogfish, Rogue, Stone, Dennisons, Unibroue or Spinackers. This list is entirely incomplete without any of these.

3 Smythecliffe April 29, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I agree with myles but would also add that diving into the above straight from light beers would be a mistake. Try a nice red ale then move into something more “dangerous”. Or just make your own….

4 Shane April 30, 2010 at 12:39 am

Nice article! I would have mentioned a few more breweries, but what’s mentioned is a nice introduction to craft beer. If you’re trying to jump into craft from a typical light lager your best bet is to probably start with pilsners or hefeweizens. Going right into an imperial IPA or barleywine or something of the sort would be too big of a jump.

5 Lee Nelson April 30, 2010 at 12:43 am

I would simply like to add that if you’ve ever thought,”perhaps I should try my hand at homebrewing.” Do it.

Go to a local brew shop, chat them up, and get started. Now, more than ever, brewing knowledge is easily accessible and available. I started back in September and haven’t looked back. I now have a keg system in my garage with a nice E.S.B. and a Hefewiezen on tap, both of which I made.

6 Nick April 30, 2010 at 1:28 am

Lost Coast brewery’s 8 Ball stout, Rogue Brewery’s double dead guy ale & Firestone Brewery’s Velvet Merkin oatmeal stout

7 Nick April 30, 2010 at 1:32 am

Oh, I almost forgot. “Beer is proof that God loves us & wants us to be happy.” -Benjamin Franklin

8 Nick April 30, 2010 at 1:39 am

Also wanted to encourage everyone to support your local pub. Not bar, PUB! Much love to the Alehouse Pub in Redding, Ca.

9 Sean April 30, 2010 at 1:54 am

Brings back fond memories of helping my father bottle homebrew as a kid! I can still smell the yeast and malt…

10 Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com April 30, 2010 at 2:16 am

Hmm I was always a fan of Kronenburg in my drinking days. A lovely beer. Not for me since I adopted a Raw Food Diet though.

11 JC April 30, 2010 at 6:22 am

Damn right! I grew up in a fairly rural area of England where every pub has local ales on tap. When I’ve been to America in the past I’ve always been disappointed at everyone drinking light beer, but I keep hearing how real beer and micro-breweries are getting more and popular in the US now. Great stuff.

Everybody should have a go at making their own beer. Its surprisingly easy and you feel very manly pouring a pint from your own keg.

12 Steve April 30, 2010 at 6:43 am

Great post…a personal passion of mine. I hail from a great beer state (Michigan), and have come to realize the great feeling that comes from the first sip of your first homebrew. There are almost to many great brews to recommend but a few on my short list Founders Cerise (good for beginners) and KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout for the more advanced drinker who may like an early morning imbibe). Anything fro Short’s brewery in Bellaire, MI (Joe Shorts is a god!). Bell’s Two-hearted Ale and Hopslam (My all-time favorite, but be prepared for tongue annihilation). The list could go on and on.

If I did have one simple piece of advice for the novice craft beer drinker; it would be to dive right in. Talk to people who know about beer get a feel for what may be good, but go at it with gusto. If you see something interesting or intriguing, try it. If you don’t like it wait a few months and have another go at it. The worst that can happen is you don’t like. But please do not shy away from one type of beer because you had a bad experience with a different brand. I would have never found the joy of my favorite IPA’s after I tried one terrible example.

Cheers!

13 Matt April 30, 2010 at 7:06 am

I have the privilege of living a stone’s throw from Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA. Awesome beers- anything they make is delicious in it’s own right! Rogue Deadguy is also really good- but a tad expensive on the east coast. Ipswich Ale from Boston is delicious as well, and Stone Brewery’s Imperial IPA is a tasty, hoppy treat, great with burgers or anything else fire-grilled!

14 Jason April 30, 2010 at 8:34 am

And don’t forget the Belgians! They’re a whole other class unto themselves.

My favorite Brew/Breweries
Sweetwater Brewery, Atlanta, GA (420, IPA and numerous seasonal/one offs)

Terrapin Brewery, Athens, GA (Rye Pale Ale, India Brown, Wake and Bake Espresso Stout)

Brasserie d’ Achouffe (Houblon Chouffe, Belgian IPA)

Schneider/Brooklyner Hopffenweiss (Collaboration between Schneider in Germany and Brooklyn Brewery in the US. A German Heffe jacked up American cascade hops from Booklyn Brewery. AMAZING.)

15 jon April 30, 2010 at 8:39 am

Seconding Steve. Founders Breakfast is the best stuff around. I’ve never met a beer from Founders I haven’t loved.

Lost Abbey, too. Terrific brewery.

16 Graham J. April 30, 2010 at 8:50 am

Fun fact: in the U.S., until the 1840s or so, cider was actually the most American drink possible. It wasn’t until the huge wave of German, Czech, and east European immigration that beer really entered the national consciousness and took off as it has. Not that I’m knocking beer, but cider’s really one of the things I can appreciate in England.

Source: http://www.slate.com/id/2231001/

17 Nick B. April 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

Since this has turned into a bit of a beer recommendation thread, I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring. I come from Indiana, and I can think of no more fitting brewery for this site than Three Floyds. Their website is http://www.3floyds.com/ . The motto is “It’s not normal” and they make some of the most extreme, boldest beers I have ever had. They only distribute to Indiana, Chicago, and Michigan, so it’s pretty rare, but the stuff is phenomenal. Their crew is <10, and they are the nicest guys (and women) you could ever meet. If you get a chance to try their stuff, I suggest (in order):

Dreadnaught IPA: Best IPA I have ever had. Very citrusy.
Alpha Klaus: Perfectly Hoppy Christmas Porter
Robert the Bruce: One of my favorites, a scottish ale
Dark Lord: I haven't had it, but it's supposedly the best beer in the world.

Check out their BeerAdvocate reviews for more support. I visited their pub/factory and the service, food, and suds were top-class. Worth a visit if you're in the Munster area.

18 Jake April 30, 2010 at 9:40 am

If you’re in the NE Florida region, I highly recommend any of the beers at Bold City Brewery. Their 1901 Red Ale is amazing though!

19 Jon April 30, 2010 at 10:17 am

Leinenkugel’s from Wisconsin has some great craft beers. Also, New Glarus (sp?) has some amazing craft beers as well. What I love about craft beer is that it is so regional and that you get to experience new kinds where ever you go.

20 Adam Paul Durrant April 30, 2010 at 10:25 am

Good article, if a little short on the History, like JC, I am from Rural England, where the tradition of good Local Ale has never died (I remember riding on the dray cart delivering it, still horse drawn).

I was always of the Opinion that American Beer was, to be frank, love in a canoe. Lager is generally looked upon like that anyway due to the mass breweries, but even more so for American Lager.

But then, when I did go to America, I did try a few good American Ales, and I changed my mind. American Microbreweries do some good stuff. I have a review on my youtube channel of SNPA actually, it did quite well.

21 Scott April 30, 2010 at 10:28 am

Another Michigander – made my first trip to Founder’s in January and was disappointed that they had no Kentucky Breakfast Stout on tap. I tried their pale ale which struck me as a bit light, but had a very clean hoppy taste, with a bit of citrus.

I was introduced to IPA’s via the Red Hook IPA in Washington State. Still one of my favorites and we just got it in a local shop. It’s been re-labled as “Long Hammer” IPA from Red Hook. Another recent find is a stronger IPA from Sierra Nevada called “Torpedo” Intensely piney. Anyone else tried it?

22 Jared April 30, 2010 at 10:35 am

Living in Oregon, we get spoiled with a wide variety of high quality craft beers. There are many fine local breweries with their specialties such as Deschutes, Ninkasi, Hair of the Dog, Rogue (and it’s child companies), or Cascade to name a few. Additionally, we also have relatively easy access to some of California’s quality breweries as well such as Lagunitas, Stone, Russian River, AleSmith, and North Coast. Did I mention we are spoiled?

http://www.ratebeer.com is a great resource for checking beer ratings and reviews. Of course, you should try to be objective when using such a site; everything is usually worth trying at least once so you can form your own opinion.

I’ll also jump in and throw my support to homebrewing. My brother-in-law and I started brewing at the turn of this year and have had great success. We already have a very delicious and well balanced IPA recipe we want to try and keep as an annual. There really isn’t too much better in life than drinking beer while making beer.

23 Duffy April 30, 2010 at 11:20 am

I’d like to recommend Dogfishead beer from Delaware. They make a 90 Minute IPA that is fantastic. I think they are the most creative guys in the business. They make beer from a thousand year old recipe uncovered by archeologists (Midas Touch) and beer with ingredients from every continent (Pangea). Well worth your time.

I’ll also echo the recommendation of Victory Brewing in PA and Brooklyn Brewing. Try Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout (not for the feint of heart) and their limited edition Black Ops.

24 Matt April 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm

This is a great article to introduce people to craft brewing! Thanks for writing it!

I did spot an error:
“At or near the end of the boil, hops … are added to create a bitter balance to the sweetness leftover from the grains.” – hops are added at the beginning of the boil almost always, and only part of the time at the end of the boil. Hops at the beginning impart more bittering, hops at the end impart more aroma.

25 Alexander April 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed this article.

Since I’ve seen lots of comments from the states and england, I figured I’d make a few from my end of the world, in Canada. If you’re ever around Ontario for a visit, try and pick up some Hockley Dark, made by the Hockley Valley Brewing Company in Orangeville, ON. They also make a killer stout (I’m a dark beer fan). Or, alternatively, if you’re ever out in Newfoundland, on the east coast, Anything from the Quidi Vidi Brewery is fabulous and served just about anywhere on the Island, and while only served in St. John’s so far as I know, Yellow Belly Brewery also Makes a Fightin’ Irish Red that is stellar,

Cheers!

Alexander

26 Thomas Cornish April 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Beer can be appreciated for all it’s variety, but I think this over complication of the drink, removes quite a lot from the simplicity of enjoying a beer after a hard days work.
It’s been said that you shouldn’t get too fancy about your coffee or your beer, ones for getting you up in the morning, the other is for relaxing in the evening, and to over complicate this is to take away part of the draw of a beer, over enjoying a wine.

27 diasdiem April 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm

For beer, unlike with wine, EVERY year is a good year!

28 Bradley Looy April 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Your view on the origins of beer is as unbelievable as the Big Bang Theory. By chance some bread fell into water, add to that sunlight and yeast from the air…?! Poof! Please.

29 Jared April 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm

@Thomas

I somewhat agree with your point in keeping beer drinking simple. It certainly shouldn’t require a refined palate to drink beer, and that’s not what the point of the article is. However, it gets down to what enjoyment really is, which is simply something that gives satisfaction. Different people will enjoy different things. Craft beers and micro brews have shown that there is a substantial following of people who enjoy looking for quality in beer and being able to discern differences between styles and breweries. Many others just enjoy the macro style beers with maybe the occasional micro brew.

Everyone has the satisfaction of enjoying a beer after a hard day’s work like you say. This could be the case for someone drinking a PBR while someone else drinks a Deschutes Abyss. Both would enjoy their beer for what it is. But someone who really enjoys variety in brews and breweries would also have another level of appreciation and critique for the beer.

It depends on if the beer drinker is looking to expand their horizons apart from “just having a beer.” The more they try in beer variety and styles, the more they can appreciate beer. Prime example: work up to Stone Ruination. There’s a reason they describe the beer as they do on the bottle, how it will “ruin” your palate. This isn’t to say you will never enjoy drinking normal IPAs again, but were you to start out with it and immediately go to a familiar and lower IBU IPA, that IPA won’t taste like you’re used to. :)

Wine, as you mention, tends to be far more complex than beer. That’s because there’s a lot more chemistry involved in wine making. As such, it’s formed a sort of more elitist (for lack of better words) following than those who enjoy the complexities of beer. I feel the ‘beer snob’ community tends to be more inviting than the ‘wine snob’ community in helping people try to increase their appreciation.

30 Steven Brown April 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Definitely concur with the recommendations for Sweetwater and Terrapin. Very rarely have I been disappointed with their beers. Unfortunately, neither brewery doesn’t have wide distribution (primarily the Southeastern US, although Terrapin is distributed in PA).

In the last year, I’ve really become a huge fan of New Belgium as they finally started to distribute here in GA. I was always a fan of their flagship beer Fat Tire, but I really have enjoyed all of their seasonal offerings I have tried (Hoptober, 2 Below, & Mighty Arrow). Their recently introduced Ranger IPA is an very good example of an IPA. Their Lips of Faith series I’ve not had much of a chance to explore other than their Transatlantique Kriek , but is something I’m about to really start exploring more of as I find those beers at my favorite beer outlet.

31 AD April 30, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Where to begin? Since I am a big fan of beer in most of its iterations I could certainly wax poetic about beer for pages, but this is a comment not a column. As for the actual article I think it was well done and a nice introduction to the topic of craft beer. My one criticism, both of the article and comments, would be the treatment of lager. There can be a tendency to look down on larger as a second class citizen in the beer world. With at least 15 different styles from pilsners to black lagers, they are certainly diverse and well worth exploring.

I do not see more complex beers taking away from the simplicity of enjoying a beer. Expanding options is not necessarily a bad thing. However, I do admit there is a tendency to overcomplicate or become elitist when it comes to craft beers. I have grown out of my beer snob mentality and recognize there are as many different personal preferences as there are beers. My recommendation is to drink what you like. Be willing to explore as you never know what you may find that could be your new favorite. As long as you are enjoying what you are drinking, it is the perfect beer.

32 GTS April 30, 2010 at 3:25 pm

This is a very nice article for those new to craft beer.

However, I do have one flaw to point out. Under the heading ‘What is Craft Beer’ Tim has a very nice definition of beer and then a list of styles with descriptions and sample beers to try. Unfortunately he forgot to actually give us a definition of ‘craft beer’ as opposed to regular old ‘beer’.

See the wikipedia entry here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbrewery#Craft_beer

33 Tad April 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm

For those looking for beer in the Maryland area, I’d suggest Dogfish Head and Fordham. Coming back from the beach one time, I stopped in at the Dogfish Head brewery in Rehoboth, DE. I had the Beewulf Braggot, which 3 years later I still haven’t seen bottled, and it was amazing. If you’re looking for it in stores though, I recommend their Raisin d’Etre or one of their IPAs (60, 90, or 120). For Fordham, which I believe was recently purchased by a large chain, I recommend the Copperhead ale.

I have also thoroughly enjoyed DuClaw and Gordon Bierch. DuClaw has great beers for all palettes, from their Venom (pale ale) to their Celtic Fury Irish Stout which I just had for the first time the other day. They have a large set of seasonals worth making the excursion to taste. DuClaw also keeps a keg sealed with nitrogen instead of the normal CO2, which I haven’t had anywhere else. Glorious are the times when I catch a keg swap on the nitrogen tap, I can get two rounds of different brews with the extra flavor nitrogen offers. As for Gordon Bierch, they have a great Marzen with an offshoot seasonal, the Maibock. My friends and I also enjoy the Schwarzbier.

34 Fin April 30, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I had the same question as GTS-the section under What is Craft Beer? seems to be a description of any kind of beer. I was left wondering what the difference is between craft beer and just beer-beer. The Wikipedia link was helpful, thanks.

I do think the first beer probably happened just as described. A happy accident. I think a lot of our foods happened that way.

35 KRG April 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Stone Brewery in San Diego makes some pretty killer beers if you like hops.

36 mike April 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I don’t drink alcohol… but this post is making me want to become a beer sampler!

37 MKram April 30, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Although only one of the above posts mentioned them if you want to get really complex flavors you can try some of the Belgian lambics. These are few and far between in most package stores but are worth the effort. If you have tried some of the great options mentioned here and want to find a treat, check out a Kriek (cherry), or Framboise (raspberry) lambic.

Also come to Colorado, especially the Front Range. There are dozens of brewpubs, craft brewers, and even Molson-Coors to visit and sample their wares. If you’re around Boulder (home of the American Homebrewers’ Association) you might even run into the author of the ‘Complete Joy of Home Brewing’. New Belgium Brewing has taken the mantle of craft brewing from where Sam Adams was about 15 years ago and has run with it. If they start making lambics I may have to find a new job.

38 k2000k April 30, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Awesome article,

but as another poster said, Cider was the drink of choice for Americans for a long time. And I myself am a cider man. So that being said….Can we do a cider article. Bring back the manly cider!

39 maplesap April 30, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Beer was God’s way of keeping the Irish from ruling the world!

40 Greg Schneider May 1, 2010 at 1:13 am

I guess I’m spoiled living in Fort Collins, Colorado. We’re beer central out here. We’ve got New Belgium, Odells, and Fort Collins Brewery as our top three breweries. Being able to swing by New Belgium any time I want to try some of their beers in the tasting room is amazing.

Their lips of faith are a great way to try new and different beers. I’m not sure how far they get out, but what they are, are when an employee is given the ability to create their own beer. They decide what and how and such, and then name it. A little while ago, there was an apple flavored beer called Tom’s Beer. Holy wow… that was AMAZING.

Odells is much the same way, just not as diverse and experimental as New Belgium.

I never drink big name, light beers. The largest name beers I’ll do are Guiness and sometimes I’ll delve into a craft beer by a big company. Like, Blue Moon is from Coors. (also created in Denver)

Prost!

41 Sam May 1, 2010 at 11:06 am

I am astounded that nobody has mentioned Chimay Ale yet. Hands down the best beer I’ve ever had.

42 FingerSoup May 2, 2010 at 10:17 am

Well, If you’re on the West Coast of Canada, Anything from the Granville Island brewery in BC has a uniqueness to it… Honey Lager is a personal favourite, with sweet honey overtones…. A good sweet beer. Their Winter ale also has a good sweetness to it.

In Ontario, during my College days, I was a particular fan of Waterloo Dark, by Brick brewing, as well as Granite Brewery’s Peculiar and Keefe’s Irish Stout…

My Favourite beer now, has to be a Scottish import. Innis & Gunn is beer taken to the next level. Take your beer, then age it for 33 days in oak barrels previously used for making Whiskey. The result is a caramel-hinted beer, that has oodles of subtle layers to it’s flavour… This brewery also makes special run beers such as their triple-matured beer, Rum-barrel aged beer, and an IPA.

There are beers to enjoy, and beers to get drunk off of. If I want to spend a night getting hosed with a bunch of friends, I drink slightly more expensive varieties of mass-produced beer… I Can’t bring myself to drink Budweiser, Labatt Blue, Molson Canadian, or Coors EVER… Metallic tasting Pee is not what I’d call beer. I’d rather have Rickard’s Red (Molson), Alexander Keith’s Amber Ale (Labatt’s), Or Sleeman’s Honey Brown Lager. If I want to ENJOY BEER…. I drink the micro-brewed stuff above.

43 Mark May 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Having lived in Kalispell for 6 years back in the late 90s, I was thrilled to see mention of my beloved Moose Drool!! Currently in KCMO, I have to give major kudos to our local (MEGA) microbrew house, Boulevard Brewing Company. Boulevard Wheat is my local fave! Try it if you’re passing through!

44 Tim May 4, 2010 at 7:50 am

Great article. Nice over view of a complex topic. There is no way you could have possible mentioned every beer and type, but those you did mention are on my hunt list. I look forward to more beer articles from you.

45 Chris May 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

All beer is good. The only difference between a light American beer and a stout is the recipe……

If you like ‘em light, drink ‘em light. If you like ‘em bold, drink ‘em bold.

46 JG May 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Never forget the Monastics! The trappists not only pray for you, they also brew some of the best beer in the world.

47 Steven May 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I would recommend finding a local brewer and visiting them. Many breweries give lessons and demonstrations on how the brews are made, and how to taste them. And better yet: free beer.

I’ve toured the New Belgium brewery (Fort Collins, CO), maker of the Fat Tire, and the Stone brewery (Escondido, CA), maker of Arrogant Bastard.

48 Kennan May 7, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Hey yall I hail from the great nation state of Texas. a couple of my personal recommendations would be Alamo golden ale from the Real Ale brewing company in Blanco Tx (ya I know you’ve never heard of it…it’s not to far from San Antonio) and if you like a real lager (not budweiser, or miller or any of that crap) the Spoetzl Brewery company in Shiner Tx makes a damn good dark beer(I think it’s a brown malt) and black lager. Shiner Boch and Shiner Black. (Shiner Blonde is pretty good to, that’s their original recipe). I also really like the Arrogant Bastard Ale from the Stone Brewing company.

49 James May 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm

What is this, 1990?

50 George May 9, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I love Yuengling Premium. I believe this to be an ale… is this correct?

51 Karl May 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I’m a big fan of New Belgium (esp. Abbey, Mothership Wit, and, of course, Fat Tire) and Goose Island.

52 Nick May 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I’ve become rather partial to the Magic Hat series. They have several great IPAs and then also an interesting series called the Odd Notion where they brew different types of beer with varying touches, like a “ginger” ale, for a limited time. Plus, not that you should judge a book by its cover, these series have fantastic bottle labels.

I agree with all of the above concerning New Belgium, and I’d also add their winter seasonal 2-Below to the all time greats.

53 Tim May 13, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Some of my favorites:
Hoegaarden: A great Belgian white (hefe weisen)
Arrogant Bastard: A very hoppy (think bitter) lager that is great but takes some “working up to”
Yuengling Lager: a very nice, smooth, aromatic lager
Victory Golden Monkey: AWESOME beer (but beware…as with many small-company craft brews, this has a much higher alcohol content [9.5%] than your usual Coors product [3.6 - 5%] and will “sneak up on you”)

54 Steve May 21, 2010 at 6:55 am

Hi there, I reside in Cape Town, South Africa, and as you may or may not know
we love our beer here too! Check out a new very niche range at Brewers & Union.
http://www.brewersandunion.com/thebeer.html

55 Mephistefales August 7, 2010 at 2:43 am

Mmmm… Old Rasputin… Man, I love that beer.

56 Jim Heavey August 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Andrews Pale Ale from Lincolnville, Maine. A great interpertation of a classic style that goes well with many foods. Great finish with a hoppy balance. The closest craft brewer from my home-beer is best as fresh as you can get it!

57 Jeff Lager October 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I’m so very fortunate to have my last name. (Yes, Lager really is my last name) There is a craft brew bar near my home that serves 50 beers on tap and 200 styles in bottles that are all craft and microbrew beers.
Plus, the bottler of Ski soda in my hometown has opened its own brewery. Talk about local! I can walk down the street and imbibe in fresh beer, almost from the vat itself!

58 Dan November 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Great Lakes Brewing Company has a variety of great craft beers. I highly recommend their Commodore Perry IPA, Conway’s Irish Ale, and Christmas Ale. Also, Dundee has some good craft beers at a low cost.

59 ITRoler July 26, 2013 at 7:16 am

Considering beer, I would say that you have to be a Belgian to really appreciate it.
Oldest brewery was established in 1366 and is still brewing one of the best pils ever “Stella Artois”. When I was a student, we experienced some great evening and nights just comparing dozains of pils marks… And it is a sort of pilgrimage for all our visitors to go to the “Beer Museum” or the “BierKeller” in Brussels. Imagine “Beer only pubs” where you have to choose between 800 and 1200 sorts of beer … Not to believe until you see it.
I have to confess I didn’t make the whole list ;-)
Visit Belgium : land of all sweetnesses :-)

Greetings to all !

60 Andrew August 30, 2013 at 6:19 pm

myles, this is “Craft Beer for Beginners.” Belgians exist in their own world.

61 William March 17, 2014 at 9:27 pm

IMHO, I’d say Stone Brewing for Pale Ale, Ballast Point for IPAs, and maybe Anderson Valley Barney Flats for stouts.

62 Tom March 24, 2014 at 9:47 am

:)

As a home brewer, that’s all I have to say!

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