As the snow and cold of winter begins to give way to spring, the American summer-time staples of beer and Bar-B-Que are getting closer to being a reality instead of a fond memory. The best news yet; your beer of choice is no longer limited to the big brands represented by majestic steeds or the cold Rocky Mountains. Craft beers, those delightful suds made by small, independent, traditional brewers, are being sold on the shelves of the average supermarket across the country. But what is a craft beer and why should you stray away from the staples you’ve indulged in for years?
The Brewers Association defines an American craft brewery as producing less than six million barrels of beer per year, having less than 25% of the brewery being owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member, and has a TTB Brewer’s Notice and makes beer. Drinking craft beers typically means supporting small businesses and helping to promote more sustainable brewing by decreasing waste and energy usage.
Craft beers are typically produced with four main ingredients; barley, water, hops, and yeast. Unique or untraditional ingredients are added to the mixture at the discretion of the brewer to produce a wide variety of flavor, aroma, finish, and body to their final product. Craft brewers pride themselves on using high quality, locally produced, organic ingredients. I can look out of my living room window and watch the hops grow next door that are used by the craft brewing company a few miles from my house. Who wouldn’t want to indulge in the delectable beer brewed in your own neighborhood?
There are so many different types of beer being produced in the United States alone that Craftbeer.com had to narrow down their own beer study guide to 79 styles of beer in 15 different families. With all this variety in beer it can be intimidating to step out of your comfort zone. Thankfully, we’ve outlined four different types of popular craft beers you can find in your neighborhood grocery store. That is, if you aren’t ready to adventure into your own local craft brewery.
The best craft beer style to try when straying away from tradition may be a simple lager. Lagers are the light-beer of craft beers offering a crisper, cleaner flavor (think Bud Light, only better). Firestone Lager, brewed in Paso Robles, California by Firestone Walker Brewing Company is one of the best lagers to try as a first-timer. Fresh grain notes and a touch of honey help to compliment the hops without either being overwhelming. Enjoy this German-style lager at any backyard shindig and put the rest of the beer on display to shame.
IPAs (India Pale Ale)
The IPA, short for India Pale Ale, is the first craft beer type that most beer enthusiasts will wind up trying. These beers are known for having a strong “hoppy” flavor and can take some getting used to but, once you learn to enjoy them, it can be hard to turn back to other beers. IPAs are widely popular and easy to find. Founder’s Brewing Company’s All Day IPA can be found almost any where beer is sold and is a great first IPA to try. A clean finish and balanced aromatics make it the perfect choice for lounging poolside or sipping while you grill.
Did you try the IPA and found that heavy hop flavor not to your palate? A wheat craft beer might be the choice for you! Mild in flavor with fruity, floral, or citrus notes, wheat beers tend to be easy to enjoy. The Big Wave Golden Ale, brewed by Kona Brewing Company of Hawaii, is an easy to find and, most importantly, easy to enjoy craft beer. Tropical fruits give this beer a subtle fruit flavor that compliments the hop aroma.
Stouts will deliver the rich flavors you crave if a lighter beer is not on your radar. Able to harness the flavors of chocolate, caramel, coffee, and more, the top fermented stouts offer a rich flavor profile like no other. If you love coffee, you’ll fall in love with Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout. The creamy combination of coffee flavors and roasted malt make for a delicious brew just waiting to be enjoyed as an after-dinner treat.
Are you ready to dive into the world of craft beer now? Leave us a comment below with your favorite type of craft beer!