Craft beer has exploded in popularity recently, with bars and bottle shops dedicating entire sections to these unique, small-batch brews.
But if you’re new to Craft Beer, it can take time to know where to start. This guide will teach you about the different craft beer styles so that you can find the perfect one for your palate.
The craft beer revolution began in the United States in the late 1970s when a small group of passionate homebrewers began experimenting with different ingredients and recipes to make unique beers.
These early pioneers included Jack McAuliffe, who founded New Albion Brewing Company in 1976; Ken Grossman, who started Sierra Nevada Brewery in 1980; and Fritz Maytag, who bought and revitalised the San Francisco-based Anchor Steam Brewery in 1965.
These early craft breweries introduced a new world of flavours and styles to beer drinkers, challenging the most mass-produced lagers that dominated the market then. Over the next few decades, craft breweries continued to pop up all over the country, with many of them focusing on traditional European styles such as ales, stouts, and porters.
Today, craft beer has become a major part of the American beer landscape, accounting for nearly 12 per cent of all beer consumed in the United States. This rise in popularity can be attributed to several factors, including the growth of local breweries and an increased interest in unique flavours and ingredients.
- Pale Ale is a classic craft beer style that originated in England and has become popular worldwide. It features a golden to copper colour, a medium body, low sweetness, and moderate bitterness. Pale Ales have a subtle hop flavour with hints of citrus, floral notes, and sometimes slight spice. They are usually highly carbonated for a light, crisp finish.
- India Pale Ale (IPA) is a bolder craft beer style originally developed in the 18th century for export from England to British troops in India. It has a deep golden to orange colour, medium body with high bitterness and hops flavour.IPAs are usually heavily hopped, giving them strong citrus, floral, and herbal flavours. They also have a high carbonation level, giving them a crisp finish.
- Stout is a dark beer style with notes of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt. It has low bitterness but lots of body and sweetness. Stouts are typically full-bodied beers with lots of flavours and often come in several varieties, such as oatmeal, milk/sweet, and imperial. They are usually served on nitro taps for a smooth and creamy finish.
- Wheat Beer is a refreshing beer style that originated in Germany. It has a light to medium body with low bitterness and lots of wheat cereal flavour. Wheat Beers have a pale yellow colour with notes of banana and clove. They are highly carbonated for a crisp and refreshing finish.
- Belgian Ale is a diverse style of beer that originated in Belgium. It features complex yeast flavours with fruity, spicy, and herbal notes. Belgian Ales come in many varieties, such as Blond, Tripel, Dubbel, Witbier, Saison, and Lambic. They are usually medium-bodied with low bitterness and tend to be sweet, fruity, and highly carbonated.
One of the best ways to appreciate craft beer is through “tasting.” Tasting involves observing, smelling, and tasting the beer to detect its flavour notes. This process can help one identify nuances that make craft beers truly unique. When tasting craft beer, it’s important to take your time and savour each sip.
Observe the beer’s colour, clarity, and carbonation. Swirl it around in your glass to release its aromas. Take a deep sniff and identify different smell components like fruit, malt, hops, or yeast. Finally, take a small sip of the beer and roll it around your mouth. Identify the sweetness, bitterness, and other flavours that you can detect.
After tasting craft beer in this manner, it’s time to make some notes about your experience. Record any flavour notes that stand out as well as the overall impression of the beer. This will help you track your experiences with different beers to continue refining your palate.
With time and practice, you’ll be able to easily identify flavours in different craft beers and understand what makes them so special. As you begin to appreciate craft beer, note how its taste and aroma change as it warms up.
When pairing food with craft beer, it’s important to think about the flavours and aromas of both the beer and the food so that they complement each other. For example, light-bodied wheat or Belgian-style beer might pair well with lighter dishes like salads and sushi.
A dark, malty beer such as a stout or porter might pair well with a rich, dark dish like beef stew. When pairing beer and food, two important things to consider are the intensity of flavours and how they interact with each other.
For instance, if you’re serving an intensely flavoured dish such as curry or chilli, look for a beer that can stand up to the intense flavours and won’t be overwhelmed. On the other hand, if you’re serving a dish with mild flavours like grilled fish or roasted vegetables, look for a beer that will complement and enhance those flavours without overpowering them.
Spicier dishes can stand up to hoppier or even sour beer since the spice will cut through the bitterness of hops. On the other hand, a sweeter beer can balance out spicier dishes and add some sweetness to the overall flavour profile. It’s also important to consider how different beer styles might pair with certain types of food.
For example, Saisons or farmhouse ales pair very well with various dishes, from salads to grilled meats. Pilsners and pale ales are light, crisp beers that can pair well with lighter fare like seafood and salads.
Different craft beer styles offer unique flavours and brewing methods that will please any beer drinker. Whether you’re a fan of hoppy IPAs or malty stouts, there’s a style of craft beer out there for everyone to enjoy.
So next time you want to switch up your usual brew, check out one of the many different types of craft beer available.