Craft Beer: A beginner’s guide
The craft beer industry in Calgary is definitely booming. Just in the past couple of years, close to thirty new microbreweries have sprouted all over the place. Each of these breweries has their own signature brew and flavors combination fighting for your attention.
But for a craft beer novice, choosing the right beer from the multitude of choices can be overwhelming. While it is mostly subjective, you can gain a lot if you talk to the makers directly.
In general, we rate Craft Beers based on flavor, aroma and overall feel. While a few numbers of beers might be limited edition, every microbrewery will usually have a lineup of their standard beers available to drink in pubs and in bottles or cans from liquor stores. You should also definitely check out the breweries’ website to find out more.
How do you make craft beer?
Just like wine, if you really want to appreciate the nuances of craft beer, you must know the basic ingredients. These ingredients and the method processing can transform a very ordinary drink and bring it into a world of unimaginable tastes and flavor profiles meant to be savored.
At its essence, beer is grain, water, yeast, and hops. Malted barley (or malt) is the primary beer ingredient. The level of dry roasting provides the color and flavor very similar to the process of coffee beans. Hops can be fruity elements. These are usually apple or citrus. They can also be herbs, pine or any other plant-based element.
The grain is first kilned and mixed with water and starters to convert starch to sugar. It is then distilled to remove any unwanted contaminants. Near the end of this distilling process, hops are added to create a bitter balance to the sweetness. The temperature is the brought down and at this stage, yeast is added to start the fermentation. Each stage of this process lends a different flavor characteristic.
To really embrace the craft beer revolution, you should familiarize yourself with some of the following common terms.
These terms refer to the hue and value of the beer. The light will range from pale straw yellow to a golden tan color. Medium will be ochre with hints of orange and amber. Dark, on the other hand, will either be and opaque –brown or a translucent almost-black color.
In contrast, these terms can also refer to how the beer feels on the palette. Beers that are light will lean towards a cleaner and crisp finish. As a result, heavy-bodied beers tend to coat the mouth with an oily and strong feel.
This character balances out the malt element of the beer. The trick is in achieving the perfect characteristic flavor without overpowering bitterness.
These could be anywhere between citrus fruits to others like banana, plum or cherry.
Cinnamon, coriander, clove, pepper and star anise are usual brewer favorites
Below is a cheat guide to several varieties of craft beer that we are sure you would want to try and explore:
You can categorize a majority of craft beer under ales. These include a number of sub-categories like Indian pale ales, brown ales, porters, stouts and hefeweizens.
Indian Pale ale or IPA is big, bold with tones of flavor. The story of how it got its unique name is quite interesting. Back when England colonized India and the English needed a stronger beer option which would stand up to the long voyage. The used extra hops which made the overall alcohol content higher and worked also to preserve the beer. Common taste profiles include hints of grapefruit, pine, and resin with strong herbaceous elements.
Brown ales, porters and stouts, usually vary, inculcating flavors of fresh seasonal produce. They offer a rich and robust palette experience through the process of roasting the grains to extract flavor and using more hops.
Hefeweizens, derived from German origins, is known for its signature citrus flavor. So, if your beer does not come with a wedge of lime sticking n the glass you’re most likely sipping a hefeweizen.
As opposed to ales, which are fermented on the top, lagers are bottom-fermented. They have a longer fermentation time period of time than ales as well. Lagers though may not have as many flavor variations as ales; but they offer a lovely, smooth finish.
Top tips for buying craft beer
The best advice you could get on learning all the styles of craft beer and choosing the right one for you is to jump right in and get your hands dirty.
Ask, ask, ask.
There is no shame in asking as many questions. Most brewers are very proud of their art and would most likely help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Don’t stop trying
Even if you feel you more or less have found something that appeals to you, don’t stop trying. There are a whole world craft beer categories and sub-categories to completely blow your mind. Your new favorite might just be a few hops away! (Pun intended).
Start from the basics.
It is probably not the best idea to go right away for a double IPA, or a stout. While delicious, the bitterness would most likely be a brutal assault to a novice palette. Start with light, creamy variety and once your taste has developed, move to the more adventurous options.
Most shops offer a customized six pack. This gives you leave a way to try the different options. Most probably you will find something you love.
Though there is something special in the experience of going into a shop and making your selections in person, let’s all admit that isn’t practical all the time. Whole Cellars offer an excellent selection of craft beer at our online store. Now get stunning craft beer delivered directly to your home.