Yeast plays a pretty central role in brewing beer. In fact, were it not for these tiny fungi (yeast is a fungus, not a bacteria), there would be no beer. There would be no wine or mead, either. Even most types of bread would be problematic. However, not all yeast is created equal. While it’s absolutely critical to creating beer, many breweries are tinkering with their cash cow. They’re going wild.
When we think about beer, most of us think about an alcoholic beverage made with malt, water, yeast and hops. And, that’s largely true. However, you’ll find a number of other combinations out there, many of them dating back thousands of years. Such is the case with braggots. While not truly a beer, these mead-beer hybrids are becoming more and more popular on the US craft beer scene as small brewers explore their art’s ancient roots.
Today, we take it for granted that the beer we’re consuming will use some type of hops. In fact, hops have been one of the key ingredients for beer for quite a long time – dating back to the Reinheitsgebot in Germany, although it took quite some time for the use of hops to spread throughout Europe and even longer for England to get on board.
There are four primary ingredients for beer – water, hops, yeast and grain/malt. Of those, hops, yeast and grain get a lot of attention. Water seems to take a backseat. It’s just a carrier for the rest of the ingredients, right? Wrong. Actually, water is just as vital to the ultimate character of the beer in question as anything else.
Craft breweries across the country are growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, while Big Beer continues to see a shrinking market share year over year, craft beer continues to grow. It’s only natural that in order to cash in on this trend, big breweries are doing whatever they can. These efforts range from the creation of “craft-like” brands, such as Shock Top and Blue Moon, to the acquisition of actual craft breweries. Buying up craft brands has become incredibly popular, actually and with no Big Beer company more than Budweiser.
Once upon a time, fruit and beer were distinctly different. You chose your beer based on your preferred style – IPA, stout, porter, pale ale, etc., and then based on the strength that you wanted, followed by other tangential things like the hops used in the brewing process. Today, you have those options, but more and more breweries are jumping on the fruit-flavored wagon, as well.
The American craft beer scene changes pretty regularly, driven by drinkers’ tastes as much (or more) than brewer innovation and experimentation. Styles like ultra-hoppy IPAs and high-gravity beers are always popular with some drinkers, but mass appeal waxes and wanes. Currently, one of the most widespread trends is toward low ABV, lower hop session beers. And that might be a bad thing, particularly for craft breweries.
For a very long time now, the beer industry has been male dominated. That’s apparent everywhere you look, from the staff at most older beer brands, to the advertising they put out. Sex sells, and the beer industry has taken full advantage of that for a very long time, marketing their products in conjunction with scantily clad women, and tongue-in-cheek advertising jargon. The craft beer industry, while dedicated to being different from Big Beer, has also failed to avoid the same pitfall.
What is beer without hops? Well, it would be a big, sweet mess, that’s for sure. While hops have not always been used as a bittering agent, they have played a crucial role for many centuries at this point. And, while the noble hops varieties like Saaz and Tettnanger are definitely still in use, particularly when brewing up a traditional German beer, there are many other options out there.
Craft beer drinkers face a number of challenges, but one of the most pressing questions is often whether or not they should cellar a particular beer. While it’s true that a little aging can often have profoundly positive effects on your libations, that’s not always the case. In some instances, cellaring will lead to oxidation and ultimately, un-tasty beer. In fact, some beers really aren’t designed to be cellared at all and the brewer actually wants you to drink it fresh.
You’ve heard the terms “real ale” or “cask ale” before, but you might not be aware of what they actually mean. That’s not surprising. After all, isn’t any ale brewed and bottled or kegged actually “real”? It’s not fake, that’s for sure. Let’s take a few moments to dispel the ambiguity here. Real ale, or cask ale if you prefer, is a delight that every beer drinker should experience at some point.
The craft beer sector has seen incredible changes in the last few years. In 2017, it’s finally grown to account for more than 10% of the US beer industry as a whole for the first time in history. Couple that with the ever-growing number of craft breweries, brew pubs and other related businesses opening across the country and the future looks very bright, despite the inevitable slowdown of overall segment growth. With that being said, there are quite a few factors that will affect the craft beer industry throughout the rest of this year. Let’s take a look at some of the most important.
Beer drinkers know that the ABV (alcohol by volume) of a beer will determine quite a few things. It’ll tell you how many beers of the same ABV you can have before getting sloshed. It can tell you whether or not you might expect some booziness in the taste of the beer. It can also tell you whether the brewer was following a traditional recipe or shooting for an imperial version of a particular beer style.
When you think about beer ingredients, chances are good that you can come up with the classic four. Every beer needs some combination of water, yeast, hops and malt. Otherwise, it’s not beer. If you follow the dictates of the German beer purity law (the Reinheitsgebot), then that’s probably the end of it for you. However, craft brewers are more and more frequently going beyond the pale in terms of what they’re adding to beer, and it results in some interesting, and often delicious, results.
2016 was a big year for craft beer in many ways, from an increasing number of buyouts by Big Beer to the ongoing growth of the industry and even more craft breweries operating in every state of the nation. We’ve seen the rise of interesting new beer styles (New England IPA, anyone?) and more. Where will the industry be heading in 2017, though? Actually, there are quite a few trends emerging that will dominate the year for craft breweries large and small. Below, we’ll look at some of the most important for you to know.
America is slowly moving out from beneath the cloud of Prohibition era legislation. It’s a slow process for some states (we’re looking at you, Georgia and Mississippi), particularly in the Bible Belt. However, all 50 states have seen at least some relaxation of the laws governing brewers and how drinkers can get their hands on the brews offered up by those breweries. One of those is by picking up beer to go right at the brewery, or at a brewpub. While some areas of the country have had this option for a long time, it’s just arriving for others. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways that you can snag some beer to go.
The craft beer market has grown sufficiently and beer lovers have become sophisticated enough that beer and food pairings are now very common. However, sometimes the food isn’t just an accompaniment for the beer, but a key ingredient in the brewing process. Now, habanero and jalapeno peppers are pretty common, as are fruits, berries and other rather conventional foods. No, we’re talking about something else completely.
When it comes to beer styles in the US, the IPA remains the undisputed leader of the pack. Sure, stouts, porters, sours, fruit beers and all the rest rise and fall in popularity, but at the top of the heap, you’ll find IPAs. You only need to look at the shelves of your local bottle shop or grocery store to see just how many different types of IPAs there are today, too. There are West Coast style brews, Southern IPAs, black IPAs and several other options out there. One that’s quickly gaining in both popularity and notoriety is the New England IPA. What sets this style apart from its kin?
Water, yeast, grain and hops are the four primary ingredients in beer. All of them are absolutely crucial, and have a great deal of impact on the finished product. Everything from the alkalinity of the water to the type of yeast will change the flavor profile, body and character of the beer. Hops, while technically a “flavoring” agent, have a lot more to do with the drinking experience than you might think, and there are a very wide range of types out there that can be used to achieve different goals.
Most of the US has finally emerged from under the shadow of Prohibition, with a couple of notable holdbacks (we’re looking at you, Georgia). However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some very strange, even Byzantine laws dealing with beer, alcohol and drinking on the books across the country, and even around the world. Given that beer is not only one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in existence, but the single most popular beverage globally, you’d think legislatures would be doing a little more to get rid of this type of legal tomfoolery, but you’d be wrong. So, without further ado, here are some of the strangest beer laws.