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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Beer – it comes in a very wide range of styles, from conventional pilsners and pale ales to more exotic options like black ales and imperial varieties. However, there’s one that you might not know quite so well, and that’s gaining quite a bit of traction among American beer drinkers – sours. Not sure what a sour beer is or why you’d want to drink one in the first place? Think that sour beers only come from Belgium and are limited to just lambics? Let’s clear up some of that confusion.
Sure, you’ve seen the six-pack on the shelf at your local bottle shop, but you might not have been brave enough to pony up for hard root beer. “Not Your Father’s Root Beer” is perhaps the single most recognizable version of what’s becoming a national trend – hard soda. What’s it all about, though?
Sure, the cold months of the year are usually dominated by stouts and porters – dark, heavy beers that offer a lot of flavor and complexity. However, they’re also the time of year when craft breweries release their latest winter warmers. What the heck’s a winter warmer and why should you consider opting for one of these rather than that bottle of stout? If you’re not entirely clear on the place of a warmer in your beer fridge, here’s a handy primer.
Beer is brewed in a bewildering range of styles. There are stouts, dry stouts, milk stouts, oatmeal stouts, coffee stouts and more, and that’s just one branch of a rather massive family tree. There are IPAs and APAs. There are kolschs, hefeweizens, and tons of others out there. Of course, the sheer diversity means that you’re more likely to find something that you’ll love and the process of finding your perfect brew can be a lot of fun in and of itself. With that being said, the beer market runs in cycles.
You stop in at your local bottle shop to pick up some suds for the weekend. You grab a six-pack of your preferred brew and head to the checkout. Then, you head home, where you’re able to enjoy those six beers (in either bottled or canned form). That’s how most beer lovers do things, but it’s beginning to change.
The craft beer world is all about innovation and reinvention. Numerous styles have been modified and tweaked, and some new ones created as well. However, one of the trends that’s getting a lot of focus these days is the process of barrel aging beer. This is actually nothing new – it’s something old that’s been brought back. Barrel aging was the way it was done for hundreds of years (perhaps thousands) before the advent of modern brewing and stainless steel.
The craft beer world seems to run in cycles, with specific styles rising in popularity, only to fall back as another replaces it. A few years ago, ultra-strong beers were incredibly popular. Then, session-style beers rose to take their place. Dark beers were very popular at one point. Today, the style that’s becoming more and more popular is the IPA. If you’re new to the world of craft beer, it pays to know what’s out there.
Chances are good that when you hear the term “smoked”, you think of things like ham, sausage, salmon, chicken or some other meat product. There are good reasons for that – smoked meats are really all the American public is used to seeing. However, craft brewers are changing that and they’re doing so in some inventive, innovative and downright tasty ways. Enter the world of smoked beer.
Beer has been part of human culture for thousands of years. In that sense, things will change very little through the end of 2014 – we’re still beer lovers, and it’s still the drink of the masses. However, there are some changes looming on the horizon, and whether you’re a brewer, a would-be brewer or just someone who appreciates the time, dedication and talent required to brew real beer, it pays to know what’s coming down the pipe. Here’s a peak at the future for you.
We’ve all been there before. You buy a six-pack of a new brew that looks like it’ll be great, but after the first sip or two, you realize your error. Whether it’s too hoppy, too malty or just too “out there” for your particular tastes, you’re now stuck with the majority of a six-pack that you’ll never drink. And you’re out the money for the purchase, too. While that expense might not have been particularly large back when big beer dominated and you only paid $5.00 for the six-pack, now that a decent option from a craft brewery costs $9 and up, it’s a bit of a setback. Thankfully, there are new options out there that allow you to explore the world of craft beer without quite so much risk.
Remember when beer tasted like, well, beer? Once upon a time, you could pop open a bottle and regardless of the brewery of origin, the contents were going to taste pretty similar. However, with the rise of the craft beer movement, beer doesn’t have to taste like beer anymore. There are some rather creative breweries out there doing some innovative, and sometimes downright strange, things with their brews. Here’s a quick rundown of the more uniquely flavored beers on the market.
There’s a nip to the air, the leaves are changing colors, and you’re gearing up for the succession of end-of-year holidays. Whether you love the fright and fun of Halloween, the food at Thanksgiving or the family togetherness of Christmas, fall and winter offer a lot to enjoy. For the craft beer lover, the last few months of the year bring some interesting options from a lot of different breweries. If you’re gearing up for fall, make sure to check out a few of these tasty seasonal brews to get your craft on.