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.
Craft beer has become hugely popular across the US. It’s grown from a miniscule segment of the market to a $22 billion industry. It’s also the fastest-growing alcohol segment in the world. While Big Beer sees mounting losses, craft beer sees growth and success. If you think that breeds discontent, you’re right. Big Beer isn’t standing idly by while newcomers erode the customer base.
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.
Hops are used to help preserve beer and to give it the necessary bitterness to balance out the sweetness of the malts. It’s long been known that hops have a lot of interesting capabilities. They’re antibacterial, antifungal and can actually offer quite a few health benefits. However, new research indicates that the little cone-shaped buds might actually be capable of something else – fighting cancer. Can you prevent cancer by downing a cold one?
The rise of craft beer has been spurred in large part by the increasing popularity of home brewing. The vast majority of craft beer head brewers started out doing it at home in small batches. They discovered that not only were they able to make a palatable beer, but that they actually enjoyed the process for its own sake. Equal parts cooking and science, brewing is more than an art – it’s a science. But it’s one that you don't need a degree to get into.
With the rise of craft beer, brewers have really started experimenting with a lot of new styles, particularly here in the States. There are interesting takes on smoked porters, new styles of stouts that incorporate hot peppers. There’s even beer being brewed with yeast cultivated from some unlikely sources (we’re looking at you, Rogue, and you’re Beard Beer offering).
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.
When you think of craft breweries like Sweetwater, Dogfish Head, Oskar Blues and the rest, chances are good you’re picturing beer and not much else. That’s what they do, right? They’re breweries. What else is there for them to do? Actually, a number of small breweries are taking things a step further and getting into the distilling business as well. There are plenty of reasons for this, and for many breweries it makes a great deal of sense. Are the spirits produced actually worth your time and money, though?