Craft Beer Crash Course
DIPA, Stout, Red Ale, IPA, Doppler, Weisse.
Citra, Simcoe, Mosiac, Cascade.
Hoppy, Malty, Fruity, Yeasty.
When you read those words, you don't generally associate them with beer. However, speak with any Hop-Head or Crafty and they may tell you otherwise!
Welcome to the World of Craft Beer
Craft beer is a funny world; full of interesting and unique takes on various styles of beer. So much so, that no matter your taste, you are bound to find a brew that suits you.
When Did It All Begin?
Beer as many of us know it, originated during the 17th century in Eastern Europe predominantly in monasteries from countries such as Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic where they fermented grains to produce beer, which later evolved into categories such as lagers, Pilners and Dubbels. But this was waaaay before the craft beer movement kicked off! Following prohibition in USA, the law changed during the 1970s which allowed home brewers to make what they want; this lead onto micro-breweries and then full steam ahead to the craft stuff as we know it!
What Does Craft Beer Taste Like?
Fortunately, craft beer is like wine is this aspect. It is very rare to find craft beers that taste the same as one another. There are heaps of various styles (like we named above/below) that use the same ingredients in differing amounts, so it is a case of trying various ones to see what floats your boat.
Many brewers like to use classic styles (explained below) as a guideline as to what each beer should taste like, so we are going to give you a run-down into four major categories:
Probably one of the most common phrases that you'll hear/see when roaming craft bars; BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?
India Pale Ale to be precise. IPAs are all about letting those hop aromas and flavours (whether it be floral/fruity/piney/citrus/herbal/earthy) take the spotlight. Big, bold American hops are front and center here, though the pale and caramel malt profile (very similar to that of Pale Ale) should still provide a clean, supportive foundation and subtle, complementary sweetness to take the edge off the hop bitterness.
What's a DIPA? Essentially an IPA with double the alcohol and increased hops (the bitterness) to counter-balance the increased malt added to the brew.
Want an introduction to a classic craft IPA? Check out Two Tribes' Metroland
New England Pale Ale
The style that was more responsible than any other for launching the American craft brewing scene began as a vehicle for expressing the one ingredient that truly distinguished the U.S. from the European nations where most of our classic styles originated: American hops. Big, bold American hops were unlike any varieties grown in the Old World, and first wave American craft brewers planted their flag with the expressive citrus and pine aromas of North American hops like Cascade.
What to expect: creamy, rich and maybe a slightly hazy brew. Full of citrus and tropical fruit like grapefruit, mango and banana. To help balance all those flavours out, there's a small amount of bitterness to create a delicious sharp finish.
But what should I try!? Why not BrewDog's Hazy Jane
Stout / Porter
This is where things get a little dark... colour wise that is. Stouts and Porters are dark coloured beers, almost taking on a motor oil appearance. Porters tend to be every-day, no-nonsense drinking beers, paying homage to their past; lighter in body and ABV. They utilise a lower amount (if any) of roasted barley or black patent malt (mainly used in the US), allowing for a mellower roast character. Your average Stout is luscious (sometimes slightly sweet), full bodied, carries a heavier ABV and delivers a creamy texture (think Guinness, but better!).
Although they are different, they do share some similar tasting notes, like chocolate, nutty, coffee and caramel. Need a starting point? Taste Siren's Breakfast Stout
Sours / Saisons / Goses
Time to go off-piste with Saisons, Sours and Goses; they are created by using wild yeast and the addition of fruit during the ageing process.
These beers are interesting and natural, reminiscent of farmhouse ciders. They come in a range of flavour profiles like berry or tropical fruits! Great for food pairings, providing a clean, refreshing balance to cut through fatty foods.
Note: a Gose will use salty water as a point of difference, hence Salty Kiss below! Yum!
- Alex Rondel