Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ice Cold Beer Here!

It's almost summer and you know what that means BBQ season! Yee-haw! In my opinion there is nothing quite as tasty as a grilled burger, corn-on-the-cob, and an ice cold beer on a Sunday evening.


Beer has gotten pretty fancy over the last few years and I now frequently find myself perusing the ice-cold aisle at the grocery store not knowing what to bring home. You know how I feel about an unanswered question... I'm like a pit-bull that never lets go. Don't ask me for details (it's all very 007) but I have a Beer Czar. Yup, I'm that cool. He knows a lot about all things alcohol and was kind enough to anonymously answer my questions about beer. Read, buy, uncap, and enjoy. 

What is the difference between ale, lager, pilsner, stout, wheat beer, and porter?

Beers come in a variety of styles. All of these styles are contingent upon the ingredients and the brewing process used.

For example:
  • An Ale is typically darker and more bitter in style and flavor additives like hops are usually plentiful
  • A Lager is a lighter style
  • A Pilsner is actually a lager but brewed with a technique founded in Plzen (or Pilsner) which is a city in the Czech Republic
  • Wheat Beer is a lighter, sweeter style that is brewed with wheat

What is a microbrew? Why are they so popular right now?           

Microbrew - better known as “craft beers” - are beers that are locally produced in small batches in a small Brewery. In general, craft beers are dark, hoppy (more bitter) and generally are higher in alcohol than your mainstream beer. Craft beers are incredibly popular (double digit growth in volume) since they offer unique styles and flavors that are appealing to consumers who want to try something new. The “craft beer” craze has capitalized on being local, unique and given the industry some personality and fun. 

Beer consumers (like wine consumers) have become increasingly more educated and their palates for quality and flavor have expanded. Knowledge of the brewing processes at the consumer level has expanded and many people are beginning to “home brew” or create their own beers/styles at home. Craft beers will continue to grow as long as the consumer remains engaged and willing to experiment. The risk the craft beer industry faces is an oversaturation of brands to choose from (1500 new breweries launched in the US in 2012 alone). For more info here's an interesting article you may want to check out from Business Insider.

Now, on the flip side, the import beer category provides authenticity, tradition and consistency. Import beer brands have been brewing the same recipes for hundreds of years. They pride themselves on quality. Hence, the import beer category continues to be in growth mode.

What are some less-known beers that are worth trying? 

There is a style of beer or brand out there for everyone. One of the fun parts as a consumer is the task to find a beer that they like. There are so many options – many of the safest bets are import beer brands that have been around for hundreds of years.

The beer industry continues to thrive with the consumer. One of the fastest growing segments in beer right now is in the gluten-free beer category. Celiacs or consumers who are following a gluten-free diet or lifestyle have generally not had an option for alcohol consumption outside of gluten free producuts like wine or cider. Now, these consumers can drink a beer without the gluten contents. One of the most popular out in the market right now is a brand from Spain called DAURA. This beer doesn’t have the gluten content BUT tastes just like a beer.

What beer do you recommend for a woman vs. a man? Why? 

Women generally like lighter styles of beers. Wheat beers, shandy’s or light lagers are very popular with women – particularly in the summer when dark hoppy beers feel too heavy. However, there are many woman that like hoppy styles… its just a matter of finding the style you like.

Tap vs. bottle? Does it effect flavor? 

Draft beer provides the truest representation of a beer if it is served properly. Keg beer, is for the most part, climate controlled and kept away from sunlight (sunlight is beers biggest enemy since it causes bacteria to grow and in turn gives off a taste of skunkiness and sourness).

Best beer bar you've ever been too? 

There are an abundance of great beer bars throughout the US and abroad. The best ones are the ones that have an extensive menu that mixes local beers, import brands and options for unique styles. BUT, most importantly, the best beer bars are the ones that provide sociability with your friends… beer is meant to be served and enjoyed in group settings. Places void of karaoke, loud music, and loud TVs would be my choice. A knowledgeable and trained staff helps immensely as well – attention to detail in areas such as pouring the beer correctly, in the correct style of glassware, using clean glasses, etc. all adds to greatness (or disappointment) in the experience. Btw, this is a pretty cool chart.

Any good gift ideas to give someone who really likes beer?

A true beer connoisseur deserves to experience a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich Germany. Other (cheaper) options would be a home Kegerator system (for the man cave) or a Home Brewing Kit.

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