Guest Blogger: Casy Rice

Beer, an acquired taste.

Beer is all but a major food group for some people. Others can’t even stand it. I was once on the list of those who would turn down the coldest beer on the hottest day, simply because I couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t the alcohol or a lack of desire to drink it, I simply couldn’t stomach it. I attribute it to my first attempt at drinking a beer; I was 17 (Gasp! Who wasn’t?) and attending my first party. Someone handed me a warm Budweiser and told me to drink it. Not wanting to be that guy, I drank it. All of it. And for the next 5 years would be held at bay to even the lightest beers. Then one day, something changed. I began humbly, as most do, with a fan favorite Coors light. It was my flavor of choice for the first few months of my new found affinity for an age old beverage. Then, after a few years of dabbling around with the big names in beer, I delved into a new realm.

Rise of the Craft

I have long known of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I have an uncle who drinks it exclusively. I had built it up, through what had always been told to me, that it had terrible flavor. Then I was given this tasty ale, fresh from the draft, and experienced an entirely new taste of beer. Hops. Most beer, that most people are familiar with, taste like “beer.” In recent years there has been an explosion of craft brewers, people who start out in garages, basements, back rooms, etc. These newly popular (they’ve actually been around longer than most people realize) companies specialize in small batch brewing that allows them to experiment with diverse flavors and ideas. They have clever labels and names because they don’t have multi-million dollars marketing programs or Super Bowl commercials. They rely heavily on word of mouth, which means they rely heavily on their product. These companies have also had the benefit of existing in a time of social media, which is a wonderful advertising platform. Now, where to start? For most people, when they got to a bar, restaurant, beer booth at the local market fest, or fair, will look at the tap handles and go with what they know. I would like to share my opinion on getting crafty.

Where to start?

Belgium White, wheat beer, Pale ale, India pale ale (IPA), double India pale ale, stout, brown ale? It’s all very confusing. If you’re feeling adventurous, most breweries offer a sampler. They give you 4 ounces of 10 different beers with a card speaking a little about each beer. If speed dating isn’t your thing, start with a wheat beer, like a Lost Coast Great White or their Tangerine Wheat. Blue Moon is also a popular choice. If you’re already at this level, it’s time to get hoppy. Pale ales are a great start. Most of our local breweries have a pale ale on their menu. Wild Card Brewery’s Liar’s Dice is a wonderful beer. Sierra Nevada Pale ale is nearly a household name. Many times I’ve suggested a beer to a friend and they say, “I don’t like that beer, it’s too heavy.” The glory of craft beer, is that with great taste, comes great content. Alcohol content, that is. Your run of the mill Coors, Bud, even Miller, comes in at 4-5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Once you’ve found an affinity for hops, you’ll fall into a range of anywhere from 6% in a standard IPA to 8%-10% in a double IPA. When I’m told a beer is too heavy, or expensive, I counter with the fact that a single craft beer may occupy the same space as 2 silver bullets. So, start small, ask a bartender, find a brewery. Local breweries are a great place to start. Tap houses are good also. You’ll get to experience new things with people who have a true passion for their craft. Craft brews almost always have an interesting back story. And the next time you’re at a beer booth and they say the Bud Light is the same price as the craft beer you’ve never heard of, ask yourself this: Do I like money? I sure do.

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