July 30, 2015

A Whiskey Drinker’s Intro To Craft Beer

the craft beer basicsMuch like whiskey the world of craft beers has truly exploded over the last few years.  There is literally limitless options in the market of different beers that a person can enjoy, and also like whiskey each style will bring a variety of different flavors, aromas, mouthfeel, and colors.  Like any new adventure into an arguably oversaturated market the sheer amount of options available to consumers is practically overwhelming.  Fear not over the course of this article we will divulge into the craft beer world and discuss a few options that might appeal to a whiskey drinker looking to take the leap into the world of beer.

The Craft Beer Basics

Let’s start with Lagers and Pilsners, these are the beers that this country is built on.  Budweiser, Coors, Miller, and PBR all fall in this category, but really these beers are something most craft fans abhor.  That’s not to say that lagers are to be cast aside like yesterday’s dish water. 

When it comes to lagers Samuel Adams Boston Lager serves as a great starting point to get a better idea of what a lager should taste like.  Boston Lager is a vienna style lager and unlike some its macro counterparts you will immediately notice that the beer has a more amber color to it.  Samuel Adams makes their lager to have more body and has a nice malty finish to the beer allowing to beer to be somewhat on the robust side without being heavy. 

Truth be told Sam Adams has become something of a fall back option in the craft beer world, but it’s impact on craft beer drinkers is undeniable. Many people, myself included will site Sam Adams as one of their “gateway beers” that helped turn them from the corporate giants of the beer world to craft enthusiasts.

craft beerPales Ales would likely be the next step in a natural progression to beer.  Pale ales are typically more malty beers still but are where you really start to beers different hops and a variety of flavor as a result of hops.  Really the best way to introduce yourself to the pale ale style of beer is with Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale.  This beer is by far one of the most recognizable beers you will see on the shelf, even its label is beautiful.  Why Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale holds up so well is that it’s really just an extremely well made beer.  It’s well balanced and always fresh while being easy to drink and always refreshing. 

Sierra Nevada balances out the bitterness of the hops and malt in the beer with notes of caramel flavor and a nice citrus finish.  Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale is another beer that many people owe credit too for introducing them to the ways of better beer and it’s a beer that makes it’s way into my fridge on a regular basis.

How To Choose An IPA

how to choose an IPAIf you want to dive in deeper to craft beer you can’t go wrong with India Pale Ale, or IPA.  IPA is arguably the most popular craft beer style and are always well represented on any top beer list that you can find. 

IPA is typically a more hoppy versions of beers within the pale ale family.  The reasons why they are so popular varies but typically IPA gives big bold flavors that give beer enthusiasts pause and make them have to think about what’s in their glass (in a good way).  IPA’s are also very popular because this is where you really start to see the ABV in a beer start to climb sometimes even reaching the double digits in ABV percentages. I could ramble on for hours about different IPA’s out that that everyone should try but the best starting point for introducing IPA is Lagunitas IPA.  

Every beer that Lagunitas makes is truly enjoyable and well crafted and their IPA is by far one of my favorites, the beer pours a beautiful golden color with a nice white head that’s complemented with a fresh hoppy and citrus aroma.  Everything in this brew is balanced out flawlessly, the body is slightly dense and almost sticky but the overall product is still on the light side and refreshing. Lagunitas is available practically everywhere so even if you are already familiar with craft beers if this has somehow blown past your radar grab a 6 pack of it, you won’t be disappointed.

Stout Beer Vs Porter

Lastly I would like to touch on porters and stouts, wonderfully roasty big bodied bigger flavored brews.  Stouts and Porters are dark beers made with roasted malts and of course water, hops barley and a litany of other ingredients. 

Typically what differentiates the two styles is alcohol content, the term stout was traditionally used as a term for strongest or “stoutest” Porter. Both styles are excellent beers and I would go as far to say that they generally are the most popular amongst the Sommbeer staff. 

Bourbon Barreled Craft Beer For The Whiskey Drinker

bourbon barreled beerThis article is meant as an intro to craft beer for the average whiskey drinker so most of the recommendations I’ve made thus far have been something thats easier to find and very true to each styles traditional flavors, however one of the biggest and most delicious trends in craft beer right now is the aging of beer inside of bourbon barrels. 

Stout, or any beer, aged in bourbon barrels is a special treat.  Beer fermenting in these oak vessels typically pick up not only the flavor of the barrel but also the flavors of the bourbon that once lived inside said barrel giving a beer an extra dimension.  Dragon’s Milk is a Bourbon Barrel Aged imperial stout that is brewed by the good people at New Holland Brewing.  This beer is available year round and and distributed in 22 of the United States, primarily in the Mid-West and East coast and is an excellent choice as a beer to ignite a love affair bridging the gap between whiskey and craft beer . 

The beer pours just black and has a definite bourbon aroma as well as a pronounced bourbon taste that is backed with coffee, vanilla, and a bit of chocolate.  Dragon’s Milk has a fairly substantial body that is thick and creamy and possesses a warming quality, much like bourbon, that warms up nicely in the mouth and belly. 

There’s other bourbon barrel stouts out there that get more press, and for good reason as the majority of them are delicious, but of the many bourbon barrel stout selections I’ve tried if a beer is more satisfying than Dragon’s Milk the difference is marginal. Dragon’s Milk really isn’t a starter beer, it’s highly acclaimed in the beer community and has earned its reputation, but it’s for the purpose of introducing a whiskey fan to craft beer it fits the bill perfectly.

Beer like whiskey is a rapidly expanding market,  there’s new limited releases out practically every week and like any other adult beverage it’s not exactly a cheap hobby to start divulging into.  $10-$15 for a 6 pack probably won’t make or break anyone who reads this but it’s nice to know what you’re getting yourself into when venturing into uncharted territory.  Hopefully this article will open some doors and help whiskey fans who might be curious about craft beer check out some of the awesome stuff going on in the beer world and help provide some fantastic companions for our whiskey brethren.

Guest Contributor: Sommbeer

For more information on craft beer including plenty of beer reviews and commentary of topics going on within the craft beer community please check us out at sommbeer.com .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Danielle Cherrick

Danielle loves a good glass of wine. She enjoys exploring various kinds of spirits and learning more about what she's drinking so she can enhance her palate and tasting skills.