About 15 years ago, a friend turned me on to craft beer. At that time my beer of choice was Amstel Light or Heineken with an occasional Sam Adams lager but I had really never tried anything too crazy. Part of the problem was Florida. Back then, Anheuser Busch had effectively blocked any craft beer by setting a bottle height limit. This meant any bottled beer larger than a 12 oz was not allowed on the shelves so we were really limited to just the basic. Plus, craft brewing was still pretty new and hardly anyone in the south was brewing so as far as selection was concerned, there was not much to choose from.
I remember when my friend offered me my first craft beer; I said something like “do you have anything light” and he immediately closed his cooler, said no, and then basically tried to dismissed me. I clarified and said, “no I just meant a light colored beer and nothing too dark”. He totally changed his attitude and selected one for me and from then on my beer drinking life changed dramatically.
Over the years, craft beer has established itself as a challenge to the big beer makers and the industry is taking chunks out of the domestic beer market. While this is a good thing, part of the problem is the larger distributors like InBev (Anheuser Bush) are starting to buy up the smaller craft breweries. Regardless, if you have never had a craft beer, you need to try them because you really do not know what you are missing. Don’t misunderstand me. There is a place in this world for an ice cold Budweiser, but there are more places for a craft beer. Craft beer is actually more complex than wine and it is much harder to brew a batch of beer than it is to make wine; additionally, the flavor of craft beer is much more complex than and it can be a lot of fun to pair your beer with your meals.
Right now, however, I just want to talk to those of you who are not drinking craft beer and encourage you to give it a try. Here are a few beers you can start with that are not too crazy and are a solid introduction to craft beer.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – You can find this beer just about everywhere these days and it is a solid first craft beer. It is a little hoppy but it has a nice clean, smooth, piney finish.
Anchor Steam – This is kind of a lager but they use steam in the brewing process and this is really the first beer I started to drink regularly.
Anchor Liberty Ale – This is the first American IPA
New Belgium Fat Tire – This is a really good Amber Ale and another really good intro beer
If you like any of those, I would encourage you to try others in their stable of beers. Right now the most popular types of beer seems to be IPAs or India Pale Ale and both Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have a good selection of these. Of course there are others you can try and any Sam Adams beer is worth the effort if you have not tried any of them. The good news with these beers is that most people who are beer drinkers will like these. They are not so far afield that they will turn anyone off and every beer drinker should be able to enjoy these.