"Like any art, beer needs a proper context to be truly compelling" - Randy Mosher
The last few years have ushered in a golden era for craft brewing and drinking. Brewers are using old world recipes and reinventing them with non-traditional ingredients, such as chocolate and raspberries. However, for those new to the world of craft beer, learning to discern the flavor profiles and appreciate the subtleties can be a daunting task. To help you get started, here are four ways to learning more about craft beer:
1. Jot down a description and compare it to what others are saying. While drinking your beer, write down a description of what you are tasting. Focus on things such as its flavor, mouth-feel, and aftertaste. Try to think of adjectives that describe your beer, such as “mangoey” or “bubbly”, no matter how bizarre they might sound (that's half the fun). Afterwards, look up your beer’s name on YouTube and see what other people are saying about it. Did their descriptions come close to yours? What words did they use to describe the beer? The great thing about this method is that it helps you build your beer vocabulary and lets you communicate with others in the craft beer community.
2. Visit a brewery and go on a tour. Most larger breweries offer guided tours to the public, which can be an informative and rewarding experience for the aspiring connoisseur. It allows you to observe the whole brewing process from start to finish. You can see what ingredients the brewery uses, where they source them from and how your favorite beverage is actually made. The people leading the tour will often allow you to smell different grains and hops, and are great for answering all of your questions. Best of all, there is usually a tasting at the end of the tour. This allows you to see the processes you observed on the tour culminate to form the delicious beer you are now enjoying. A brewery tour gives you a newfound appreciation for the efforts that go into making each and every single beer.
3. Read a book on the history of beer. The story of beer is fascinating, and largely parallels the rise and fall of many societies. Reading and learning about how different styles of beer came into being will give you a good background for enjoying the multitude of styles available today. Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer: An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink is one of the best books available on learning about and tasting beer. Not only does the book give you an overview of the varying types of beer and how they are made, it also teaches you how to discern commonly found flavors in beer.
4. Make your own brew. Learning by doing is one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with craft beer. Homebrewing kits have made it easier than ever for the novice brewer to get started. After learning the basics, the possibilities for experimentation and creativity are truly endless. Not only does brewing your own beer make a great present to give to your loved ones, it will also allow you to better enjoy other brewers’ beers and how they were made.