There’s beer and then there’s the good stuff, the kind of drink you’ll be talking about long after the night is over. Craft beer is a legitimate force to be reckoned with, boasting an impressive $14.3 billion dollars in sales in 2013. The best beers are made in relatively small batches, with talented brewmasters dedicated to artisanal processes and interesting and/or classic flavors, expanding the notion of what a beer should be, one pint at a time.
We’ve already highlighted some of the best places in Brooklyn to get a cold one, but maybe you’ve never thought much about differences in the brewing process and quality of beers. That’s okay! What is life if not a series of lessons to be learned? Knowledge is power. Learn about that sudsy brew you’re drinking and go forth into the specialty beer store or bar of your choice finally understanding what precisely a hop is. Consider this the only intro you’ll need.
Hops. Know them. Love them.
Hops were originally used to keep beer from spoiling as it traveled around the world, but now it’s just used to impart flavor and aroma, as well as bitterness that serves as a counterbalance to the sweetness of the malt. There are hundreds of different varietals of hops, all of them providing different notes: floral, spicy, citrus, piney, etc.
If you want to really taste your beer, let it warm up a little.
There is something ineffably refreshing about an ice cold beer, but if you want to get the full experience, let it warm up a bit. Cold temperatures mask flavors, so take your beer out of the fridge 15 or 20 minutes before you’re going to drink it.
Mind your ABVs.
ABV, or alcohol by volume, tells you just how strong that beer in your hand is. Some points of reference: Bud Light is 4.2%, Brooklyn Lager is 5.2%, and Sixpoint Begali Tiger is 6.7%. Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout, meanwhile, clocks in at a whopping 10%, and Other Half’s much-hyped All Green Everything triple IPA climbs all the way up to 10.5%. The Jameson barrell-aged IPA Kelso brewed exclusively for Northside sits at a perfectly reasonable, borderline “sessionable” 6%.
There are so many craft breweries in the US that there might be one in your backyard.
There are over 2,700 craft breweries in the United States, with more cropping up every day. Learn about where the beer you’re drinking comes from, and take a tour of a brewery near you.
There’s a beer for every season, and they are all delicious.
While your standard macro-brews taste the same year round, the variety of craft beers available mean that you can have a different drink every time. Discovering your favorite style is the best part of enjoying craft beers. If you maintain a soft spot for the cheap, pale yellow stuff try a craft pilsner; if Yuengling’s your thing, consider a toasty lager like Brooklyn’s or Blue Point. Have more of a taste for whiskey? Try a bourbon barrel-aged stout.