Training Wheels: Dad Let Go A While Ago Craft Beer Guidance

Beer has evolved an insatiable amount over the last few decades, but most people still have had only Big Beer experiences. It’s not unreasonable to think that if your only interaction with beer has been macro lager, i.e. Bud, Coors, Miller, or a big bitter IPA that you might be turned off to the idea of beer. Which isn’t to say that beer is for everyone, but there is probably a beer for 99% of drinkers.

If you identify as a wine drinker, beers from Belgium and American made Belgian styles are an easy gateway to the other side. Belgian yeast tends to produce more esters (fruity characteristics like banana, floral notes, orchard fruit) that ping as desirable for white wine fans. 

  • For fans of sparkling wine, saisons are a highly attenuated (high carbonation and very dry) farmhouse style that accentuates spicy grainy notes and high ester characteristics. 

  • If French whites are more your speed, look no further than many Belgian made pale sours, also in saison or grisette (a wheat heavy farmhouse style that tends to have a slightly softer body, but is a lovely starting point for lighter sours)

  • If Napa Chardonnay is your beverage of choice, trappist tripels are perfect. Big, rich, softer bodies than some of their smaller cousins, tripels are pale in color but large in flavor and alcohol. 

  • Santa Barbara pinot noir is known for it’s bright cherry, plum, and floral notes, which are very common flavors found in trappist dubbels, usually with a little less acidity than the wine, but trades that off for a nice bright carbonation.

  • Full bodied, high alcohol, pouring a deep garnet/purple, quadrupels are a nice fruity jumping off point for Cab lovers.

Not all wine translates directly into Belgian styles. One of the ‘newer’ styles that’s gaining a lot of traction is Hazy IPA. These are IPAs characterized by low to medium-low bitterness, softer body, bright hop aromas, and an opaque golden orange color. Some of the larger scale commercial examples of these beers present with a lot of tropical fruit and melon character, perfect for any viognier or pinot grigio fan.

One of the primary roadblocks for a lot of wine drinkers is the oft required bitterness found in most beers. People find a lot of comfort in stouts for this reason, as they tend to mask the bitterness with high roast and chocolately characteristics. Another style on the rise is the idea of a pastry stout, or dessert inspired stouts with lots of adjuncts (anything not one of the four core beer ingredients which are water, malt, hops, and yeast). 

The next easy step into craft beer for many is into the expansive world of sour ales. The most accessible sour is typically a gose, which is a sour salted wheat beer with coriander. The style lends itself to fruit additions wonderfully, and as such, is how most people experience their first sour beer. The acidity, the salinity, and even the malt bill of mostly wheat tends to be in even values, all very light and refreshing. German in origin, Gose isn’t supposed to be strong or dominant. The German’s also came up with another great even-tempered sour, the Berlinerweisse. A light sour wheat beer, low in alcohol and medium-high in acid, is typically served with a fruit syrup. Raspberry or Woodford syrups are most common, but American made berliner weisse often come with fruit additions done at the brewery. It’s a great base to do all sorts of experimentation with, and many brewers have done exactly that. The Bruery, based out of Placentia in Orange County, uses a berlinerweisse for most of it’s dessert inspired sours, and Grimm (gypsy brewer mostly based in New York) makes a series of beers called Pop!, a “desert berliner weisse”.

Long story short, even if you don’t fancy yourself a beer drinker, there’s probably a beer for you. If you don’t want one, that’s ok too. There’s also no such thing as a “girly” or “manly” beer, there’s just beer. Whether you want fruit, light, dark, sour, hoppy, thick, high ABV, beer is made for the masses. Most taproom, liquor store, brewery, or watering hole staff will be more than happy to guide you on your journey. To quote the great philosopher Simpson, “Beer is the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” He is also quoted as saying “Mmmm… beer 

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