With the surge in local microbreweries and craft beer establishments in the Twin Cities, those of us who are used to indulging in the simple pleasures of the big name beers can feel a bit left out. What happened to grabbing a six pack of Miller Lite and watching the game? While nothing can replace that beautiful American pastime, there’s some incredible brewing going on in the Twin Cities which we traditionalists should not miss out on.Going into a place serving craft beer when you’re accustomed to drinking “beer” beer can be as disorienting as a new age coffee bar when you’re used to drinking “coffee” coffee. “Yes, hi, I’d just like a small coffee. You know, the hot, dark liquid like they have at the gas station?” Not to worry, though, because this simple guide will allow you to confidently walk into any local craft brewery and feel right at home in a whole new world of flavor and alcohol.
Whatever type of beer you drink, you’re always at home among other beer drinkers. Craft or domestic, imported or home brewed, we’re all on the same train to inebriation town — we’re just sitting in different seats on the ride there. You just have to know about style.
Style of beer is something many of us traditionalists have rarely thought about, understandably so since it seems kind of obvious — there’s beer, light beer, and dark beer, right? True, but it gets into more detail than that. At first, the minutiae may seem annoying, but knowing about beer styles will let you navigate any brewery’s menu with ease. If you know which of the most common styles of beer you really enjoy, you can narrow your options down to one or two options right away. In doing so, you save time and money by going straight for the throat…as in pouring beer straight down it.
India Pale Ale
India pale ale, or IPA, is a very popular craft brew style with more hops than most other styles, which tends to give it a citrusy or piney smell and taste. IPAs often contain greater alcohol content than other styles.
Pale ale covers a range of beer, but it’s less hoppy than an IPA, has a milder taste, and contains less alcohol. The commonality amongst this type of beer is that it’s flavorful and drinkable across the board.
The “light” beers of many of the major beer companies you’re used to are actually Pilsners. That said, the craft brew versions of this standard may differ greatly in taste.
Lager is another style you’ve likely encountered from major beer companies. Lagers are slightly heavier than pilsners, both in taste and alcohol content, and have a bit more of a bite to them.
Stouts are a dark colored beer, commonly associated with a popular Irish brewery. The alcohol content is moderate like pilsners and lagers, but the taste can be somewhat bitter or even sweet depending on the brewery that made it.
Hefeweizen is a German wheat beer with a light color and unique yeast flavor. Many people find the taste strong in its own regard, although the alcohol content is moderate.
Although there are many more styles than the six listed above, these are the most common and the others are often “sub-styles,” or derivatives, of these. There are tons of different variations, not to mention the many breweries who create their own styles of beer. As mentioned earlier, if you can hone in on which of these core styles you prefer, you’ll seamlessly navigate any craft beer establishment’s selection.
By Anthony Chiofalo