Surviving Dinner

Episode II: Brewskis


Today the plan is to focus on the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the World: Beer! I’m going to give a rundown of some of the most popular varieties, suggest some great breweries to try, and get you prepped for that business trip to Denver. 

Pilsner– Light straw to golden in color, Pilsner is a distinctive style of pale lager named after the town of Pilsen, Czech Republic, where the beer was invented in 1842. Pilsner is pale and slightly hoppy while being exceedingly easy to drink. Best choice hands down for a long football Sunday. (Beck’s, Pilsner Urquell, Samuel Adam’s Noble Pils, Pacifico)
 
Wheat Beer – Including styles like witbier in Belgium or hefeweizen in Bavaria, what makes this beer standout is the use of wheat to replace much of the standard malted barley (bet you didn’t need a BA in Chemistry to figure that one out). It has a cloudy color due to suspended yeast and wheat proteins, is usually flavored with spices like coriander and orange, and can taste faintly of cloves and banana. Try one in place of a mimosa next time you feel like making brunch less fruity. (Blue Moon, Hoegaarden, Franziskaner, Maine’s own Allagash White)
 
India Pale Ale (IPA) – Legend has it this beer came about when British sailors en route to India found a way to keep their beer from spoiling by adding ridiculous amounts of hops to the brew. The hops would prevent bacteria growth and impart a strong piney, citrus flavor by the end of the journey that kept those Brits chugging away with imperial fervor. After the Carter administration had deregulated the brewing industry in 1979, a vast expansion of American craft brewers has been leaning on “hop heads” everywhere to keep them afloat by drowning in a vast sea of IPAs, making it the true king of American beers. The quintessential American IPA has a golden to reddish color with medium body and a strong herbal bitterness. This is definitely not a beer for the faint hearted; but, for those of us who are hooked on hops, it’s the ale of choice. (Dogfish 60 Minute IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5)
 
Stout– Stouts (or stout porters) get their dark color from roasted malt or barley and get their name both from being the strongest beers a brewer would make and from being the preferred beverage of London river porters in the 1720s. Stouts are traditionally low in carbonation with a creamy head and can take on a variety of flavors such as coffee or chocolate based of the type and treatment of the grains. Though most people think of stouts as a filling beer, the most famous example, Guinness, has about the same calories per pint as Budweiser…and it doesn’t suck! (Guinness, Murphy’s, Rogue Chocolate Stout)

Belgian Strong Ale – To true worshippers of the faith, Belgium is the Mecca of Beers. Honing their craft in monasteries at a time when people really did drink beer because it was safer than water (look for “Trappist” or “Abbey” depending on whether the beer was brewed by one of the eight remaining Trappist breweries or is merely of the “monastic style”), Belgians have a rich tradition of making incredibly complex (and boozy) beer. Often the ales will be labeled as an enkel (single), dubbel (double), or tripel (tripple) coinciding with the amount of malt added and thus the alcohol content. Belgian Ales can be spicy, fruity, sweet, aromatic, and deceptively strong. These are true sipping beers and are worth savoring; especially because they tend to be a little on the pricey side…however; if you are ready to take the leap into the realm of  the true beer connoisseur, Belgian Ales are the real deal. (Leffe Blonde, Duvel, Chimay Red or White, Delirium Tremens, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Pauwel Kwok) 
 
 
For further study I recommend you check out www.beeradvocate.com. They have a review on just about every beer or brewery you’ll come across and from the descriptions they provide, you can tell these guys are legit. Another excellent source in printed form is
The World Guide To Beer, written in 1977 by Michael Jackson (and no, it’s not that Michael). Known as “The Beer Hunter”, Mr. Jackson’s first beer book pretty much lays out the modern theory of beer styles, categorizing a variety of beers from around the world and giving beer nerds a reference for generations to come.  

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