Archive for April, 2015

Beer Counselor #3

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , on April 22, 2015 by cueball

growler beer

Growlers are awesome.  While I am obligated to say so because of my day job, I actually do believe it.  Growlers allow you to get fresh beer from your local growler fill station to enjoy on your couch, by the pool, on a picnic, or wherever your beer drinking heart desires.

The growler originated sometime late in the 19th or early in the 20th century as a way for workers to enjoy a beer on their lunch breaks.  The modern half gallon glass jug version started in the late 80s with the Otto Brothers Brewing Company in Idaho.  At least that’s the story and it’s good a claim as any so we will go with that one.

Regardless of where or why they were created, growlers have become an integral part of the craft beer movement here in the United States.

So, you’ve gone to your local brewery or growler fill station, purchased a new growler, and gotten your favorite beer.  You’ve grilled out with friends and shared your growler and it now stands sad and empty.  What do you do?

First, rinse it out with water and then wash it.  Unless you are a home brewer (if you are a home brewer you already know how to clean a growler) you probably do not have a stiff brush that can get down into the bottom of the growler and scrub it clean.  However, if you rinse it out after its contents have been emptied into your belly, you should not need to use a brush.  The best way to clean it is to drop in a dollop of cleaning detergent (best is unscented and non-bleach based), run warm water to fill it to a little less than half.  Hopefully you have not thrown away the cap because now you are going to reseal it and shake it.  After a few seconds pour out the contents and then rinse it out until there are no more suds.

Once you rinse out the detergent you will need to rinse it with sanitizer.  That’s to eliminate odors and any other bugs that will affect the taste of your next fill.  You can get a good sanitizer from your local home brewing shop.  Most sanitizers are simple to use: place a little in the growler and fill with water.  Just follow the directions on the package on how much you will need to sanitize the growler.  Usually, once the sanitizer is introduced to the growler you pour it out again and then let it air dry.  Once it is dry it is ready to be filled again.

Work GrowlerNow, the growler is cleaned and sanitized.  You are ready to go and get it filled.  Here is a last bit of advice that will help improve the taste of the beer and will help the growler station not waste beer in the form of foam:  If at all possible cool the growler off in a refrigerator or in a cooler before you bring it to get filled. This can be hard especially as the weather turns warmer in late spring and summer.  Now, if you come see me or my compatriots at Craft, bring your growler and have us put in the cooler for you as you have a pint and maybe a bite to eat before we fill it.

As I said, this does two things.  One, it keeps the beer from changing temperature drastically which will affect the taste at the end.  Two, it helps the person filling it by getting the temperature of the glass (or metal) close to that of the beer, keeping the beer from foaming up too much during the fill.  Now, you want the growler to be cool, not frozen.  If ice forms inside it will also affect taste.  That is the one of the reasons you should not freeze your glasses at home when drinking craft beer.

Once you have the growler filled and you take it home, in my opinion, you have about 7-10 days to drink it at its optimum taste, if you don’t open it.  If you do open it and have a pint and then put it back in the refrigerator I would say you have another 2-3 days before you affect the taste.

If you do these things you will take care of your growler and give yourself many good beer experiences.

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Beer Counselor #2

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by cueball

I get a lot of questions about beer styles.  We have a lot of people who are just getting into craft beer or have gotten into craft beer but think IPA is the only craft beer and it is certainly the only one they have ever drank. So, this week, I will describe the major beer styles.

Beer is primarily broken up into two major categories:  ales and lagers.  Now, lager beers are bottom fermented (for the most part).  They ferment at cooler temperatures and for longer periods.  That makes them clearer, crisper, and cleaner in appearance and taste.

Ales are top fermented and the first style of beer discovered.  They ferment at a higher temperature, close to room temperature and have a shorter fermentation time.  They tend to have a fruitier aroma and more complex taste and the yeast can sometimes hang around giving a cloudier appearance.

Now under each of those groups there are numerous styles.  This will not be a complete list.  There are far too many styles and substyles for a beginning craft beer drinker to absorb.  Depending on who you go to for information there are somewhere over 70-90 different styles.  For a complete list here is the Beer Judge Certification Program and the CraftBeer.com list from the Brewer’s Association.

Lagers

  • Lagers – Malty and darker than pilsners.
  • Pilsners – Crisp, light, and a brighter hoppiness then lagers.
  • Bocks – Similar to pilsners, but maltier.

Ales

  • Pale ale – The style that started the craft beer revolution in the United States. Light appearance with a touch of hop bitterness and flavor.
  • IPA – A pale ale with more hops and more alcohol. Originally created to withstand the trip from England to India in 18th and 19th centuries. Adapted by American brewers to be as hoppy as humanly possible
  • This is the biggest question I get: What is the difference between a pale ale and an IPA.  I often get told by customers I like pale ales when what they mean is I like IPAs.  They are different categories and have different attributes.   First level beer nerdery:  knowing the difference between an American IPA and an American Pale Ale.
  • Brown ale – Maltier and darker than pales. More toasty and chocolate in taste then pales but still has a good hop presence.
  • Porters/Stouts – Really dark in color and little to any hop taste. Can be sweet are really dry in taste.

Then there are smoked beers, sour beers, Belgian style beers and other random hybrids.  Smoked beers use malt that has been smoked with some type of wood.  Sours are usually made sour by some type of wild yeast or bacteria introduced during the fermentation process.  Belgian style beers are a variety of fun sours and fruit based beers that deserve their own blog post.  Hybrids are beers that combine the yeasts and fermenting processes of lagers and ales.

If you are a craft beer newbie this should be a good start in craft beer.  If you want to go even more in depth I would recommend the Beer Judge Certification Program website and the Craftbeer.com website to get started.  Those are good resources for anyone at any level of craft beer nerdom.

Beer Counselor #1

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2015 by cueball

“I don’t know what I want, just give me your favorite beer.” – Many, many customers

Hello, fellow beer travelers, this is the first installment of the Beer Counselor. Whether you are a craft beer geek, craft beer server, or craft beer newbie, I hope you can enjoy the friendly advice I plan to dispense here.

For the first question I want to take on “just give me your favorite beer.”  As a bartender I here this from customers a lot.  Honestly, that is a horrible thing to ask your beer server.  Don’t do it.  Please don’t do it.  It isn’t that is a bad question, it is an incomplete question.  If you go to any good craft beer bar, Craft Tasting Room is one such place, tell the bartender or server what beers you like or what kind of tastes you like.  They will give you recommendations and let you taste a couple of different beers and let you decide.  You can also get a flight with a few recommendations from the bartender and really explore a few beers at once.

There are two reasons “just give me your favorite beer” is a terrible thing to ask a bartender.  The first is taste is completely subjective and if your bartender is a beer geek he may have really weird likes.  What I like, another beer geek may hate (hoppy beers, sours, smoked beer, etc.).  I’m a beer geek, and we may like weird things that you will detest.  At any given time, there might be some single hopped American IPA, a lambic, or a smoked beer that I really love on tap.  If your favorite beer is Samuel Adams Lager or Stella Artois, and this is your first time tasting a sour, you probably won’t like it.

True story (anyone who works in a craft beer bar has similar ones), one Friday or Saturday night a customer tells me has never been to Craft before and is just getting into craft beer.  He asks me what my favorite beer is, I tell him and he says, “Great let’s go with that.”  I try to explain that this beer is a sour and give him an idea of what it tastes like.  Before I offer him a chance to sample it, he cuts me off and says, “Just give me the beer.”  I say, “OK” and get him his beer and he pays for it.  I go to help another customer, but out of the corner of my eye I see him flag down another bartender and gesture to his beer as if it is crap and ask for another beer.  Now, I’m sure instead of learning the lesson to ask for help from people who know a subject better than you do, he blamed me for giving him a bad beer.

That leads to the second reason it is a bad question.  Your bartenders and servers are there to help you have a good experience.  We want you to get a beer you like because if you get a beer you like and have a good time, you will give us good tips and you will come back. If you help us a little bit by giving us some parameters to advise you, we can help you a lot.  I don’t know if the guy I tried to help had a good experience or not, but I don’t remember seeing him since.

That is what this is about, you having the best experience you can when you go into a craft beer bar.  Whether you have been drinking craft beer for years and love rauchbiers or you heard about these crazy IPAs from a co-worker the other day and you really want to try one, let us help you find something you’ll like and enjoy.  So, in a nutshell tell your bartender what you like if you don’t see anything you recognize on the tap wall and ask for samples.

One last thing, be open to trying different things.  You may tell your bartender what you like and they will come back with something that doesn’t look anything like what you described.  Trust me, taste it.  If you have a good bartender who knows everything on the tap wall and knows what you are describing, he may surprise you with something you did not think you would like, but is actually perfect.  That is the joy of craft beer (and most anything actually).  Being pleasantly surprised and expanding your world just a little bit.

Until next week.