DRINKING YELLOW BEER out of cans is fine when you’re in college, but once you hit your mid 20s, it’s probably time for your beer to grow up too. To be honest, you should probably ditch the 24-can packs by your junior year. Sure, a watered-down lager has its place in the adult male’s life. An all-day party and cookout by the pool? Bud Light might be the only thing in the cooler. By all means, drink up and enjoy. Your buddies are coming over for an entire weekend of football? You might be drinking so much, a Coors is called for.
But for the rest of your beer enjoyment time, isn’t it time you really start enjoying your beer?
Crunch that last can, and upgrade your beer. Actually, if you’ve been used to buying your beer in cans by the dozens, then upgrading may be easier said than done. First off, there are a surprising amount of beer styles – colored from pale yellow to midnight black. Below is but a small sample of the types of beers out there, but it’s a good start to finding that brew that’s perfect for you.
PILSENER — Takes its name from the city of Pilsen, Bohemia, and is basically the style of beer you’re used to if you’ve only had American-style lagers. If a pils is the beer for you, you still don’t have to rely on the mass-produced, watered-down beers in a can. And taking a step up to a higher-level pilsener doesn’t mean just upgrading from Bud Light to Heineken. There are many brands of pils out there that are rich in flavor and aroma. You’re going to want to look for a strong aroma of hops and a sharp, bitter taste. Beers to try: Pilsner Urquell, received the top taste rating by the Beverage Tasting Institute; Krombacher Pils, which comes in bottles and cans.
HEFEWEIZEN — Or, the wheat beer. Perhaps you’ve seen these served at your favorite watering hole. They’d be the ones usually with the orange slice, and more often than not a Blue Moon. But you can do better than that. Known for its wheat, hefeweizen is also equally full of yeast – which gives it its rich, foamy head and its cloudy appearance. The reason many people/bars serve these beers with a lemon or orange wedge in them is to counter either the wheat or yeast flavor and to cut down on the head, which many beer enthusiasts say actually does more damage to the beer than anything else. For an upgrade from Blue Moon, try Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier and Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, each of which can usually be found in chain grocery stores (you know, the one in town with the decent beer selection).
AMBER — The red, Amber is actually a subset of the ale style of beer (although there are lager ambers, too. But they’re usually listed on the bottle as “Amber Lager.”) Its distinct color has given the amber its own category. It’s a light ale, that’s often crisp. Perhaps the most abundant amber ale available in many bars is Killian’s Irish Red, which is actually brewed by Coors. If you want to try a new amber, at least step up to the Sam Adams amber. Also check out Smithwick’s or John Courage.
IPA — Hops, hops and more hops. India Pale Ale got its name from the method that the English took to make sure the beer they wanted to export to India survived the long trip. Their solution? Hops. Recently, the IPA has become the brewmaster’s best friend. The beer lends itself to experimentation, and this leads to many different varieties and tastes. Because of this, the best advice for looking into IPAs is to stick to micro-brews. Some of the best IPAs can be found in your local brew pub. In the grocery store, take stock of the brewery location, as the IPA can vary greatly. In America, IPAs from the east coast and west coast will likely give you different experiences. Lagunitas is a brewery that has small roots but is now starting to ship nationwide. Their IPA is rich and hoppy, but is actually a good IPA starter before stepping up to some of the heavier stuff. If you can get your hands on one, give a try to Bear Republic’s Racer5. Or try Hopsickle brewed by Moylan’s, which can be found in many BevMos. Harder to get, but worth it, is the Plinys from Russian River. There’s Pliny the Elder (the larger batch, and is always on tap at Russian River) and Pliny the Younger (limited brew, winter). Neither Pliny is brewed in massive quantities, but kegs have been known to show up all over the country.
PORTER/STOUT — These are the dark ones, and very often linked together. According to the Campra Web site, the very strongest porters were called porter stouts. This was later simply shortened to stout. Probably the most often beer in this category you’re likely to come upon is Guinness – be it the Extra Stout (served in a bottle) or the Draught (served from the tap or in that “special” bottle). To be honest, Guinness is hard to beat. They’ve been doing it and doing well for a very long time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t taste what else is out there. Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter is a good option that can often be found in most English-style pubs in bottles. Also check out Fuller’s London Porter. On the stouter side, take note of Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout.
EXTRA INNING — Speaking of Stone, give their Arrogant Bastard a try.
MANY OTHER OPTIONS — The above beer types and styles are but a drop in the bucket (pardon the pun) so to speak of the beer options that are out there. Try them all. Once you find the style of beer that’s right for you, try out different breweries. It may be a long journey to find your favorite beer, but it’s a fun journey and one well worth it.