Do you like beer? Enjoy tasting various styles, light to dark, and appreciating them with friends? Or are you unsure of beer—unfamiliar with the different varieties and flavors, domestic and imported?
Have you ever indulged in craft beer? This is one of my favorite hobbies. Sampling and sharing and discussing delicious beer with people.
There are so many different types of beer available on the shelves today. Finding a style you love can seem overwhelming. You may think you only like light beer, but finding out if this is the case can be fun and rewarding.
Most light beers are modeled after a more traditional beer style, such as a lager or a pilsner, and then modified to appeal to the masses. Adjuncts (or fillers), such as corn, rice and cereal grains, are added—spreading the beer further and the taste thinner. Yes, these beers may have fewer calories, but they also have less flavor.
Barley, hops, water and yeast—these four simple ingredients contrive what we know today as beer. However, there really is nothing simple about beer or the process that transpires in order to create beer. It is like cooking, brew masters are the chefs of the beer world.
If you think beer is tasteless or has an unpleasant taste, you are probably drinking the wrong kind of beer for your inclination. Everyone has different palates and perceives tastes differently. Now, I am not knocking domestic beer. You like what you like, I am just asking you to be open-minded and adventurous!
Craft beer, meaning only limited amounts of it are produced, is taking over the shelves of the grocery stores, liquor stores and even gas stations. It is, essentially, non mass-produced beer that boasts quality and integrity. Craft beer takes all shapes and sizes and has multiple characteristics and flavors.
Why am I such an advocate of craft beer? For starters, it tastes really good! I enjoy complex flavors and my mood changes. Sometimes, I am craving a beer that is light and refreshing to go with chicken wings. Other times, I want something dark, chocolaty and rich to compliment a brownie or similar dessert.
More often than not, beer becomes associated with making one feel full and bloated—if you drink five beers, than yes, you will probably feel full. I am talking about drinking delicious beer that can stand alone with taste or will compliment a good meal.
As an adolescent, (mom and dad cover your ears) I can remember taking small sips of my father’s beer and hanging out at high school parties drinking whatever beer we could get our hands on. By the time I was twenty-one, I didn’t know what I liked to drink—but one thing I was certain of—I did not like beer!
It wasn’t until about four years ago that I was really introduced to the world of craft beer. The first beer I can remember liking, was black as can be, smooth, rich, chocolaty and coffee-like. It was a stout—Great Divide’s™ “Yeti”—a Russian Imperial Stout, to be exact.
This type of stout is as bold and dark and flavorful as it gets. The alcohol content is also pretty high (9.5% ABV) so you have to drink with caution. Again, that goes back to what I mentioned before, I would drink this beer to relax, as an after dinner drink and/or with a delectable dessert. Chocolaty desserts, such as a truffles, flourless chocolate cake or brownies, are most likely to stand up to this bold beer.
This style was created in the 18th century and involves Catherine the Great, the longest-ruling empress of Russia. As the story goes…Stouts were derived from porters. The English took an already dark, chocolaty beer with roasted notes and made it even darker, stouter and more roasted.
According to history, Catherine the Great, upon visiting England, became a fan of porter-style beer. She was determined to have it in her court and thus requested that the porter be shipped to Russia. Unfortunately, the beer spoiled somewhere along its painstaking voyage to the Russian Imperial Court.
In an attempt to please the Empress Catherine, brewers in England scurried to create a bolder beer, with a higher content of alcohol and even more hops (which like alcohol, aid in the preservation of a beer) that could sustain the long voyage from England to Russia. Upon doing this, they had to add even more malted barley in order to ensure a well-balanced beer.
What was the product of this strenuous effort? What then came to be known as and is still noted today as—the Russian Imperial Stout—an audacious, sensory explosion of smooth, dark chocolate and coffee. It is like a dark chocolate truffle in liquid form.
Another notable Russian Imperial Stout to try is North Coast Brewing Company’s™ “Old Rasputin” (9% ABV). This brew and Great Divide’s™ “Yeti” are definitely two of my favorites and would be great to try in comparison with one another.
Debbie Duke is a Product Group Manager at LRP Publications. In addition, she has extensive experience in researching and sharing knowledge of all beer varieties, their origins and their adaptations over centuries and across continents. Her familiarity with wine comes from past experiences managing wine bars and compiling wine lists, Old World and New. Contact
Photo Credit – North Coast Brewing Co.™