13 Things You Need To Know To Become A Craft Beer Enthusiast

So two friends walk into a bar. OK, that’s a joke. But you know what’s not a joke? Craft beer. Celebrate your newfound knowledge with a #fridgefull of Harpoon this weekend.

1. WHAT IS CRAFT BEER?

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Small: Distributes no more than six million barrels of beer per year.

Independent: Less than 25% of the brewery is owned by a non-craft/large brewery.

Traditional: The majority of the brewery’s products are beers with traditional or innovative brewing ingredients in their fermentation.

2. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES?

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Ales: The majority of craft beers fall into the “ale” category with several different types and styles under this umbrella. They are brewed with top fermenting yeast.

Lagers: Lagers are typically smooth, clean-tasting beers and have fewer style variations than ales. They sit for longer periods of time and are bottom fermented.

HERE'S A VOCAB LESSON, K?

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When there is a lot of foam and bubbles, this is where carbonation is most concentrated. CO2 helps to heighten the aromatics of the beer, affecting overall mouthfeel.

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Ethanol, which is the main alcohol in fermented drinks, reduces the surface tension of water in the beer, leaving legs on the side of the glass as a result. The more alcohol in a beverage, the larger the legs.

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The two most popular techniques to smell the different “notes” of beer are:

The Bloodhound Technique, where you give it three quick sniffs, and the simpler one long sniff beneath the nose.

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epicbeer / (CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: epicbeer

Malt determines the color, ABV, and body of the beer. Depending on the roasting process of the malt, the flavor can be lighter or heavier. Interestingly, it takes a very small percentage of dark malt to make a darker colored beer, meaning there’s a lot of power in those grains!

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Yeast consumes simple sugars during the fermentation process. Through this process, alcohol, CO2, and a variety of flavor/aroma compounds are produced as byproducts, including esters.

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There are three categories in the hop arena:

Bittering: These hops are high in alpha acids and contribute bitter flavors to the beer, not much in the way of aroma, however.

Aroma: Although low in alpha acid content, these hops can be used for bittering, but are more famous for their distinct and pleasing aromatic characteristics. Aroma hops are typically added late in the boiling process, often at the end of fermentation, in a process known as “dry hopping.”

Hybrid: These varieties can be used for both bittering and aroma.

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Brewing water is crucial in terms of controlling the beer’s PH. Historically, a region’s preferred beer style was determined by the water in the area. Harder water led to darker beers, while lighter colored beers were made in regions with softer water.

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International Bitterness Units (IBU) is a direct measurement of the amount of hop alpha acids dissolved into a beer. Although, bitterness is completely perception-based.

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Alcohol by Volume (ABV) changes depending on the style of craft beer, ranging anywhere from 3% to 20%. A higher ABV can make a craft beer more flavorful. The average ABV for craft beers in the U.S. is about 5.9%.

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Trisha Vo / (CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: trishavo

Standard Reference Method (SRM) is used to refer to a beer’s color. Pale beers have lower SRMs, while darker stouts can be as dark as 70 SRM.

13. SO HOW DO YOU PAIR IT?

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Flavors in craft beers can help to bridge and emphasize different flavors in food. It’s important to make sure there’s a balance in flavors so one does not override the other.

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One thing all beer specialists definitively know is that one must have a full fridge of craft beer to share and enjoy with friends for the summer. Get a #fridgefull for further clarity!

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