Craft beer for beginners with @beerindigo

Evening chieftains

How the heck is life? Good I hope! Feels good to be back for an intro here on clobbercalm.com. Brother Cal has been taking the reigns of late BUT this evening I found some time.

As we push the clobber-calm message/lifesyle it has become apparent that we need
to diversify a tad on what we write about. There are so many cool brothers out there that know loads of cool shit about well…cool stuff!

I intend to find them and pick their brains one by one so we all have a better understanding what it is they know about whatever “the subject” may be.

Tonight’s subject is craft beer, top bloke Shane aka @beerindigo has agreed to jump on board the clobber-calm ship and help educate us on the trend that is locally brewed non mass produced booze!

Personally, I knew nothing about craft beer before we kicked off this feature so the following read is basically just me and Shane shooting the shit from the very start…

…I hope you enjoy it dudes and please feel free to send any feedback my way. I’m learning here.

Anyways, it’s time to sit back, relax and crack open a “craft” one as we hear I pick the brain of Shane aka @beerindigo on the subject of craft beer.

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LET’S LEARN THE BASICS OF CRAFT EH?

1. So mate, what is craft beer? Why is it different to normal beer?

“Craft Beer” is a fairly generic term that includes a few sub-categories to describe beer made by independently owned small scale breweries. A couple included sub-categories are nanobrew and microbrew. The term “Craft” is intended to seperate small breweries who focus on better ingredients and better processes from larger corporate breweries who focus on profits. Some larger breweries have found loop holes in describing their beer and even fought to have definitions changed in their favor. It appears craft beer is here to stay, much to the disappointment of some corporate beer monsters. When you buy from a local craft brewery you are getting great beer (hopefully) and supporting a local small business working hard to provide a high quality product.

2. So do these companies produce lager? When you say beer what does that mean? What is it I should be looking for in a “craft beer” as an everyday lager drinker?

Lager has been a very popular mass produced beer in the US and it has been gaining popularity with craft brewers. Many brewers drank lagers before getting into craft beer and I think they have begun challenging themselves to create a better option for their reminiscent Lagers. Some brewers even specialize in Lager now while others are just having fun experimenting with the different yeast. Lager is actually all about the yeast. Lager is made with a yeast that conditions in a colder fermentation temperature range than beer conditioned with ale yeast, resulting in a super crisp and clean been. In the US The word beer typically refers to all beer styles. The biggest problem people trying to switch from a mass produced beer to a craft beer is the selection. There are soo many different beer styles available and soo many breweries to choose from that you may have to try a large variety before you find what suites your pallate. The best recommendation for somebody starting out with craft beer is to find a local micro brewer with a reputation of making quality beer and try several beers (or a flight of beers if available) to get a sense of what different styles you may like. Have your transportation arranged prior of course. If you like traditional lager, explain to the bartender and ask what he would recommend for you. Another option is to find a store that offers mixed 6 packs so you can try a variety without commiting to multiple bottles of something you won’t enjoy. My personal rule is if I don’t really like a beer I’m trying, I don’t drink it. Don’t drink something you don’t like, that defeats the purpose of drinking good beer. A helpful tool is the Untappd app. You can keep track and rate the beers you drink, as well as see what others think of a beer you are looking to try. But don’t put too much weight in other’s reviews, everybody has a different palate.

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3. What countries are most renowned for their craft beers? Do any generally stand out man?

I do not have as much experience with craft breweries outside of the US. The US craft beer market has been growing rapidly for years. It seems every town or city now has one or three microbreweries that have popped up. I do personally enjoy a lot of beer from Belgium. Belgium has such great history and amazingly skilled brewers and/or cellar masters. I can imagine that many other countries are booming with craft breweries as well. I know Sweden has Omnipollo and they collaborate often with US brewers making modern style beers.

4. Is craft beer generally stronger than normal beer/lager?

Craft beer typically has higher ABV than most mass produced beers. Yeast feeds on fermentable sugars and creates alcohol as a byproduct. The more sugar in a beer, the more food for the yeast to eat and the more alcohol it can produce. Sugar is extracted from the grains during the brewing process. Higher ABV beers require a larger grain bill. Most craft brewers can pass on some of that additional cost because their customers are willing to pay more for a better product. Mass produced breweries have a harder time dealing with additional cost as they are producing beer as cheap as possible to remain competitive in the low end market. Some craft brewers do make lower ABV beers, refered to as “session beers”. These session beers are designed to drink all day, something normal people just can’t or shouldn’t do with a high ABV beer.

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5. So does craft beer have more sugar in it that regular mass produced lager or are you saying the opposite? Tell us a little more regards the process buddy?

This isn’t a guide to brew beer, just an attempt to explain the general process of brewing in simple terminology that somebody new to the subject might understand. I hope it helps.

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“Wort” is what beer is called before there has been any alcohol produced. Think of making wort like making a more complicated version of tea. With grain instead of tea leaves. Grains are steeped (mashed) in hot water which releases starch from the grain which then converts to sugar. Then you remove the grain and your left with a sweet non-alchoholic wort. You then add the yeast to the wort in a fermentation chamber. The yeast feeds on the fermentable sugars and turns them into alcohol during this fermentation process. Fementation can require several vessels and can take as little as a week or as long as a few years depending on the beer style. Sour beer uses bacteria which can take several years in a fermentation vessel to fully develop. Depending on the yeast health, activity of the yeast, fermentation temps, time and beer design, you could be left with little to no fermentable sugar remaining in the beer. So many craft beers start with more sugar but end up with a similar amount left over after the yeast has turned the fermentable sugars into alcohol. Sugars are measured with gravity. The difference between your starting sugars (starting gravity) and your final sugars (final gravity) determines the percentage of ABV the beer contains. It all comes back to quality of ingredients and hands on processes in the craft beer conversation.

6. So is there a particular food or snack that folks tend to enjoy with a good craft beer? You know, a bit like wine and cheese.

Yes! In fact some people host beer and food pairing events, much like wine. I can’t claim to be an expert in beer or food but I do love both. Meats and cheeses are great with almost all beer styles. Pretzels are a popular choice as well. There are so many different beers, all that pair well with a different food. Different chocolates can be great when paired with a dark beer. A nice cigar can go really great with a beer too, although it’s not food. The pairing options are truly endless. Some people would rather enjoy a nice meal and follow it with a good beer. Speaking of wine, if you love wine but have never really enjoyed beer, try a couple sour beers. Sour beer has much less “beer character” and might be easier for a wine enthusiast to enjoy.

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7. What about you and wine? Much of a fan? If so, what kind?

I never got into expensive wines or cellaring wines but I do very much enjoy a cabernet on occasion. I started cellaring beer last year, mostly lambics and American sours but also a few barrel aged clean beers. I did incorporate a bottle of cabernet into a homebrewed Saison too. I like bourbon and Scotch on occasion as well.

8. Out of interest, what’s your fave bourbon & scotch?

Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Elijah Craig and there are so many more decent bourbons that I enjoy on occasion. I have never tried anything really rare however. As far as Scotch goes, I love anything from Lagavulin, Balvenie and Oban.

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9. Is there any really cool craft beer related Insta feeds we should be following to help us get immersed in the world of craft beer?

If you can find some feeds on IG of people with similar beer interests be sure to follow and ask questions. @hopculturemag @thecraftbeerdude @craftcouple are a couple good ones and some of my personal favorites are @seattlebeerenthusiast @laumbic @thelordoflambic and for some crude beer humor @ipas_suck

Make sure you follow your local brewer as well, to keep up on new releases and see some behind the scenes.

If you have interest in learning about sour beer brewing be sure to follow to The Sour Hour podcast. And read The Sour Beer Blog.

10. Finally, what do you suggest would be a good craft beer topic to discuss next?

A great subject we could discuss next might be the evolution of craft beer styles in the US. *That sounds fantastic, let’s do that*

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Thanks Shane, buddy, really educated me there and I hope it was insightful for all of you that read this. I’m a firmly engrained lager drinker, as mentioned in the post, BUT the store is near to a great place with plenty of craft beer options. I shall be sure to join @clobbercalm.cal & @clobbercalm.sean in a “craft” option next time they go.

Right, it’s Sunday evening so I’m putting my feet firmly up from this point. There’s got to be something decent on TV but, either way, that’s me. Thanks for reading peeps and stay tuned for Shane’s next instalment 🙌

Much love. Drink responsibly.

Ben @clobbercalm

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