The Next Era of Craft and Specialty Beers: More Flavors, More Pairings, More Complexity

Sampling the Tried and True… and the New

shutterstock_196920290Well, my annual party has come and gone.  I invited a few other brewers for the first time to show their creations.  You know, things like Banana Nut Ale sound so wrong, but wow does it taste so good.  And Peach-Flavored Wheat–who would have thought it’d make for a truly great summer beer?  These two made great additions to my Dry Hopped Pale Ale, Wood Aged Amber, Irish Red, Baltic Porter and Bourbon Oak Aged porter, all served on my two Marvel Beer Dispensers.

The most important thing to me is, keep an open mind.

Since our coming of age out of the lager era, our first taste of craft beer was either a pale ale or maybe an Irish Red.  It is amazing how far we have come in the past 25 years.

I look at the menus at the new brew pubs, read the descriptions and think to myself: What happened to just making a great pale ale?  Why does life and beer have to be so complicated?  But then I try them.  A great pale ale (such as Sierra Nevada or Founders) might make you say to yourself, “Yup, that’s good,” but when you try a specialty beer and say, “Wow, where did that come from?”  That is the difference.

Brewers have been pushing the envelope for the past few years to places where I never would have thought.

In the Midwest I saw it starting with Shorts Brewing in Northern Michigan. They would put together flavors that made you say, “What are you thinking?”  Just like the peanut butter and jelly brew I sampled at the Michigan Winter Beer Fest.   The results were… WOW.

Now most brew pubs have the standard line and a one or two tap handles of the specialty beers.  This has allowed us as consumers to, in some cases, indulge in sensory overload.  That is when you go to your favorite party store, look at the cooler case and just try to pick what’s for dinner tonight.

All this rambling actually leads me to me point. (And you didn’t think there was going to be one.) With all the craft beer and specialty beers available, we need a better education on how to drink and what to drink with.  In the old days of light lager/pilsner, you had your Pabst with your Cheerios, and Miller with your pizza.  Now you need to start drinking your bourbon aged porter in a snifter glass at 58 degrees, while sitting out on your deck watching the sun set, engaging in deep conversations about the meaning of life.

I have been looking for that educational book or class and have yet to find it.  Don’t get me wrong,  I still have a dry hopped pale ale with my Wheat Chex now and then, but I know there are better combinations.  Stick with me, guys, and I’ll share my discoveries on the best beer pairings with you in another post.

Take care and drink wisely,