Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So many beers, so little time...

In a previous post I wrote that I feel we are living in the golden age of beer. Although I realize there has been a lot of good beer being brewed in the world for a very long time, not much of it was available to me when I first discovered my love for beer.

I grew up in a time when regional brands like Schmidt, Schaefer, Schlitz, Pabst, Piels, Rheingold and others of their kind dominated local markets. In my early adult years the mega national brands and their bottomless marketing budgets took over. Budweiser, Miller, and Coors seemed to own the market. Sure, you could still find a few imports here and there. I kind of remember Heineken always being around. Same for Bass Ale, Guinness Stout and Lowenbrau (before Miller bought the rights to brew it in the US).

There were probably a lot of good small brewers in local markets, like Anchor Steam in the San Francisco area, but since they didn't distribute nationally, I didn't know about them. I eventually started traveling in my work and discovered many of these gems.

In the mid-seventies a new term came into being in the United Kingdom - microbrewery. Basically, it referred to a limited production brewer which typically served a regional geographic area. If you've been fortunate to travel in Europe at all, you know that many towns, even very small ones, have a brewery that makes a beer that serves the local population. We aren't quite there is the US, but the microbrewery hit here in a big way over the past two decades.

A newer term, craft beer, seems to be an outgrowth of the microbrewery wave. For me, craft brewing implies a higher art form, designed to create beers from top quality ingredients, often in very small batches. There are literally hundreds (maybe thousands?) of craft brewers that have sprung up all over America. They are making a broad variety of styles and have been able to establish much better distribution networks than in the past.

Another advance for beer lovers is the increasing number of stores that allow you to buy single bottles, and sometimes even mix singles to make your own six pack. This let's us try an unknown brewer's newest release without committing too deeply. Finally, and this is absolutely one of my favorite advances, is the wide availability of "large" bottles sold as singles. these typically hold 22 ounces of beer but can run from 18 up to 26 ounces. These bottles are perfect for splitting with someone when you simply want to pair a particular beer with a meal. Cyn and I do that frequently.

We keep an old refrigerator in the basement for kitchen overflow. Somehow, it seems to have evolved into the "beer refrigerator" . Hmmm, wonder how that happened? Current stock.....


Current passion: IPAs, singles and doubles. Working my way up to triples but, for now, the higher alcohol content skews the taste too much toward a distilled spirit for me. Maybe when I grow up.....

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