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What to expect from a beer

When I was new into the craft beer scene I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. There are so many choices that it is a bit overwhelming. There are also a lot of random names that appear over and over again on bottles of beer that seem to give some type of classification. Pale Ale, Stout, Porter, Lager, these words appear on a lot of beer labels after the actual name of the beer. If you don’t know what they mean, you might be getting into something that you don’t want or like.

While there are a lot of names, beer is pretty simple. Like wine, beer is broken down into styles. Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Champagne are all different types of wine, and you have an idea of what to expect when you hear them. The same follows through for beer. Hell, dogs are even classified and you know what to expect from one breed to another. Like wine, beer is basically broken down into to main categories where everything else stems from. In the wine world, white or red are the start of the branching out. In the beer world, you fall under lager and ale.

Unlike the wine world (at least in my experience), an ale can taste like a lager and a lager can taste like a beer. These two classifications simple refer to the type of yeast that was used in making the beer. In general ales ferment at a higher temperature, take less like to ferment, and also ferment on the top of the beer. Lager yeast is the exact opposite, they like lower temperatures, long fermentation times, and ferment on the bottom of the beer.

So knowing a lager from an ale might help you with a few things, but not a whole lot. Out of those two main branches of the beer world grows a much fuller tree. I’m not going to address what each style is right now as that would take a long time to complete, but when looking at a beer, the style tells you what to expect from the beer. When you see stout on a label, you expect a thick, dark colored beer with a tan head that is going to be smooth and full of roasty flavors. If you were expecting to get something like that out of a pilsner, you are sadly mistaken. I am going to be doing a “series” on beer styles and explore each one and give recommendations on good examples of each style. But just remember that when you want to know what to expect from a beer, look at the style and you will have a much deeper understanding of what you will be tasting.

Beer Wars: Review

Last week I posted my initial impressions on the movie Beer Wars. My overall impression was that I liked it. I have since watched it another time just to make sure everything I was remembering was correct. The movie is essentially made up of three parts that are mostly woven together, but also don’t entirely have anything to do with each other. The first part is talking about prohibition and the rise again of craft beer. It tells us how we got to the point that we are now and also how the big boys made their moves.

There are a number of random interviews from craft beer industry giants along with some from the homebrewers group. The interviews are nice sound clips, but they really don’t add a ton to the story. I am sure they had a lot more to say than what was placed in the movie and I would of liked to hear a bit more from them.

The second focus of the movie was centered about two breweries/brands; Dogfish Head and Moonshot. I am partial to Dogfish Head as I love the story associated with that brewery. Basically Sam talks about the struggles of getting a distribution system setup and also how much personal risk there is in owning a brewery. He also mentions how easily the big guys could crush him if they wanted to. One of the biggest points that he makes is what he calls “identity theft” of beer. He makes the comparison how an Bud pumpkin beer vs. his DFH one stacks up. His beer is more expensive, comes in less bottles, and, while it may have more taste, a newcomer to the beer scene is going to go with the Bud product. I get the concern, but that is how business goes. Competition is going to happen and ideas are going to get used by other companies. It is just like TV’s, there are the bargain brands and the ones that are quality. It really depends on what you are willing to spend in order to get the quality you want to get. The good thing about beer is that the price for the cheap beer and the craft beer isn’t that different.

The other brand the movie focuses on is Moonshot. It is a beer that was started by a former sales manager for Sam Adams. They show her struggles with getting funding to take the business to the next level. Moonshot is beer with caffeine in it, which is supposed to be an “untapped market.” The Moonshot lady eventually goes to Bud to try and sell her product. Basically everything that she was against, she winds up trying. I guess the movie was trying to show that you have to go to the big guys to get noticed. It neglects to say that beer with caffeine (which apparently doesn’t taste very good) is just a bad idea or how thousands of other breweries have managed to make it without going to the big guys.

The final part of the movie shows us the three tier system and how much money the beer industry spends in the government. To be honest, it was the most boring part of the movie. I don’t really care to hear about government legislation or anything of the like. The movie also featured a few Micheal Moore stunts like a blind taste testing between the three big beers. People were asked to pick out each of the beers and none of the people shown were able to get it right. Does it prove anything, no, was it entertaining, hell yes. The director of the movie also tried to get an interview with the Bud executives by running up to them and asking.  The obviously did not work and the movie tried to show it as another example of the big guys ignoring the little people. Not really the case, but anyway.

Again I want to say that I did enjoy the movie. There were just a few parts that bothered me in areas where the movie completely ignored. It was entertaining but I feel like the movie didn’t have a clear direction. I suggest seeing it and let me know you thoughts about it if you have/when you do.