Tips on Tipping Your Beertender

A topic that has come to my attention a lot recently is how to properly tip beertenders at a brewery. I’ve read articles, had discussions with customers and coworkers, and of course, have everyday experience to draw from.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind during your next brewery visit:

When you order a full pint, tip at least a dollar (plus change when applicable). This is standard across the industry, and chances are, you’ll continue to get quick service when your glass is empty. A pint of beer will generally run somewhere between $5-8: an average of about $6.50. If you consider that 15-20% tip is standard, then your tip on a pint should be between $1-1.50. 

When your beertender goes above and beyond (i.e. giving you several “splashes” to try before you order, giving you a freebie, etc.), go above and beyond the standard tip for them. Often times, beertenders notice when you do this, and chances are, they’ll continue to hook you up from time to time!

If you’re ordering a flight, tip at least two dollars. These take a bit more finesse – more time to pour, often dealing with indecisive customers, etc. and therefore deserve a slightly larger tip than a pint would.

If you’re getting a crowler or growler fill, the general rule of 15-20% is appreciated. Often times, we have to hold up the line of customers waiting to grab their next pint while we take time away to fill a growler or crowler. It’s fair to tip accordingly for this service.

If you use a growler, please make sure you bring them in clean! Always rinse it with hot water immediately after use, let air dry, and store upright without a cap (breweries will generally provide you with a new one at no charge). Before you bring it in, do the sniff test: if there’s no smell, it’s clean. If it smells at all, soak again in hot water and give it a good rinse.

If you’re simply picking up pre-packaged beer or merch to go, a small tip of a dollar or two is certainly appreciated, but not necessarily expected. Your beertender likely didn’t have to go through much trouble with this kind of transaction, so you don’t have to go out of your way if this is the case.

If you’re paying in cash as you go, tip a bit higher your first round. This will usually ensure that your bartender is keeping an eye on your glass, and as soon as it’s empty, they’re likely to have another round ready to serve you.

Lastly, leave your tip in cash whenever possible, even if you’re paying by card. Depending on the establishment, some bartenders are able to take some cash tips without paying the tax on it in their paycheck. It’s not the case for every employee or every brewery, but either way, we generally prefer a cash tip and walking away with money in our pockets.

Fun fact!

Many people believe the origin of the term “tips” was actually as an acronym: To Insure Prompt Service.

Remember, beertenders often rely on tips as part of their income—even spare change adds up at the end of the night. Please keep these tips in mind next time you visit your local brewery. Always be kind and respectful to your beertenders!

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National Beer Day

You know on occasions like this, I have to throw you a dose of history with your beer knowledge!

Every year on April 7th we celebrate National Beer day, marking the anniversary of the day in which the Cullen–Harrison Act was enacted, allowing people to buy, sell and drink beer containing up to 3.2% alcohol by weight (or 4.05% by volume).

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation on March 22, 1933, remarking “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” Sixteen days later when the law went into effect, people all over the country gathered outside of their local breweries in anticipation. On the first day of sales alone, 1.5 million barrels of beer were consumed, inspiring the holiday we celebrate today.

Happy Days are Beer Again

The Cullen-Harrison Act redefined an “intoxicating beverage” under the Volstead Act, and should not be confused with the day the Eighteenth Amendment (prohibition) was repealed (which was December 5, 1933). This year, we celebrate 85 years of being able to buy, sell and consume alcohol in the US!

As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to crack open a beer today, here are a few more to consider. In moderation, beer can have good effects on your body! For one, beer contains antioxidants, which can lower your risk of heart attack, diabetes and bone disease. It can also help ease stress—a truly theraputic mental wellness benefit.

Beer also has social benefits. Many of us make lifelong friends through visiting local breweries and talking to the person next to us. Or maybe it’s bonding with your co-workers over a few cold ones during happy hour. Beer is also known to increase your confidence, making it that much easier to make a new friend!

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Today, you can celebrate in several ways:

  • Visit your favorite local brewery and maybe even make a new friend while you’re there.
    • Pro tip: Consider bringing home a crowler or growler of your favorite brew to be enjoyed later!
  • Crack open a old one to enjoy with some friends. Maybe even make it a group bottle share!
    • Pro tip: Download Untappd to rate and notate any beers you drink, so you can remember them for later.
  • Try a new beer that you’ve never had before.
    • Pro tip: Check Beer Advocate or Untappd for ratings if you come across something you’re unsure about.
  • Homebrew your own beer, whether you’re an expert, or just a beginner.
    • Pro tip: If you’re just getting started, you can find my homebrew guide here.

I hope you all take the time to enjoy National Beer Day. Leave me a comment below to tell me how you celebrated the day!

Homebrewing 104: Common Problems & Solutions

Homebrewing 104

I’ve been home brewing for a little over a year now (which makes me a relative newbie in the field), and of course, I still encounter issues. It’s a matter of knowing what to do when these certain problems arise that turns you into an expert. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means (yet), but practice makes perfect, so I’m going to keep trying!

Before reading this post, I highly recommend that you go back and read the previous posts about the equipment needed, the brewing process, and the bottling/kegging process. I find that once you have a good understanding of how beer is made and stored, it’s easier to identify problems along the way and to make adjustments to resolve the issues.

I think any home brewer can tell you that your beer doesn’t always turn out as expected. Most problems are easily identifiable once you know what to look for, and can be resolved if you catch them early enough. This post is designed to help you figure out what to look for, and how to fix the problem when you encounter it.

COMMON PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS

Problem: The beer tastes very sweet/I didn’t hit the target FG (final gravity) or ABV.

Solution: The beer is likely too sweet because the yeast did not convert all of the fermentable sugars into alcohol. I have found that this is usually because of the fermentation temperature. Check the yeast packaging for the ideal temperature range, and try to keep it within that range at all times. If the wort becomes too warm or too cold, the yeast can die off quicker than intended, leaving behind sugars which haven’t been converted into alcohol. If necessary, try pitching new yeast and keeping the temperature consistent.

Problem: The beer smells or tastes funky/sour.

Solution: When intended, a funky or sour beer can be amazing, but when it’s not, you’ll likely end up having to pour that batch down the drain and start over. It’s one of those unfortunate scenarios that can’t be fixed this time around, because your beer has become infected. Contamination is usually the result of improper sanitization, so be sure all of your equipment is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before trying again.

Problem: My airlock stopped bubbling.

Solution: This could mean a few things:

  1. You may have a leaking seal on your bucket/carboy. Fermentation could still be happening, but the CO2 is coming out of the leak instead of the airlock.
  2. Your yeast could have stopped working prematurely due to temperature. If that’s the case, pitch new yeast, and try to keep the temperature within the recommended range.
  3. You may just be brewing a style that typically has low attenuation. In this case, the lack of bubbling isn’t a concern. Just check the yeast packet to see how yours measures up.

Problem: The beer isn’t carbonated enough.

Solution: When you’re using sugar to carbonate your beer, it is usually best to leave it stored at room temperature for two to three weeks before refrigerating it. If you open a bottle of flat beer, and you’ve given it plenty of time to carbonate, add a carbonation tablet (you can find these at your local homebrew supply shop) and recap.

Problem: The beer is too carbonated or bottles are exploding.

Solution: The beer was likely bottled too soon, or too much priming sugar was added. In either case, you can open up the bottles to vent them, then recap. You may need to do this a few times if the beer is severely over carbonated. Refrigerating the bottles can also help to slow the fermentation, but be careful—if one bottle exploded, others could likely have the same fate!

Problem: The beer is hazy or cloudy.

Solution: Again, there are several reasons this can happen, but none of them are harmful. Here are some causes:

  1. Chill haze. Next time, after boiling, try bringing the wort to a cool as quickly as possible. A wort chiller can definitely help with this!
  2. For all-grain brews, it’s possible to have incomplete conversion, leaving behind residual starches that cause this cloudiness.
  3. Certain yeast strains are known to have low flocculation, so the beers are meant to be hazy.

In any case, if the cloudiness is bothersome, you can cure this even after fermentation with a fining agent from your local homebrew shop (such as isinglass, Polycar, etc.). For all-grain brews, you can also enhance the clarity by adding Irish moss during the last few minutes of the boil.

Problem: The wort is darker than expected.

Solution: This is a common problem with extract brewing because the malt extract can scorch during the boil. You can’t change it, so just know that it shouldn’t have any real effect on the final outcome. The problem will likely be resolved once you move into all-grain brewing.

I hope you have learned something new from this series. I would love your feedback on this topic! For those homebrewers out there, I’d love to know what problems you’ve encountered and if you’ve figured out a solution.

Homebrewing 103: Bottling/Kegging Day

Homebrewing 103

​So your beer is ready, and it’s time to package up the goodness! Lesson 103 is designed to help you bottle and/or keg your beer. If you’re just tuning in, I recommend that you go back and read the previous posts about the equipment needed and the brewing process.

​The above video shows “racking” your beer, simply transferring it from one container to another.

This process is much easier with a second set of hands, so grab a beer-loving friend and impart them with some homebrewing knowledge along the way!

BOTTLING

  1. Clean and sanitize all the equipment you’ll be using, including bottles and crown caps. Remember that anything which comes into contact with the beer at this stage can cause contamination if not properly sanitized.

    Tip: Place the bottle caps in a bowl of water-sanitizer solution until you’re ready to seal your bottles.

  2. Prepare the priming sugar by dissolving it in 2 cups of boiling water (takes about 5 minutes). Pour the mixture into a clean and sanitized bottling bucket.
  3. Place your fermenter on a countertop or other stable, waist-height surface and place the bottling bucket from step 2 on the floor directly under the fermenter.
  4. Using a racking cane and siphon, carefully transfer the beer into the bottling bucket. Avoid siphoning the sediment (dead yeast and other particulate) from the bottom of the fermenter. Gently stir the mixture for about a minute and do your best not to agitate it (keep air bubbles to a minimum).
  5. Set the nearly-empty fermenter aside to be cleaned. Lift the bottling bucket with the beer onto the counter. Attach the bottle filling wand to the tubing.
  6. Touch the wand to the bottom of a bottle to start the flow. Once the beer reaches about half an inch from the top, release the pressure and the flow will stop. Continue until all bottles are filled.

    Tip: Offer to buy that friend a beer (or donate some homebrew), as the bottling and capping can take a while!

  7. While one person is bottling, another can be capping. Simply crimp down the caps with the hand capper. Continue until all bottles are capped.
  8. Clean your equipment thoroughly, let air dry, then store for next time.

    Tip: Wash bottles as you drink them and store with your equipment to reuse next time!

  9. Put your bottles in a dark, room temperature place for about 2 weeks. The remaining yeast in the bottle will “wake up” to eat up the priming sugar you added, creating CO2 in the process, which is what carbonates your beer!
  10. After the 2 weeks is up, place the bottles in the fridge for a couple hours. Finally…
  11. ENJOY!

KEGGING

  1. Clean and sanitize all the equipment you’ll be using, including your keg and beer lines. Remember that anything that comes into contact with the beer at this stage can cause contamination if not properly sanitized.
  2. Using your siphon and racking cane, transfer your fermented beer into the keg. Try to minimize aerating your beer in any way at this stage. You don’t need to add any priming sugar because your beer will be “force carbonated” via CO2.
  3. Turn the regulator on your CO2 tank up to 10-12 PSI for 20 seconds or so, then pull the release valve to release the residual oxygen in the keg. Repeat this process a few times.
  4. Turn the regulator up to 15-18 PSI, then place the keg in the fridge overnight (temperature should be around 40°F). Be sure to turn down the pressure the next morning and keep it steady at about 12 PSI. You may have to adjust the pressure upon serving, but your beer should be fully carbonated in just a few short days!

One last note to consider… People often ask how long a beer can be stored for. It’s really dependent on the style of beer. Low ABV beers (like lagers or “sessionable” ales) and hoppy beers (like pales ales and IPAs) are best drank fresh, usually within 90 days of bottling/kegging. Stronger or very dark beers can continue to improve with age and are sometimes at their best after 6 months or longer.

I’ll do a separate post about cleaning and sanitizing and its importance later, but this should give you a basic starting point for now!

Homebrewers: I want to hear from you! In your experience, have you found any improvements to the process? What has made your life easier on bottling day? Do you prefer to keg your beer?

Want to know more? The final post in this series will cover common homebrew problems and solutions, helpful for even the most experienced homebrewer!

Homebrewing 102: Brew Day (Simplified)

Homebrewing 102

It’s easy to learn how to brew beer, but the process can take years to master. Once you become proficient with the basic technique, many tweaks can be made to improve the quality of your brews.

For those of you who may be thinking of getting into home brewing, but may not fully understand the process, I thought I’d break it down for you in this post (this is how I wish someone had explained it to me when I started). For those of you who do have some experience with homebrewing, I’d love your to hear your comments on your experiences and what’s worked best for you.

If you haven’t done so already, please go back to my previous post and make sure you have all the necessary equipment before you get started! In my next post, I’ll walk through the bottling/kegging process. I hope I can inspire you all to take up this fun hobby!

THE PROCESS

Plan to spend about 4 to 6 hours on your first brew day. Many first-timers (myself included) underestimate how much time it takes to complete the steps below. Same applies to your bottling/kegging day—plan for it to take twice as long as you think it will!

Also, it’s important to take good notes throughout the process. When you add or change something in a recipe, it’s vital to know exactly what you did so you can re-create it later! Even if you never plan on brewing that particular beer again, you’ll more easily be able to identify problems based on the final outcome. Look back and see exactly what was added and when, then you’ll know how to avoid those issues in future brews.

I’ve separated the instructions below to include both the extract and all-grain brewing methods. If it’s your first time, consider starting with the extract brewing method just to get the hang of things. Once you feel like you have that down, you can purchase the additional pieces of equipment you’ll need (see my previous post for a list) and jump right into the all-grain method. Keep in mind that this process works for ales, but if you’ll be making a lager, it will involve some additional equipment and steps not listed in this post.

Now let’s get to it!

  1. Before you start brewing, read through your entire recipe to make sure you understand it and have everything you need. You don’t want to get halfway through your brew before you realize you’re missing a vital tool or ingredient.img_2450.jpg
  2. Next, and most importantly, gather all your supplies and then clean and sanitize your equipment. Be sure to concentrate on anything that comes into contact with your beer after the boil, as unsanitary equipment at this stage can lead to infected beer! I cannot emphasize this enough: clean and sanitized equipment is absolutely necessary for a good outcome!!!img_2452

Note: steps 3 through 9 are for all-grain brewing only

  1. Heat about 5 gallons of water in a large kettle. Keep an eye on your temperature, and try to keep it around 152°F.
  2. Preheat your mash tun by pouring in about a gallon of boiling water into it, then swirl it around gently and close the lid. Wait a few minutes, then pour the water back into the kettle.
  3. Next, you’re going to “mash in.” Add the grain to the mash tun, then slowly add the hot water from your kettle. Continue to stir every few minutes, and check the temperature often. Most brews will require a steady temperature around 152-156°F for about an hour, so carefully adjust as needed.
  4. Measure your pH and add brewing salts if needed. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) raises the pH, and lactic acid lowers it. Your actual pH value may vary depending on the recipe for the style, but 5.2 is generally a good number to shoot for if you’re unsure.
  5. In the meantime, start heating up about 4 gallons of water for the sparge. You’ll want the temperature to be in the range of 165-170°F.
  6. After the hour has passed, you’ll need to re-circulate and lauter. Slowly open the valve and drain your first runnings into a pitcher, then pour it on top of the grain bed. Repeat this process a few times until the liquid coming out is fairly steady in color and appearance.
  7. Carefully drain the wort into a kettle. Slowly add your sparge water, pitcher by pitcher—you’ll want to harvest as much of the fermentable sugars as you can from the grain. Once all the sparge water has been added, let it sit for about 15 minutes, then re-circulate again and drain into kettle. You should end up with 5-6 gallons of wort in your kettle.

Note: steps 10 and 11 are for malt extract brewing only

  1. Next, you’re going to need to get water in the kettle and start heating it up. If you’re going to be doing a partial boil (meaning you’ll add the rest of the water in later), then add about 2.5 gallons of water to the kettle (refrigerate the balance if you can—this will help later). If you’re doing a full boil, you’ll want to add 5.5-6 gallons to the kettle now.
  2. If your recipe calls for specialty grains, you’ll add those to a mesh bag, tie it into a loose knot, and drop it in the kettle for about 20 minutes. Your water should not be boiling yet at this point, so keep the temperature around 155-160°F. At the end of the 20 minutes, simply remove the grain bag, allowing any excess liquid to drain back into the brew pot (but do not squeeze the bag). At this stage, your unfermented “beer” is actually called wort.

Both all-grain and extract methods resume here

  1. Now, increase the heat supply and get the wort to a rolling boil. Add all of your malt extract (both dry and/or liquid, depending on what’s provided in your kit), and stir continuously until dissolved.
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  2. Add hops as directed by your recipe. Some may be added to the boil right away, while others are added later in the process. Watch the wort closely during this stage, as boil overs are common (not to mention messy). Your boil should take about one hour start to finish.
  3. After the hour is up, you’re going to need to cool the wort. You can either use a wort chiller (insert chiller into kettle and run cold water through the piping), or you can use an ice bath method (place the boil kettle in a sink filled with ice). If you chose to go with the partial boil method, this is the point where you can add in the remaining water, which will also help bring down the temperature.
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  4. Take a hydrometer reading to measure your original gravity. Be sure to write this down, as you’ll need it later to calculate the ABV.
  5. Transfer the wort into the fermentation vessel (usually a carboy or bucket).
  6. Pitch your yeast. If using liquid yeast, you may need to “smack” the pack to activate it. Dried yeast can either be sprinkled directly on to the wort, or you can rehydrate the yeast before adding it.
  7. Fill your airlock half way with sanitized water, press it into the rubber stopper, then push the stopper into the carboy’s opening, ensuring a tight seal.
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  8. Place your fermenter in a dark and temperature-stable environment. Check the yeast packet for the ideal temperature range, and keep it steady for about 2 weeks. Fermentation times can vary based on the beer, so be sure to check your specific instructions. You’ll notice a lot of activity in the first 24-48 hours, and it’s normal for the action to slow down a bit after that.

For further reading, I’d recommend How to Brew by John J. Palmer. It’s considered the go-to source for new homebrewers, and takes you all the way from the basics into the full science behind the brewing process.

Those of you already homebrewing: how do you brew? What methods or equipment have you found that works really well (or what doesn’t work so well)?

Stay tuned for Homebrewing 103, where you’ll learn how to bottle or keg your latest creation!

Homebrewing 101: Getting Started

Homebrewing 101

If you couldn’t already tell from the title, the focus of this series is going to be all about homebrewing! This series will be broken down into four parts: first, what you need to get started; the second will focus on the brewing process itself; part three will focus on bottling and/or kegging your beer; and finally, I’ll go over how to identify common problems and their solutions.

I love homebrewing because my knowledge is constantly expanding based on experience. Every time I brew, I encounter some new hurdle that I need to overcome and figure out. That’s fun for me, but what’s even better is the people you meet along the way. Other homebrewers are almost always willing to lend a helping hand (or a piece of equipment) if you need it. Make friends with the people you meet at the homebrew store or out at breweries and plan a brew day! Before you know it, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in this fun hobby!

This first post in the series is designed to be a sort of checklist for what you’ll need in order to get started with this new hobby. Print it out and use it as your guide!

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

Cleaning supplies:

  • High quality cleaner (I suggest PBW)
  • High quality sanitizer (Star San is my favorite)

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Brewing/fermenting supplies (musts):

  • Boil kettle (I’d recommend starting with an 8-gallon)
  • Large stirring spoon
  • Santizing bucket
  • Carboy with rubber stopper
  • Airlock
  • Vinyl tubing
  • Siphon
  • Funnel
  • Mesh steeping or hop bags
  • Wort chiller (optional, but very useful)

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Additional brewing supplies for all-grain method only:

  • Mash/lauter tun with false bottom (7-10 gallon cooler or kettle with a ball valve)
  • Hot liquor tank (7-10 gallon kettle with ball valve)
  • Propane burner (or other high powered heat source)

Scientific stuff:

  • Waterproof thermometer (minimum tolerance of 220F)
  • Hydrometer
  • pH meter (optional, but necessary if you want to adjust your water)

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Bottling/Kegging supplies:

  • Bottling only:
    • Bottles
    • Bottle brush
    • Bottle filler
    • Bottle caps
    • Bottle capper
    • Racking cane
    • Priming sugar
  • Kegging only:
    • Cornelius keg
    • CO2 tank
    • Regulator
    • Vinyl tubing for gas & beer lines
    • Party tap/hand held tap OR Kegerator

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Ingredients (exact specifications vary depending on the recipe):

  • 6 gallons or so of bottled spring water (you could use reverse osmosis water if it’s accessible to you and are comfortable manipulating water chemistry)
  • Malt extract or grain
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Hops

I find the easiest way to make sure you have all the correct ingredients is to buy a beer kit, especially if you’re just starting out. These kits will contain the malt extract, hops and yeast you’ll need for your desired style. Just add water!

Look up your local homebrew supply store and pay them a visit. If you’re more of an online order person, I’d recommend the following sites:

www.morebeer.com
www.northernbrewer.com
www.homebrewsupply.com

Keep an eye out for part two, where I’ll detail the actual homebrew process. In the meantime be sure pick up your equipment and ingredients!

Top Five Recommended Beer Styles Countdown: #1

This is it! You’ve made it all the way to today’s post, which is the final in my series of recommended beer styles. If you’ve missed the previous posts, you’ve clearly been living under a rock! Click the link below to see the first four.

This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series

And the winner is…


#1: Porters, Stouts & Imperial Stouts


I find that a lot of beginner beer drinkers are put off by these dark beers because it doesn’t look like the Coors or Bud Light they’re used to seeing and drinking. There’s a lot of misinformation spread about dark beers that make people think they won’t like it: they’re too thick, too high in alcohol, and too high in calories. Maybe some are, but these characteristics certainly do not apply to all. Open your mind and don’t let yourself miss out on a good thing!

Let’s dive right in to each of these related styles. The first time someone asked me what the difference was between a porter and a stout, I was stumped. I have since researched the answer, only to find there are several theories. Feel free to come to your own conclusion, but the answer I choose to go with is that a stout is simply a stronger version of a porter. In a sense, that means all stouts are porters, but not all porters are stouts.

A porter is a style of dark beer which was first developed in London in the 1700s. They are brown in color, but usually will have some degree of clarity in comparison to the other varieties below. They often reveal notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuttiness, and are usually fairly low in ABV (around 4 to 5.5%).

Stouts are, as we now know, a stronger version of a porter. Usually ranging from 5.5 to 8% ABV, these beers have flavors of roasted coffee and dark chocolate. They’re usually very smooth and rich, and can often have a creamy mouthfeel, especially when served on draft over nitrogen (or “nitro”) instead of the standard CO2 line. Stouts are usually very dark brown to black in color and opaque.

Finally, there’s the imperial stout (my personal favorite of the bunch). For any beer style, if you see the word “imperial,” know that you’re getting a (relatively) strong beer. Similarly to the traditional version, imperial stouts are almost completely black in color, but clock in with an even higher ABV that’s typically between 8 to 12%, but can reach much, much higher. You can bet that imperial stouts also share the same coffee and chocolate flavors as stouts, but are richer, robust and intense.

When cellared correctly, a quality imperial stout can hold up for years to come, which is why I like to stay stocked up! Next time you find one that’s especially tasty, try buying two bottles—one for now, and one for later. The flavors and aromas of imperial stouts can change, and like a fine wine, become even better over time. Stouts marked as “barrel aged” evolve exceptionally well. With proper cellaring (and quite a bit of patience), the noticeable presence of alcohol can fade into the background, giving way to smooth, subtle flavors of the barrel it once lived in.

Now, with your newfound expertise on all things dark beer, impress your friends and order one with confidence!

May I suggest…

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Porters:

  • Karl Strauss – Peanut Butter Cup Porter
  • Founders – Porter
  • Bottle Logic – Cobaltic Porter
  • Deschutes – Black Butte Porter

Stouts:

  • AleSmith – Speedway Stout
  • Barley Forge – The Patsy
  • Firestone Walker – Parabola
  • Founders – Breakfast Stout
  • Bottle Logic – Ground State
  • Highwater – Campfire Stout

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Imperial Stouts: 

  • Goose Island – Bourbon County Brand Stout
  • The Bruery – Black Tuesday or its variants (Grey Monday, Mocha Wednesday, Chocolate Rain)
  • North Coast – Old Rasputin Imperial Stout
  • Deschutes – The Abyss
  • Great Divide – Yeti
  • Founders – Imperial Stout

Cheers and thanks for reading! I hope you’ve all enjoyed this series on my recommended beer styles.

Comment below and let me know which porters and stouts you like, and what else you’d like to learn about in future posts!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or subscribe below. New beer adventures and posts are always in the works!

Top Five Recommended Beer Styles Countdown: #2

If you’re just joining us, you’ve found yourself in the midst of my series on beer recommendations. Be sure to check out my previous posts:

This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series


#2: IPAs & Pale Ales


Today we’ll be talking about IPAs: what they are, where they came from, and some common lingo. Let’s get right to it!

I’m well aware that IPAs are not exactly a “beginner” beer style. They usually tend to be hoppy, bitter, and often aggressively so. If you’re looking for something to help ease you into the world of IPAs, do yourself a favor and start with a beer simply labeled as a “Pale Ale” (not India Pale Ale!), which can be described as a toned-down version of the IPA.

IPA stands for India Pale Ale and was first developed by the British to supply the market in India. High temperatures in India meant bad brewing conditions, so the British needed to create a beer that was hearty enough to survive the long six-month journey at sea. In the 1780s, a brewer from London named George Hodgson started exporting his beer via Bow Brewery, located near the Middlesex-Essex border by the East India Docks. The strong hop profile in these beers primarily served as a preservative which kept the beer fresh during the voyage. Other breweries began imitating Hodgson’s beers, and eventually the IPA evolved into a weaker, lighter version we know today as pale ales.

Since then (especially so in very recent history), the IPA has gone through a true renaissance, returning to a profile of massive hop flavors and plenty of experimentation. There are several distinct qualifying terms you will see and hear regarding the style, such as Imperial (or Double) IPAs, Triple IPAs, Black IPAs, West Coast IPAs, New England/East Coast/Hazy IPAs, and even Brett IPAs.

So what do these names mean? A West Coast IPA tends to be the hop-forward, filtered, dry ale most people associate the style with. An East Coast IPA, however, tends to have a hazy appearance, pronounced fruit aromas and flavors, plus a balanced, more mellow hoppiness. Also, these geographical names are primarily to describe where it was first made popular—it’s less about where the beer was made, and more about how. A few minor (but fundamental) tweaks to the recipe can easily turn your West Coast IPA into an East Coast, or vice versa.

Next up, the black IPA, is exactly what it sounds like: dark in color. The hop profile remains intact, but the typical lighter malt is substituted for a darker, more roasted variety. The Brett IPA is another twist on the original, which uses a wild yeast called Brettanomyces to bring funky characteristics into the mix, similar to some Belgian beer styles.

When considering the ABV, IPAs are usually classified as “single” IPAs. When you see an IPA marked as “Imperial IPA,” “IIPA,” “Double IPA,” or “DIPA,” you can assume that it will be higher in alcohol content, although not actually double that of a single IPA. The same can be said for Triple IPAs, which are even stronger, though not necessarily three times that of a typical IPA.

When it comes to recommending an IPA, the best one is ultimately the freshest one! Hoppy beers are always best drank fresh because they will lose the flavors and aromas imparted by the hops over time. Do not age, cellar or otherwise forget about your IPAs! Naturally, your best bet is looking for IPAs on tap right at their source: your favorite local brewery! Alternatively, check for a date stamp on the bottles or cans you plan to buy on your next beer run. If it’s more than 90 days old, it may be a good idea to try something else!

Now that you know what to expect from the ever-popular IPA, go try some of my favorites!


May I suggest…

  • Tree House – Julius (East Coast)
  • Russian River – Blind Pig (West Coast)
  • Russian River – Pliny the Elder (West Coast Imperial)
  • Bottle Logic – Double Actuator (West Coast Imperial)
  • Monkish – Smarter Than Spock (East Coast)
  • Latitude – 33 Blood Orange IPA (West Coast)
  • Modern Times – Neverwhere (Brett)
  • Anything from Stone (who specializes in IPAs)

Hop heads: leave me a comment below with your favorite IPAs! Cheers!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I’ll reveal my number one recommended style! In the meantime, follow me on Instagram or subscribe below!

Top Five Recommended Beer Styles Countdown: #3

Hello again beer lovers! Today’s post is all about Belgian beers and what makes them unique. If this is the first post you’ve read, I suggest reading the previous posts about Sours and Lagers!

This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series

Belgian beers are actually what converted me into the world of craft beer. They have a distinctive “funkiness” to them that I really enjoy. I’ve even been lucky enough to travel to Belgium (aka the Beer Mecca) to experience their beers first-hand. This may not be everyone’s favorite style, but I certainly enjoy it!


#3: Belgian Ales


The Belgian beer genre can be a bit complicated, so stick with me here. There are several varieties, including dubbels, tripels (or trippels), quadruples, and more. Some breweries—most of which are in Belgium—can also be qualified as Trappist, but in order for a beer to be labeled as such, it must meet the following criteria set forth by the International Trappist Association:

  • The beer must be brewed within the monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision
  • The business practices of the brewery must reflect a monastic way of life and be recognized as having only secondary importance
  • The brewery is not for profit: its income can be used to cover living expenses and maintenance costs, with the balance being donated to charity for social work or otherwise to help those in need

There are currently only 11 breweries on earth that produce certified Trappist ales, so when you see a beer with the Authentic Trappist Product mark, you can guarantee its authenticity and compliance with the rules above.

As far as the individual styles go, there is much hearsay about how dubbels, tripels and quadrupels earned their names, but think of it loosely as an indication of strength. To easily mark the beers, Trappist Monasteries would mark the beer with a series of X’s to indicate strength – X for a weaker beer, XX for a moderately strong beer, and XXX for the strongest beer. Alternatively, some historians believe that the names could have come from the corresponding ABVs, roughly 3%, 6% and 9% (yes, technically Belgian singles do exist, but it’s a relatively unpopular style). Either way, let’s not focus on the naming convention. Just know that it generally indicates the strength of the beer, but the styles themselves are very different, so let’s talk about what to expect when you see these names.

The dubbel was first brewed by Westmalle in 1856, and by 1926, they had changed the original recipe and released Dubbel Bruin, a beer which after much success, was imitated by other breweries around the world. A dubbel is typically a deep reddish-brown color, and fairly strong in alcohol content (approximately 6-8%). Classically brewed with caramelized beet sugar, these beers have rich, complex flavors of malty sweetness and can include hints of dried fruit, clove and banana-like spices. They’re smooth, chocolatey and caramel-like and contain minimal hoppiness.

Now you might be expecting a tripel to be a stronger, darker version of a dubbel, but that’s not exactly the case. Like the dubbel, Westmalle pioneered the modern tripel that we have come to know and love today. Tripels can be closely compared to Belgian Golden Strong Ales, and usually have a beautiful golden hue, with an ABV ranging from about 7.5 – 9.5% (although some can exceed 10%). The high alcohol content is usually well hidden, making these beers surprisingly easy to drink. Similarly to the dubbel, tripels are brewed with beet sugar, but without the caramelization. The sugar raises the ABV, but keeps the pale golden color from the lightly kilned malt. Flavors and aromas may include a citrus or banana-like fruitiness, or a clove-like or peppery spice.

Last but not least is the quadrupel, sometimes also referred to as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, plus some additionally being classified as a Grand Cru. Stronger and heavier than the styles above, quadrupels are essentially a ramped up version of a dubbel. With higher ABVs averaging around 10-12%, quadrupels are packed with rich flavors characterized by their spicy, ripe fruit flavors like plum, fig and raisin. The hoppiness is nicely balanced by the malty sweetness, revealing hints of molasses with an underlying bread-like flavor.

No matter which Belgian style you choose, keep in mind that most are traditionally bottle conditioned, meaning the yeast is very much present in the bottle, so remember to pour carefully!

May I suggest…

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Dubbels:

  • Westmalle – Dubbel
  • La Trappe – Dubbel
  • Chimay – Premiere
  • Affligem – Dubbel
  • Russian River – Benediction
  • Lost Abbey – Lost and Found Abbey Ale

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Tripels (Belgian Strong Golden Ales):

  • Westmalle – Tripel
  • La Trappe – Tripel
  • Bernardus – Tripel
  • Chimay – Cinq Cents
  • Affligem – Tripel
  • Huyghe – Delirium Tremens
  • Duvel Moortgat – Duvel
  • Unibroue – La Fin du Monde
  • Victory – Golden Monkey
  • North Coast – Pranqster
  • Russian River – Damnation

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Quadrupels (Belgian Strong Dark Ales):

  • Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren – Trappist Westvleteren 12
  • Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy – Trappistes Rochefort 10
  • St Bernardus – Abt 12
  • Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven – La Trappe Quadrupel
  • Brouwerij Van Steenberge – Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple
  • Chimay – Grande Reserve
  • Lost Abbey – Judgment Day
  • Russian River – Salvation

Authentic Trappist Beer

Leave a comment below to let me know which Belgian beers are your favorite!

I’ll be back tomorrow to reveal pick #2. So you don’t miss out, follow me on Instagram or subscribe below!

Top Five Recommended Beer Styles Countdown: #4

In case you missed the first post, this is the second post in a mini-series focused on my top recommended beer styles. If you haven’t already done so, go back and read my previous post: #5: Sours – Lambics, Gueuzes & Wild Ales!

This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series

I think too many of us (myself included) get comfortable with a certain style or beer and tend to ignore other styles that don’t appeal to us as much. When I look at a beer menu, I generally find myself ordering ales, not lagers. But when the right moment comes along—like a hot day at the beach or the perfect food pairing—I will drink a lager. So why am I writing a whole post recommending lagers when they’re not my go-to beer?

First of all, it’s not all about me. This post is for you. And your friends who want to learn to like craft beer (and maybe some who don’t!). This series is also about branching out and expanding your palate, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to write about a category that I’m still expanding on myself.

I’m constantly trying to find and drink new beers that I haven’t had before, including those of which are styles I typically don’t gravitate towards. And let me tell you, I’m usually pleasantly surprised with what I find! The moral of this story: if you can set aside your preconceived notions, you will begin to open your mind (and palate) to new options.


#4: Lagers


Although I’ve already admitted that lagers aren’t personally my beer of choice most days, I can appreciate them for what they are. Easily described as clean, crisp and refreshing, these beers work great for those long summer days, and are by far the most popular choice at any given sporting event. For those of you with friends that swear by Coors, Bud Light or any of the other crappy big-name beers, craft lagers make for an easy and welcoming upgrade to their world of possible beer choices.

Lagers are fundamentally different than ales. Brewed with different yeast strains, ales are “top-fermented,” and require a warmer temperature to ferment. Ales are also quick to ferment, usually ready for bottling in just 1 to 2 weeks. Lagers, however, are “bottom-fermented,” require colder temperatures, and can take up to 6 weeks for fermentation to complete. Ale yeast is generally hardier, meaning it’s more conducive to the production of high ABV beers. By comparison, the slower, more fragile lager yeast typically produces less alcohol.

Now for some brief history. Lagers were first brewed in Bavaria, Germany in the early nineteenth century. The word “lager” comes from the German lagern, meaning “to store,” which makes sense when you think about the prolonged period of cold storage needed for fermentation. Before refrigeration was conceived, German brewers would store the beer in caves filled with ice from nearby lakes and rivers to keep the beer cold during warmer months. They would also plant chestnut trees to provide shade to the area, a concept which developed into the modern beer garden.

To say lagering is an artistry would be an understatement. There’s a huge range of both domestic and imported lagers to choose from. Some of the most popular varieties include Bocks, Doppelbocks, Helles Bocks, Munich Dunkels, Pilsners, Schwarzbiers and Vienna Lagers.

img_2385By now, I hope I’ve inspired you to go out pick up at least one new lager on your next beer run! If so, may  I suggest…

  • Bottle Logic – Lagerithim
  • Maui Brewing – Bikini Blonde Lager
  • Weihenstephaner Original
  • Gordon Biersch – Schwarzbier
  • Gordon Biersch – Blonde Bock
  • Great Lakes Brewing – Eliot Ness

Lager lovers, comment below to let me know what your favorites are! Who knows, it could end up being the subject of a future post!

Come back tomorrow to see what my #3 recommendation will be. Until then, follow me on Instagram or subscribe below!