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!

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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: #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!