Are you not much of a beer fan, but have been intrigued by the blossoming popularity of craft beer? With an ever-expanding lineup of craft breweries producing so many different styles of beer it can be daunting to choose where to start.
Here are three suggestions for “gateway” beer styles that are approachable and still full of the flavors that have hooked so many beer fans.
These two closely related styles are a great choice for someone who likes traditional American light lagers. These beers are light in color and body with balanced bitterness and crisp finishes that don’t stray terribly far from Bud or Miller.
Beachwood Brewing won a gold medal at the Great American Beerfest last year for their excellent Foam Top cream ale, and while it isn’t in bottles you should be able to find it on tap around town.
The kolsch is a popular style for summer seasonal brews, and both Golden Road Brewing and Eagle Rock Brewing make a version.
Belgian Style Wit
Belgian witbiers are a classic gateway style that use wheat to provide a refreshing lightness and crisp, slightly tart finish. Subtly spiced with coriander and dried orange peel, these brews are very lightly hopped and great for drinkers who haven’t yet discovered a love for the bitter flower.
The big brewers like Coors and Anheuser Busch have capitalized on the style’s approachability with their Bluemoon and Shock Top brands, but Allagash White is the exemplary craft example of the style. It is light, refreshing, and the spices are perfectly balanced.
Manifesto Wit from Eagle Rock Brewery is a delicious local example that adds rose petals to the brew.
The 2013 Craft Beer Conference is in full swing here at the Washington Convention Center, and with the country’s greatest brewers congregating under one roof, you better believe that some pretty interesting insider knowledge is getting passed around. One of the more interesting lectures I had the privilege of attending during today’s conference sessions was “The Who, What, Where, When and How of the Craft Beer Consumer”, a discussion led by Danny Brager on the relevant statistics and trends of the craft beer drinker.
Equipped with extensive Nielsen data on consumer and retail trends over the past few years, Danny provided some pretty compelling statistics and numbers that quickly painted the picture of who drinks craft beer in this country.
Here are some of the more interesting figures from Danny’s lecture that caught my eye:
- Upscale Beer: It’s What’s For Dinner – Upscale beer (i.e. craft beers) have experienced an overall surge in demand and consumption, and despite the higher pricing of the beer (like a bottle of Dogfish Head over a bottle of Bud), the craft beer segment has seen a massive growth in sales in the past four years that other segments of beer have not been experiencing
- Young Folks Be Drinkin’ – Almost 1/3 of beer buyers have purchased a craft beer over the past 12 months, with Millennials representing 47% of the craft beer market (according to market research)
- Check Out My Awesome Beer Collection Dude – Household penetration of craft beers has seen growth of 27% over the past four years, from 2008 to 2012
- Why Do Craft Beer Drinkers Buy…Well, Craft Beers? – 50% of people polled in a study said they buy craft beers to experiment in flavors, 46% said they bought craft beers because they taste better (duh), and 40% said they enjoy the seasonal offerings that craft beers provide, while 36% of people polled said they buy craft beers as a treat for either a friend or themselves
Want to boost Michigan’s job growth and economy? Treat yourself to a cold craft beer.
Michigan added 17 breweries last year and outpaced the average national industry growth rate by 12 percent. New breweries opened in Big Rapids, Grand Rapids, Marquette and Lake Leelanau, for example.
The Demeter study used data from an economic impact report from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, based in Virginia.
The report, “America’s Beer Distributors: Fueling Jobs, Generating Economic Growth & Delivering Value to Local Communities,” is one of the first national studies that reflect beer distribution companies’ total impact on national and state economies. It used U.S. government data sources for production, employment, wages, incomes, taxes and investments for the brewing companies studied.
According to the association’s president, Craig Purser, the industry provides an economic boost for every state.
“Distributors benefit the economy of their communities through local business-to-business commerce, local investments, capital assets and tax revenue,” Purser said. “They provide services that improve efficiency for trading partners, especially small brewers and retailers, and they ensure fair prices and a broad selection of products for consumers to enjoy.”
The addition of craft beer to Cambria Suites new food-and-beverage program didn’t come from an idea born at Choice Hotels’ corporate headquarters. It came from the beer cooler behind the bar at the Cambria Suites in Columbus, Ohio. Michael Murphy, Choice’s senior VP of upscale brands, was on a tour of meetings with chefs, executives and owners to discuss ways to improve the brand’s F&B offerings.
“I looked over the bar and down into the beer case and saw a strange bottle,” Murphy said of his stop there. “They had kind of hid it from me because it was off standard, but the bartender said it was a local craft beer that everyone was asking for.”
When Cambria Suites rolled out its new program last May, it included a new standard: All locations must have two local craft beers available in bottles.
Hotels are taking advantage of the rapid growth of the craft beer industry in the U.S., which has more than doubled from $5.7 billion in sales in 2007 to $12 billion last year, according to Mintel, a global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence.
But that has not been the case when it comes to craft beers: The latest research from Chicago-based Mintel, a global supplier of product research, shows that sales of craft beer nearly doubled between 2007 and 2012 — growing from $5.7 billion in 2007 to $12 billion in 2012.
And per Mintel’s research, the boom isn’t likely to slow soon. Mintel is forecasting craft beer sales to grow to a whopping $18 billion by 2018 — a tripling of sales since 2007.
That can’t be great news for the likes of Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, as they seek to boost sales for their respective flagship mainstream beers.
Noted Jennifer Zegler, beverage analyst at Mintel: “The growth rates seen by craft beer are impressive, especially during a period when domestic and imported beers have shown flat to declining performance. While the craft and craft-style beer category remains a small segment of the $78 billion U.S. beer industry, the category has been able to stabilize the overall beer industry, which has experienced volume declines in the domestic and imported beer categories since 2008.”
We’ve got extreme sports, extreme makeovers, and now: extreme beer.
A six pack for over 90 bucks? A beer you can only buy on one day a year? A stout with a dizzying 50 percent alcohol? These examples — and many more — are just a few of the mug-tipping exploits of extreme-beer brewing, the latest craze to hit the craft beer market.
“The guy who really coined the term was Sam Calagione, the owner and brewer of Delaware-based craft brewery, Dogfish Head,” explains Mark Zappasodi, a hop farmer in Merrimac, Mass. “He started taking huge risks with beers, beyond what people were doing on the small scale. He was doing it on a large scale on the East Coast. He was one of the first here to stick his head out and do something different than others had been doing,”
So what makes a beer extreme? Simply put, it’s a brew that pushes brewing beyond the normal parameters of your average ale. “Winemakers might make 40 wines across 40 vintages – that sucks! Your entire life you might have only 40 chances to get it right,” reasons Dave Flaherty, beer director for Hearth restaurant in New York City. “But brewers can be more like chefs and brew every day; they can make 365 different beers in a year. And one thing that’s happening: Brewing is looking to be more progressive.”
Louisiana craft beer has made a lot of progress in the last couple years. So much so that it is time for the masses to start paying more attention to what they drink, and just as importantly, where it is from. Louisiana has always had a lot of pride in eating locally. They promote their seafood to the rest of the world, and dishes like king cake, jambalaya, and boudin are symbols of the state that they wouldn’t dare accept from outside borders.
The farm to table movement has also hit the restaurant scene in Louisiana, where we see chefs actually paying attention to farms and local food manufacturers where they source their ingredients. So now it is beer’s turn. This goes out to all the beer drinkers, restaurant and bar owners, servers and bartenders: start drinking and pushing more Louisiana-brewed beer.
Now that everyone out there has agreed to drink locally, you may also want to know which beers to drink. Below is a list of the top 10 beers brewed in Louisiana in 2012. Some have come and gone, some are always available, and some will be brewed again, I’m sure.
It’s no secret that people in Chicago drink a lot of beer. The hard part is choosing just one type of beer.
In a sign that Midwestern taste buds are rapidly evolving, “Chicago beer drinkers’ palates are becoming more educated, becoming more diverse” says Pete Crowley, president of Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and owner of Haymarket Pub & Brewery in Chicago. “The majority of people (craft brewers) are in it because they are passionate about beer, passionate about flavors and passionate about being a local brand.”
Lagunitas Brewing Company has had its eyes set on Chicago for a while. The California-based brewery is now in the process of expanding into a 300,000 square- foot warehouse on the city’s Southwest side. “This brewery will serve all of the eastern United States from Denver to…all the way to Key West,” says Lagunitas CEO Tony Magee.
Fifteen Chicago Chipotle restaurants are adding an unlikely item to their menus in the next week: local craft beer.
Since launching in the summer of 2011, 5 Rabbit has positioned itself as the nation’s first Latin-themed craft brewery. The beer has been widely accepted in craft beer circles, but in Chipotle, will aim for a decidedly more mainstream audience. Other Chipotles across the country have sold craft beer, but this is a first for the Chicago area.