Ah beer...another one of those wonderful things we humans have figured out that speaks to our collective soul. Like wine, beer is an ancient experiment in chemistry and biology that resulted in a beverage that brings people together and just tastes great. Unfortunately, beer went through a pretty major downturn here in the United States so much so that a significant portion of Americans have no idea that beer can actually taste good. Here's a guide for the beginner.
Let me start off by saying that like all things, beer can become an obsession. I have friends who get a dreamy look in their eye and a small but noticeable smile as they talk about beer. Some home brew small batches of beer that end up being some of the most amazing bottles I've had the privilege of drinking. However, we don't all have access to this. The quickest way to get your hands on a bottle of suds is at a local store. So in this post I'm going to give you a rundown on the beers I've been enjoying that are also quite easy to get a hold of.
If you've only ever had one of the "big three" beers in the US, you're really missing out and you have tasted recipes that are really quite poor. I'm not going to name names, but you know the brands I'm talking about. Ironically, I'm sure some of those brands actually own the beers I'm going to recommend below. I won't get in to the politics and hypocrisy of some of the big beer companies in this post but if you're interested, you should really check out a great documentary called Beer Wars. Its on Netflix streaming and its awesome.
Sometimes nothing hits the spot like a refreshingly cold Mexican beer. Lots of people start out with Corona but I suggest trying Dos Equis (XX) and Negra Modelo. Dos Equis has two flavors commonly found on store shelves and I usually prefer the darker brew (The Ambar) which can easily be found by the brown label it sports. Modelo is awesome as well and has a foil wrapper over the bottle cap. Both are great and go well with Mexican food or can be enjoyed by themselves on a sun drenched deck by the pool.
Recently, wheat beers took on an unnatural popularity similar to what Pinot Noir had after Sideways so the tendency for people to automatically default to Hefenweizens can be a bit annoying. Still, its hard to deny that they can taste incredible. I like Blue Moon which is one of the most popular of the wheat beers. Enjoy it with a slice of orange thrown in or drink it as is. Usually when someone tells me they don't like beer or have no idea where to start, I suggest a wheat beer. Its really friendly on the palette of the novice.
Like wine, once you start, its hard to stop experimenting with new varieties. I call the following beers "bold" only because I group them together this way in my own brain. Beers like Spaten Optimator and Newcastle are darker beers which are usually a bit intimidating for new beer drinkers. Its hard to just jump right in and start drinking these right away but eventually when you acquire the taste for beer, these become really enticing. The darker varieties of beer really open up a whole new world beyond the yellow limp beers that most people are used to.
In my mind, the exotics are the beers I've encountered that are hard to classify. They're also harder to find so a store like BevMo is usually where you'll need to go to find them. Duvel is definitely my favorite of the exotics and indeed, is my favorite beer overall. The flavor is rich but light at the same time. It feels refreshing to drink. Its also a high alcohol content beer at around 8% so a single bottle will make you feel really good. Its also more expensive per bottle but to me its worth it. Some other great exotics are Chimay (all varieties) and Delirium. Delirium comes in a bottle the size of a traditional wine bottle. Its an old brew and packs a punch of flavor and alcohol content. Work your way up to these beers but once you're ready, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Am I an expert? Hardly. Let me know what beers you like. What really satisfies your thirst for a good brew? Taste is a subjective thing so there are no wrong answers. Would love to hear what you think.