Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gateway Beers from Macro to Craft

You’ve read Part One – Why Drink Craft Beer? and now you’ve convinced your friend to at least try craft beer. So now what? The beer experience isn’t just about the initial taste; it’s the look of the beer, the aroma – especially as it’s freshly poured and the aromatic bouquet opens up – and the after taste. All of these impressions send a message to your brain, as your 10,000 taste buds aren't the only things that create an opinion.

Your goal is to ease your friend into craft beer, have them enjoy your suggested beers and gradually, expose them to the more unique flavours, styles and regions.  Pick your transition beers carefully, don’t force it upon them and serve the beer in the correct, clean, unchilled glass at the right temperature. If they want to drink it out of the bottle, convince them that pouring it into a glass will open up the flavours. Now when you pour the beer straight into the centre of the glass, they may think you’re an amateur as EVERYONE knows that you should tilt the glass to reduce the head. Settle down, pal, this isn’t my first canoe trip. Pouring the beer straight into the glass allows the beer to open up and as you patiently wait for the foam to reduce, some excess gas is dissipating to create a smoother beer more similar to draught. This might take a few pours, but the dense, creamy foam you create is worth it.

If you’re starting your friend on draught, then you’re not going to have much control on the pour or freshness thus, go to one of your reliable craft beer establishments to ensure your friend is getting the best craft beer experience possible.

What to order your macro-loving friend:
The selections I’ve picked are heavily weighted on what is available in North America and by no means is this a comprehensive list of all the great beers available to us. There are many good beers worldwide thus, pick something similar that’s available in your region.

Day One: start with something that’s similar to what they’re drinking, such as a lager or pilsner. They’re not going to find a craft brew that tastes like Bud Lite Mojito (thank god), but these styles won’t send them off the deep end. Lagers and pilsners are low IBU and about 5% ABV thus, the only major change they should notice is the enhanced flavour and freshness from a beer brewed with quality ingredients and without cheap adjuncts. Some good choices include:

§  Cigar City Xenu Cream Lager 5% ABV
§  Lighthouse Lager 5.1% ABV
§  Kona Longboat Island Lager 4.6% ABV
§  Rogue Über Pilsner 5.2% ABV
§  Bell’s Lager of the Lakes 5% ABV
§  North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner 4.4% ABV
§  Red Racer Classic Lager 5% ABV
§  Steam Whistle Pilsner 5% ABV

Day Two: yeah, ok, it’s not likely going to be day two, but you people like some sort of numbering system so work with me. Your friend is enjoying the craft beer, sees you ordering a different beer each round, and is getting more curious by the day. Let’s go a little bit hoppier and suggest a pale or amber ale. It’s still a beer they’ve likely ordered, just made better by a magical craft brewer. Suggestions:

§  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 5.6% ABV
§  Phillips Blue Buck Pale Ale 5% ABV
§  Driftwood Ale 5% ABV
§  Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale 6.5% ABV
§  Odin’s Gift Nordic Amber Ale 5.4% ABV
§  Elysian Brewing Loser Pale Ale 7% ABV
§  Stone Pale Ale 5.4% ABV
§  Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale 5% ABV

Next Up: It’s time to give your bestie a beer that he/she has likely never heard of before, let alone tried. Let’s go with a trip to Belgium and try one of these:  Belgian Golden Strong Ale such as Duvel from Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat. Your friend will feel sophisticated and may form an accent, but play along. Slowly pour this beauty into a fluted glass, if possible, and watch the creamy head grow. Now enjoy. See, friend, there’s a reason I like to try different styles and from different breweries. I’m  crazy, crazy like a beer loving fox. Try these Belgian beers, from Belgium and abroad, with your friend as well:

§  Ommegang Rare Vos 6.5% ABV
§  La Trappe Tripel 8% ABV
§  Driftwood Ale 5% ABV
§  Unibroue La Fin du Monde 9% ABV
§  Russian River Benediction 6.75% ABV
§  North Coast Pranqster 6.7% ABV
§  Westmalle Dubbel 7% ABV
§  Trappistes Rochefort 10 11.3% ABV

Time to Kick it Up! Should we do it? Are they ready for a hop bomb? Not quite yet. Let’s introduce them to real IPAs in hoppy steps. If they’re Canadian, they’ve probably had Alexander Keith’s IPA and think that they know what an IPA tastes like. Since Keith’s tastes like a lager, because it is a lager, you should warn them that any impression they had of an IPA should be forgotten. Immediately. Go with a lower IBU IPA to get them used to the bitterness as if you go big hop, they may scare off like a turkey at Easter. Try these:

§  Goose Island IPA 5.9% ABV; 55 IBU
§  Dogfishhead 60 Minute 6% ABV; 60 IBU
§  Odin Sigrun IPA 6.1% ABV; 50 IBU
§  Howe Sound Devils Elbow 6% ABV; 68 IBU
§  Redhook Long Hammer 6.2% ABV; 44 IBU
§  10 Barrel Apocalpyse IPA 6.5% ABV; 65 IBU

Hop ON! Throughout their metamorphosis, you should listen to their feedback and adjust your selections based on their comments. If they’re riding the craft beer unicorn and enjoying everything you suggest, then keep going and have them try some hoppier IPA’s and maybe, an imperial or double IPA soon. I could give you a long list of amazing IPAs as these are just a handful:
§  Driftwood Fat Tug IPA 7% ABV; 80 IBU
§  Bell’s Two Hearted Ale 7% ABV; 55 IBU
§  Lighthouse Switchback 6.5% ABV; 80 IBU
§  Firestone Walker Union Jack 7.5% ABV; 75 IBU
§  Red Racer IPA 6.5% ABV; 80 IBU
§  Cigar City Jai Alai IPA 7.5% ABV; 70 IBU
§  Green Flash West Coast 7.3% ABV; 95 IBU
§  Stone IPA 6.9% ABV; 77 IBU

Dark and Dreamy: Have the unicorn swoop in and take them to the heavenly place known as Russian Imperial Stouts. It’s probably a good idea to tell them this this won’t taste like a Guinness as it will be rich, full of chocolate and espresso flavours – and boozy. At 9 – 15%, you don’t want your friend to order more than one of these and expect they will continue walking in a straight line for long. Suggestions:
§  Driftwood Singularity 14% ABV
§  Howe Sound Pothole Filler 9% ABV
§  North Coast Old Rasputin 9% ABV
§  Parallel 49 Russian Imperial Stout 10.9% ABV
§  Oskar Blues Ten Fidy 10.5% ABV
§  Founders Russian Imperial Stout 10.5% ABV
§  Three Floyds Dark Lord 15% ABV
§  Brooklyn Black Ops 10.5% ABV

Graduation: You did it! You took a Bud Lite loving recluse and turned them into a craft beer geek. I’m all verclempt. What a glorious thing you did for your friend and his/her taste buds. It’s unlikely you’ll see your friend order macro again if craft is available and there are always grad school beers when your friend is ready for more. Belgian quads, sours (gueze, lambic), barley wines, imperial or double IPA, saisons – and the list goes on. You are a fine person for taking this journey with your friend and I raise many a glass to you. Kudos.


  1. Nice! I never knew this: " Pouring the beer straight into the glass allows the beer to open up and as you patiently wait for the foam to reduce, some excess gas is dissipating to create a smoother beer more similar to draught."

    I feel better with my own supercarbonated beers now!

    1. Try it! It's the way I pour all my beers now.