I’m usually not impressed with politician’s decrees but wholeheartedly support our governor’s sage decision to officially declare April the official “Beer Month”: Governor Cooper said.
“North Carolina’s craft beer industry is a growing economic engine for our state,” “Breweries help cities big and small by creating jobs and bringing visitors and locals together.”
As per the North Carolina Beer Month site the state boasts of more than 250 breweries — more than any other state in the South
I love beer and am pleased that many others are discovering my passion. But 2018’s most popular beers aren’t baby boomers 15 cent Genny Crème Ale drafts or sixers of Bud or Miller but instead are Craft Beers ( what is craft beer) brewed and consumed by mostly Millennials. That’s right, evidently one of the reasons this demographic doesn’t vote is because they’ve been concentrating on creating and consuming the perfect beer.
Craft Beers are defined as beer produced by small, independent, breweries with an annual production of 6 million barrels or less. And from what I’ve experienced in visiting many of these breweries the staff and master brewers are young, smart, and innovative with borderline mad scientist’s tendencies—my type of people
My transition from years of enjoying Budweiser to the current masterly blended IPA’s was non-intentional. Dining at a tavern in Asheville, North Carolina, there was no Bud or Heineken so I ordered a locally brewed craft beer and discovered the amazing taste of IPAs (India Pale Ale) . I was officially a member of the IPA fan club.
I was now on a quest to try as many craft beers as I could—1 down 4000 +/- to go! A real challenge since I limit myself to a max of two beers a day—but there are 365 days in a year which gives me 730 tastes. So, I’d belly up to the bar and ask for an IPA. Bartenders reply: “Do you like hoppy or malty?” I replied with a stupid shrug and let him/her choose. This method of choosing a beer introduced me to the best and the worst so I decided to try and educate myself on craft beers to become an intelligent beer consumer.
I found that all beer is made from four basic ingredients: Barley, water, hops and yeast. The basic idea is to extract the sugars from grains (usually barley) so that the yeast can turn it into alcohol and CO2, creating beer. There are two basic types of beer, lagers and ales created with different brewing techniques, etc, etc.
It became apparent that understanding and mastering the intricacies of craft beers would challenge my ADD tendencies since beer terms are confusing at best. “Hoppy is bitter, but not always” “Lagers can taste like ales and ales can taste like lagers”. I soon realized that I was wasting my time on trying to become a beer scholar and the only fact I really cared about was a great taste.
Luckily, I live in an area with dozens of breweries and restaurants with large selections of beer and now choose restaurants as much on their beer offerings as their food. Most of these eating places have beer specials which is a great way to taste new beers and save some money. One of our go-to eating establishments is a pizza restaurant with many rotating beers on tap and knowledgeable bartenders who try and explain the beer tastes with samples—great educational tool. As I sampled more beers, it didn’t take long for me to come up with a favorite list (so far):
- Highland IPA (Highland Brewing, Asheville NC)
- Torpedo (Sierra Nevada Brewing, Asheville, NC)
- Bells Two Hearted (Bell’s Brewing, Kalamazoo, MI)
- Pernicious (Wicked Weed Brewing, Asheville, NC)
- Jai Alai (Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, FL)
It’s been enjoyable but an expensive taste test to create this list. Buying craft beer is like buying a custom suit with a master brewer fine tuning the ingredients until they reach the perfect brew—but this costs money because of expensive ingredients, time to perfect and brew, and producing small quantities. An average 6 pack of an IPA costs about $11 whereas I can purchase a twelve pack of my old favorite, Budweiser, for the same price. But the price thing has actually been a positive for me in narrowing down the new beers I try. I wait to experiment with new beers when they are on sale for $8 or $9. If I find a winner I add it to my favorites list and as that list grows the odds of one of them being on sale increases—genius! So now I’m drinking my favorite IPAs at a discount.
I know this exploding beer popularity is here to stay since my wife has traded her wine glass for a beer mug and become a beer groupie. Soon I may not be the only guy to bring a six pack to a wine tasting and maybe some of our young smart millennials can vote while their masterpieces are fermenting. Chug-a-lug!