So you’re ready to give craft beer a try, and to move on from mass market pale lagers lacking in flavor and substance. Perhaps you’ve tried a Sam Adams Lager or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, as they are widely distributed. You should have noticed a pretty big boost in flavor. They are well-crafted beers, but there are so many more flavors in the craft beer world. We could jump right in to Barrel-Aged Imperial Stouts, but what fun would it be to skip all the great beers in between.
To start, our first recommendation is from Bridgeport, a longer standing craft brewer in Portland. Their Smooth Ryed Ale offers a nice medium bodied ale with some interesting malt character from being brewed with Rye malt. Hops play a role in the aroma, flavor, and bitterness of the beer. The citrusy aromas are from Centennial hops. In the aroma you can also smell some light caramel malt and a hint of spice from the Rye. The beer has a nice smooth texture and much more body than a mass market lager. In the finish, you’ll taste some bitterness from the hops. The bitterness is smooth, and balances well with the rest of the beer. The beer is classified as a Rye IPA.
Our next recommendation is to try a Wit. The image above is a great Wit from 512 Brewing in Austin. The Wit is going to open you up to a flavor of Belgium, and lightly spiced beers. Wits are brewed with wheat which is traditionally un-malted, giving the beer a cloudy appearance. They have very little hops but added flavor from being brewed with coriander and bitter orange peel. The aromas of the beer highlight these, with notes of spice and citrus. The beer is fermented with Belgian yeast, which provides fruity aromatics and flavors. Try to find a Wit brewed fresh by a local brewery near you instead of Blue Moon or Shock Top which are produced by the major breweries in massive quantities. You’ll find more character and flavor in a fresh locally brewed version.
If you enjoy coffee and roasted flavors, you should seek out a Stout, not an Imperial Stout yet, but one that is very approachable. We recommend Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout. This is a dark and roasty stout brewed with oats. Brewers add oats to beer for increased texture, the oats add a creaminess to the body of the beer. Oats also provide a subtle nut-like flavor to the beer when used in higher quantities. Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout has a medium body, roasty character, and a creamy mouthfeel. Despite the black coloring, it is easy to drink, and not overly thick and rich. The beer is low in hop bitterness, but the roasted grains add a touch of bitter flavors.
One of the fun things about being a craft beer fan is to compare beers brewed in the same style and catch the differences in flavors and aromas between the beers. Seek out other Rye IPAs, Wits, and Oatmeal Stouts to see how different brewers craft each of these beers styles. If you are interested in exploring all of the styles produced in the craft beer world, check out our Beer Styles Page.