While there is no doubt that the technological advancements of the last couple of decades have made things a lot more convenient for consumers, it has also killed a lot of the magic that could once be found in making a purchase. All but gone are the days when music lovers would make the pilgrimages to record shops and dig through crates of vinyl in the hopes of finding one of those game-changing records that could kick-start a new obsession with an artist or genre. Thanks to the Internet, the process of buying music has become much more streamlined and efficient. But thanks to that cold efficiency, making those golden discoveries has somewhat lost its magic — the process is less tactile and social.
In the world of craft beer, the magic of discovery that has been lost in so many areas of modern consumerism is still alive and well. In terms of volume of beer, craft brewers put out very little in comparison to the industry behemoths such as Molson Coors. This means that for the craft beer drinker, there are new discoveries to be made everywhere. Other types of beers such as lagers and real ales have become homogenized — at a real ale pub in the UK, you could safely expect the vast majority of the beers to be bitters, golden, or mild ales. This contrasts with what you could expect on offer at a craft beer bar. You could expect a wide range of drinks, including hoppy IPAs, properly brewed and aged lagers, tarty sour beers, or Belgian-style ales. There are craft beer establishments out there that offer literally hundreds of different beers on tap. Like with the record collectors of old, visiting a craft beer bar in a strange town could lead to you trying a new beer, which could set you down a new path of discovery. Craft beer has a much more local and home-grown sense of community than the mainstream. It is often possible to be able to tour the brewery where your beers are brewed and shake hands with one of the brewers. Many craft beers use seasonal ingredients so the beers available at craft beer bars are constantly changing throughout the year as well. For example, there is Brooklyn Breweries Black Chocolate Stout, which is only available during the winter months.
The fun of discovering new beers is, of course, secondary to drinking good tasting beer. Consumers should take notice of craft beer primarily because it tastes better than its mass produced counterparts. Craft brewed beers are generally produced without adding any rice or corn. This is sometimes done by breweries to reduce production costs. However, using rice and corn can lessen the flavour of a beer as well. It’s no coincidence that most advertisements for mainstream beers rely on gimmicks such as “coldness indicators” on the cans rather than focusing on what the beers actually taste like. The reality is that many mainstream beers are fairly tasteless. Craft breweries also have a tendency to use a higher quality of ingredients as well as being much less stingy with the amounts that they use.
Research has also suggested that craft beers are better for your health than beers from conventional breweries. For example, craft beer contains high elements of silica, which has been linked to bone health. Studies have shown that those who enjoy craft beers in moderation have higher bone density than non-craft beer drinkers. Craft beer drinkers have also been shown to have higher levels of vitamin B6 than non-drinkers and even red wine drinkers. Craft beers also tend to have lower calorie contents than mainstream beers and they can often have a higher alcohol content than mainstream beers (some breweries offer beers with downright ridiculous alcohol content — for example, Hair Of the Dog Brewery from Portland makes a beer called “Dave” that is 29% alcohol), meaning that a drinking session will put less stress on your waistline and you will be able to get reasonably drunk without making the countless trips to the bathroom which are common with drinking sessions with beers such as Bud Light.
Another good reason for getting into craft beers is that they go well with your meals. As with wines, it is common for craft beers to have food pairing suggestions from the brewer. Due to the aforementioned diversity of beers on offer, it is certain that you will find a craft beer pairing for any type of cuisine. Brewdog, for example, recommends that their flagship Punk IPA is best enjoyed with a dish with strong and spicy flavours, such as a curry.
After spending a bit of time in the craft brew scene, it is evident that there is a lot more passion about the beer. From the consumer right up to the owners of the brewery, everyone is much more concerned with beers that offer quality flavours. While it’s likely the owners of Heineken enjoy beer, it is unlikely that they are as obsessive about flavour as the owners of craft breweries tend to be. After a while of drinking quality craft beers that actually taste of something, you will find it very hard to go back to the mainstream of beers where the focus is on everything but the flavour, and the beers are often tasteless and uninspired. If you want to get into craft beers, then it is as simple as heading to a craft beer bar, trying a few beers, and seeing where it takes you. The sheer volume of choice can be intimidating but in most establishments, the bar staff will be more than happy to make recommendations, and it is even common practice to offer small tasters of some of the different beers on tap if you ask. If you give craft beer a try, it won’t take you long to see the absurdity of the commercially available beers that taste of nothing.