Everyone has met the craft beer buff; they’re the person who acts as if they invented the beer. However, a true craft beer fan is someone who can talk about beer with a bit of depth, and appreciates the creative flavors and passion that is dedicated to each craft beer. If you want to expand your knowledge of hops, Vice District is your go-to source.
Keep it Basic
To increase your understanding of beer, it’s important to begin with the basics. As a general rule, every beer can be filed under two categories: a lager or an ale. Both ales and lagers can be light, dark, hoppy, malty, strong or sessionable. What truly defines the two are the temperatures at which they are brewed and the different strains of yeast that are used to convey the various flavor profiles.
Ale the Way Up
Ales can include porters, stouts, brown ales and the wildly popular IPAs.
A quick test to expose a craft beer impostor is to ask them what makes a beer an ale. So you can double check their answer, an ale is fermented with ale yeast strains, which are warm during the fermentation process and are referred to as “top-fermenting” yeasts. It’s nickname is due to its tendency to rise to the surface of the batch during fermentation.
Lagers Down Low
Lagers can include German bocks, pilsners and dark or light lagers, and are fermented with cold, bottom-fermenting yeast.
The yeast used in this brewing technique derives its name from its behavior, as it sinks to the bottom of the batch. The brewing process for lagers is slower than ales, and they carry a smooth, subtle flavor profile and aromas.
Stylin’ and Profilin’
Nearly every self-proclaimed beer fan can say a beer has a malty or hoppy profile regardless if they possess an understanding of the term. To refresh your memory, here is what each term means.
A malty profile is based off the grains used during fermentation, and they feature flavor descriptors such as, grainy or corny, toffee or molasses, plum, toasted or nutty and roasted or coffee. While these are a few of many malty flavors, these provide a good base to describe a craft beer with a bit more depth.
If your friend enjoys the roasted flavor profile of a beer, then impress them by recommending a beer with other roast flavors, such as our Northern English Brown Ale Amour, which features roast and dark chocolate flavors.
The easiest description of the flavor hops bring to a beer, is bitterness. However, hops contribute far more than just the bitter sensation your craft beer imposter friend won’t stop referencing.
Hops are a plant, and contribute a variety of flavors depending on their grower and growing region. The complex flavors and aromas that hops add to a brew can include anything from floral, fruit and citrus flavors to earthy, piney and spicy notes. Similar to malty flavors, hops have far more descriptors, but the aforementioned are a good place to start when describing and recommending quality, craft beer. A fun trivia fact you can surprise the craft beer poser with is that nearly every beer contains hops, even if it is not bitter. If someone raves on about the citrus flavors in a beer, then you can safely recommend a session IPA with citrus tones, such as our Initiation IPA.
Whether you’re a dedicated fan or a total newbie, we have a great resource available to help you study-up before the next craft beer festival. While there is nothing wrong with simply enjoying a craft beer, it always helps when you are able to identify the good traits of a beer. This knowledge also comes with the added benefit of being able to discover new, delicious varieties as well as distinguish and appreciate each of the complex flavors that are hidden within craft beers.