Freddy here with another fun-filled SWL. Oh, Beer, how I enjoy you to the fullest.
Beer often gets the reputation of being uncultured, low brow, piss water. Times are changing, not fast enough for me though.
I was born when the microbrews really started taking off in the US. People took a look around and said "We can do better." And they have. Just walk into your local grocery (or alcohol seller) and you will see a humungous selection. All you have to do is find what type you like. And there are a TON.
There are two main types of beer: top-fermenting yeasts which produce our Ales, and bottom-fermenting yeasts which produce our Lagers (most beers are lagers). The ales are produced using warmer temperatures while the lagers are produced at colder temperatures. There is Belgian style of spontaneous fermentation, referred to as lambic, that is gaining some traction too. Beer styles are so much more than the fermentation process though. Beers are categorized by factors such as colour, flavour, strength, ingredients, production method, recipe, history, or origin.
Case in point: IPAs - Indian Pale Ales - have been popular over the past five years, though their traction is slowing. It was getting to the point they were so hoppy you could only taste the hops, no balance to the other flavors in the beer.
And yes, beers should have lots of different flavors. Just look at the picture above. Do you think those beers are going to taste the same? Up there is a blonde ale, a stout, an IPA or pale ale, and an amber ale or dark larger. (Please note, these are mainly guesses based on the coloring - that's why there are some "ors" in the bunch.) Each of these have been made using different ingredients and methods producing a vast array of flavors to enjoy - Yeast, Grain, Hops, & Water all mixed together to produce something unique and ready to go hand in hand with a meal. All good beer goes better with a meal after all, just like wine. You just have to know how to pair it. (Sound familiar?)
I had Wine Appreciation in college (quiet, it was a hard class - not just drinking), and my Professor Vine (yes, that was his real name) had some good advice.
"Don't listen to the snobs, they're drinking to impress and mostly crap is coming out of their mouths. Drink what you like. Enjoy what you drink, whether it be wine, beer, or something else."
Those words stayed with me, as did his lessons in enjoying food with alcohol and not just alcohol to get drunk. There were $20 bottle of wines that we tasted alongside some $200 bottles, because he wanted to prove a point. Sometimes a name sells the bottle, sometimes it's the taste. Go with the taste—the expensive bottle didn't always win. Pair what you like to drink with food and your taste, sometimes the rules help, but don't force yourself to drink something because tradition said so. Sometimes beer is the better choice.
I loved him.
Beer has come a long way since the seventies, when people started thinking the could really make something out of it. I encourage everyone to go to a tasting, because yes, there are beer tastings all over the place, and see if you find something you like. You never know. You might find a beer just for you.