If you're lucky enough to live in a place where there are plenty of brewpubs or a liquor store with a good selection of craft brews, then are you in luck. I've declared it to be "Build Your Beer Palate" season. It is now open as of today, November 15, and will run through January 2, 2008.
What this means is that if you normally stock the fridge with Bud, Miller, Coors, or other Macro beers, it is time to stop. Take this time of year to celebrate the "little guy", the microbrewer, by buying craft beers or stopping in and having a freshly brewed beer at a local brewery.
I know it might be a bit of a challenge. I know you might be worried about getting the Bitter Beer face.
The stuff in the beer that makes it bitter is called hops, and macrobrewers use less "hops-per-beer" than your craft brewer does. So, yeah, it's going to have some flavor, and character. You're going to get used to it. Because right now, America has some of the best beer in the world, and for the most part, you're not going to find it in your local grocery store (unless, of course, you live in northwest Indiana, then you're in luck), or should I say, Wal-Mart.
Here's what I want you to do:
1) Find something you've maybe seen but never tried. Sam Adams is okay, if you can find it. And you can. I would probably avoid the Winter Sampler, as these are darker, higher gravity beers, and they can take some getting used to. Avoid Heineken. If you can find a place that will allow you to make your own six pack, that is the best way to go. Write down the good ones and go back for more of these later.
2) Here's a basic breakdown:
A) Lagers and pilsners are lighter. These are typically what American macrobeers are modeled after. Bud is a lager, and Lite is a pilsner.
B) Try a pale ale. These generally have more of a hoppy taste and can get you interested in other styles. Bass is pretty common, and is pretty much the standard of pale ales. Been around for years. Harp is good, too.
C) Now that you've got a baseline pale ale, try a Sierra-Nevada pale ale. This thing borders on the edge of India Pale Ales, which I'll get to next. A bit more hoppy than a Bass or Harp.
D) India Pale Ale. If you get to this point, you're starting to improve your palate. You're getting used to the hops.
I'll cover more styles as the days go by. Remember, to really enjoy beer, pour it from the bottle into the middle of the glass. Don't try to avoid building a nice, foamy head. Look at the beer. How's the color? Darker than a macrobrew? Probably. Because it's got body, baby! Smell the beer. What do you smell? Hops? Flowers? Pine cones? That's good stuff! As you drink the beer, notice if there is any lacing (that's where the foam sort of sticks to the side of the glass and leaves a residue as you drink the beer). Have a good one!
Recommendations: Sierra-Nevada Pale Ale, Harp, Dogfish Head 60-minute and 90-minute IPA, Highland IPA, Harpoon IPA, Three Floyd's Dreadnaught IPA