With giant marketing campaigns bombarding consumers with complete nonsense keywords such as “triple hopped” and “finest country barley,” it’s not a surprise that the majority of Americans out there actually believe that the watered down macrobrews they are drinking constitute good beer.
If you are one of those people, it’s really not your fault. If you asked me a few years ago what a good beer was, I would probably have stopped and thought about the 10 different beers I’ve bothered to try, and said “I don’t know, Blue Moon maybe?”
In reality, the beer industry is one of those rare markets where the quality of the product doesn’t seem to have much of a correlation with its popularity. AB-InBev and Miller-Coors each sell far more beer then the 2000+ US craft brewers do combined, despite offering incredibly inferior products. This week’s column is a direct effort to try to change those numbers. If you are still drinking the macros for any reason but the broke college kid’s attempt to get blackout for ten bucks, then you need to open up your mind and your taste buds.
If you like Corona:
Everyone I know who likes Corona talks about how light, crisp and refreshing it is. And though that may be true, there are a number of craft beer styles that feature that same zesty mouthfeel while providing what Corona does not: flavor.
For those really seeking the lightest summer lager possible, try New Glarus Totally Naked, a 4 percent beer that highlights fluffy malt notes with clean noble hops. Or if you want something a bit more complex and higher in alcohol, try Goose Island Sofie, a zesty Belgian Saison ale with crisp lemon, high carbonation and a slightly bitter mineral aftertaste.
If you like Miller/Budweiser:
I don’t think too many college kids orbit far enough from reality to fall into this group, but if you are one of them, don’t worry, there’s still hope. Chances are if you like these beers it’s just because you are used to them. Thankfully, your taste buds will adjust over time, so try a nice transition brew like Capital Octoberfest or Brooklyn Lager. These beers highlight toasty and biscuity malts with a nice grainy sweetness, some honey/brown sugar, fall spices and low bitterness.
If you like Blue Moon:
I know a lot of people who love this beer. To them, Blue Moon is a great craft alternative to the likes of Miller and Budweiser. What they may not know is that Blue Moon is made by Miller-Coors and really can’t hold up to the quality of true craft Belgian wheat beers.
What’s even more amazing to me is the popularity of this beer despite the price. A six pack typically goes for $7.99, which is a dollar or two cheaper than some of the best craft beers in Madison, if that.
So if students aren’t drinking Blue Moon because it’s cheap, then why are they? I think the answer is simple: lack of knowledge regarding other good examples of the style. The most well known solid alternative is likely Hoegaarden, a straightforward ale with lots of yeast, wheat and clove. Or you can take it a step further and try Wisconsin’s own Furthermore Fatty Boombalatty, a creamy wheat beer that bares a delicious resemblance to bananas fosters.
If you like Summer Shandy:
Unlike the watered down beers noted above, there’s nothing really inherently wrong with Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, other than it tasting more like lemonade than beer. If that’s your thing then by all means keep sipping away. For those of you who seek to keep that refreshing lemon-zest flavor while retaining the complexity and subtlety of a good craft ale, try a sour ale or saison. They may be a little intense at first, but well worth the challenge.
One of the most critically acclaimed saisons, Boulevard Saison-Brett is not easy to find around Madison, but represents a unique, funky, grassy, bubbly and zesty summer ale. On the other hand, you can be even more adventurous with Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza, a nice sour blonde ale with a tart green apple and lemon profile.
If you like Guinness:
Guinness was the first beer that made me realize that beer could be more than corn water. While many beer fans may recommend any complex, dark, coffee-dominated stout as a nice transition, I think you’re better off trying a nitrogen tap to better replicate the incredibly creamy mouthfeel of the Irish Dry Stout. Head to the Old Fashioned for the Central Waters Nitro Mud Puppy Porter or The Coopers Tavern to try the Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout, which is also available in nitro bottles in many local liquor stores.
Have more questions about Niko’s suggestions? Want to challenge him? Just want to have a good, old-fashioned chat about microbeers? Shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.