From Macrobrew to Craft Brew

English: Bottle of Dogfish Head 90 minute Impe...

A road map to get from American Macro brews to beers like the one pictured. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know more than a couple people who drink nothing but Bud Light, and when they are offered a chance to drink a nice, interesting craft brew they decline.  Everyone has their favorites, be it beer, food, liquor, etc.  and they have as much a right to their opinion as anyone else.  Beers like Bud, Coors, and Miller are carefully crafted so that no matter where you go or what time of year it is, your beer will always taste the same.  That is a very tough thing to do and as much as some people make fun of those “big three” beers, they are extremely popular and the quality control is simply amazing.

I don’t drink the “big three” regularly, but sometimes, if I’m out with friends, I’ll begrudgingly share a pitcher of it (which gives me an idea for another off-topic beer post for the future).  Some people aren’t against trying new beer styles, but may just feel overwhelmed and might not know where to begin.  Others might find some styles of beer so different from the “big three” that they aren’t quite sure whether or not it is to their liking.  I think it might be helpful to maybe make a list of how to get from one end of the spectrum (macrobrew) to the other (experimental craft brew) without leaving someone to fend for themselves along a random path.  I’ll try to give a brief example of each grouping I make and give an example or two.  If you were to follow the list from top to bottom, you’d be making small steps along the path.

American Macro-Lagers: Bud, Coors, Miller, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc.  This is the starting point for most casual beer drinkers.

Canadian Macro-Lagers: Molson, Labatt, etc.  These are almost identical to their american counterparts, especially in color and aroma.  Perhaps a bit more flavorful.  (European Lagers have their place in this section as well.  I’d recommend Stella Artois if going the European route.)

Slightly darker american lager: Yuengling Traditional Lager.  This beer is a great drinking beer.  Smooth, delicious.  This is the quality end of the macro brew spectrum in my opinion.

Now is where the progression becomes tougher as we progress from lagers into ales.  There are plenty of micro and regional lagers out there, but for the purpose of the road map, it is time to move on.

Basic american ale:  Samuel Adams Boston Ale.  Basic, some malty flavor, a bit of hop flavor but nothing too intense.  this is straightforward beer still, nothing crazy.

English and Irish ales: Bass Ale, Smithwick’s, Fuller’s ESB.  These beers are a touch on the malty side although the Fuller’s definitely has some bitterness as well.  The Fuller’s might belong in the next category down because it has a much more complex taste.

Steam beer, Wheat beer, Belgian Witbier:  Anchor Steam, Widmer Hefeweizen, Hoegaarden Original White Ale.  These beers are definitely adding something else to the mix.  Anchor Steam is unique, still sessionable, stronger flavors than the above.  Hefeweizen has that wheat character that won’t be  found in the above and more fruity yeast notes.  Hoegaarden is going to add onto the hefeweizen and add other spice and fruit.

Once you’ve reached this stage, you’re ready to experiment with pretty much anything.  All that is left are the big tasting bitter beers and the intimidating dark beers.

Brown ales: Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale, etc.  Strong, malty, dark.  These beers have some slight roasty character and are usually sweeter than most beers.

Porters and Stouts: Sierra Nevada Porter, Guinness, Left Hand Milk Stout, etc.  These are grouped because of the dark color.  Roasty, sometimes chocolate-y taste.  There are a wide range of flavors in these types of beers.  The reason I put them so far down the list was because people seem to have an aversion to the dark color, don’t be afraid!

American Pale Ales: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Full Sail Pale Ale, etc.  These beers are hop forward.  There’s a hoppy floral taste and bitterness.  The hop flavor and bitterness of the beer is not to everyone’s liking.

India Pale Ales: Lagunitas IPA, Goose Island India Pale Ale, Samuel Smith’s India Ale, etc.  These are like the American Pale Ales but stronger.  More bitterness, more hop flavor, more alcohol.

This is where I’ll stop.  Once someone is comfortable drinking IPAs I don’t think they have any kind of craft beer stigma anymore.  From that point there are plenty of other beer styles to choose from, but something like this road map (which is already pretty silly) would become absolutely ridiculous.

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3 thoughts on “From Macrobrew to Craft Brew

  1. Nice little road map there. We’re fortunate down here in Australia that although we’ve got the equivalent or the American Big Three (mostly made by Carlton United Breweries), there are also some very popular medium sized brews that you can get at most bars and liquor stores. Most people with venture to these other brews which leaves them open to trying more craft beer. So I’ve got a few standards that I’ll get friends to try if they’re interested that are great brews, but are a little more accesible than some IPA that will scare them off.

    • Thanks! I do admit that I haven’t been introduced to much in terms of Australian beer aside from Fosters. It is certainly something I should look into next time I go to a bottle store and have a poke around.

      As far as the road map goes, I think it is more of a thought experiment for me than anything else. I’m sure everyone has a different idea as to what beers are more approachable than others.

      • Agreed in regards to the road map… I know Fosters is pretty well marketed in the states, but it’s not as popular as it’s made out to be down here, at least in Melbourne. Check out my mate’s blog http://www.366daysofbeer.com. He set out (and achieved) drinking 366 different Aussie beers last year, and he’s still going! Although I think he’s expanded his selection somewhat. It should get you started on what to drink from the land down under, if you can find it.

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