It’s happened. While at a BBQ, a mate handed you a beer unfamiliar to yourself. It looked foreign. It seemed to be in a language you were pretty certain was German and had acronyms like ‘IBU’ which you could only assume stood for ‘International Beer Union’ or ‘Intact birthing uterus’. You gave your mate a side-long look, dripping of scepticism and suspicion.
“Just try it” they say, with a smug smirk, one you’re sure meant they were either trying to poison you or they think they know better than everyone else. So you try it thinking; ‘I’ll wipe that smug look off their face, or die in the process’.
That first sip passes the lips and hits your tongue. You weren’t expecting this; it actually tastes good! This isn’t beer… not as you know it at least. You can’t quite put your finger on what that flavour is. Then you realize its actual FLAVOUR you are tasting. Are there others like this out there?
Congratulations. You’ve just stepped into a much larger world.
If you’ve taken that step, or were thinking of trying some home-grown, local brews, they idea of ‘Craft Beer’ can be scary. It’s believed to be the beverage of choice for bearded (guilty) hipsters (kinda guilty) that like to spend WAY too much for a bottle of beer (alright, still guilty) that is probably flavoured with carrot, peppercorn and Darling Harbour seaweed. These hipsters are also known to be the most insufferable group of human beings to ever don a pair of denim spandex pants, constantly judging your choice of beer and looking their nose down at all those who aren’t drinking their drop-du-jour. While some of this, sadly, is true, there’s a great deal of it that’s more fiction than fact. Let’s dispel some of these myths, shall we.
Myth #1: Craft beer tastes weird and is flavoured with weird shit.
Lamington beer exists. There is a beer that has been made to taste like chili mud crab using ACTUAL mud crab. There is a beer that takes on the unique characteristics of a taco. That’s right, a Mexican taco. As fun as these beer can be from time to time for some of us, they’re not for everyone. Luckily enough, for every ‘Pretzel Doughnut’ beer, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of REGULAR brews made from nothing more than malt, water, yeast and hops.
If you’re the above mentioned first-stepper, chances are good that the first beer that made you take pause was one of the big four styles: Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, or Pale Lager. There are a slew of other styles out there, including darks like stouts, porters, and dark ales, but the big four tend to be what lure some, if not most, to try something new.
The bottom line is, you can get as adventurous as you’re comfortable with. You can get some great, easy drinking, sessionable (there is a new, fancy word for you) beers that are not too challenging to the taste buds. Some great examples of this are the 4 Pines Kolsch, Fortitude Brewing Pacer (a personal favourite), and the 4 Hearts Challenger. These are all great tasting, Australian brewed beer, made with care.
Myth #2: All craft beer drinkers are dicks.
Sadly, there are a few. Actually, more than a few. Self-proclaimed ‘beer snobs’ are the worst of the group. They’ll be the first to tell you how a small brewer has “sold out because they contract brew” or how a new bar is “simply jumping on the band wagon and trying to make money off of craft”. These people will slag a big, macro brewery that’s trying to finally make a beer with flavour, all while complaining that all they make is “the same shit lager everytime”. They’ve probably tasted over 3000 different beers from 29 different countries. They will make you want to climb the walls with their over-inflated sense of self-importance. Absolute tossers. If you have the misfortune to cross paths with one while at the bar and they start telling you why you shouldn’t be drinking the Beer XYZ you just ordered, just pay for your pint, look them straight in the eye, smile, and tell them to sod off.
Although you will inevitably come across them, fear not. Just as myth 1 showed there are way more approachable beers than odd, so too are there more good people then bad. Those who label themselves as ‘beer geeks’ and ‘beer enthusiasts’ (distinctions to be made in a later post, me thinks) can get a bit full on, but they won’t shun you to the corners of existence for not following the latest trends. Most will simply be there to enjoy a fresh, quality-made beverage with mates and are great people to be around. They’re just like real people!
Myth #3: That craft beer is just too damn expensive!
True and false, again. It all depends on which end of the spectrum you look at. Going out and buying a fancy looking bottle with a style like “Russian Imperial Stout” is going to set you back a few sheckles, but you can get away with good quality beer at prices not much higher (and sometimes cheaper) then what you were drinking before.
One thing to think about when you’re comparing prices is the alcohol content. While the macro stream of beers considers 4.6% as a full strength beer (Carlton Draught), that would be an average or low end ABV level for a Pale Ale (5.1% for Little Creatures, as an example). With a higher alcohol content comes higher taxation (thanks, Obama) and thus a higher price, but you are getting more bang for your buck.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is that it does work itself out in the wash. I, personally, am guilty of paying $40+ dollars for a bottle of beer, but it did sit at a hefty 16% and I’m a wanker that likes to try new things, but you don’t have to be like me. Quality doesn’t come cheap, but it isn’t as expensive as you may think.
So, as you can see, it’s really not that bad aside from a few dickheads here and there (although, they can be rehabilitated; I was once one). If you’ve thought of heading into your local brewpub or trying a little something different off the taps at your local, go for it! At best, you’ve just experienced something delicious and may have found a new favourite beverage to enjoy on a hot summers day, and at worst, you’ve spent $7 on a schooner that didn’t float your boat. With such a variety of brewers and styles out there, you are bound to find some you like. Don’t be afraid to try it all, but don’t feel the pressure to do so from the facial hair rich hipster taking filtered photos of his beer (seriously, why is everyone looking at me like that?).
Remember, not all craft beer is good, and not all big label beer is bad. Just keep an open mind and drink what tastes good to you.
I mean, it’s only beer, after all.
*~ Authors note: Not all hipsters are bearded and not all beardeds are hipsters. A lot are very nice people, too
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