Glass of beer

It probably happened sometime during high school or college.

Maybe you just graduated high school, maybe you’re attending the all-important first college party. Someone hands you a can. You open the can. You taste the contents of the can.

And it sucked.

That’s the moment you decided you hated beer. It’s understandable. Most of the commercially produced beer today is little more than carbonated water. By definition it is beer, a beverage that is made from water, malted barley, hops and yeast, but it’s not good beer. It lacks any discernible flavor, aroma or body. For Star Wars fans, it’s like Jar-Jar Binks: technically he’s a Star Wars character, albeit the worst of all the characters in the Lucasfilm universe. Yes, I just made a Star Wars reference and I am not ashamed.

Back to the point.

Think Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light. All three are beers. None of them very good. That’s where craft breweries step in–using higher quality ingredients and focusing on producing better beers, rather than purely focusing on quantity. There are roughly 3,000 breweries in the United States, which gives you plenty of options to choose from.

This delicious beverage certainly has come a long way from the days of the pharaohs. Beer has – in one form or another – been around for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, the builders of the pyramids were given daily rations of beer and bread. In medieval Europe, beer saved millions of people from disease because, during the process of beer making, the liquid is boiled and goes through fermentation killing bacteria.

Beer is also incredibly versatile. Slight shifts in a recipe – whether it be changes in the type of barley, hops or yeast – can yield very different results. There are pale ales, India pale ales, stouts, porters, ESBs, fruit beers, brown ales, et cetera. Once fermented, it can be aged in any number of vessels, like bourbon, rum or whiskey barrels to give the beer an extra layer of flavor.

I could probably write an entire page just naming different beer styles, but that would just be boring.

It’s probably about time to disclose some important information: I’m a brewer for a local craft brewery, so I do have some stake in the beer game. But that’s not why I writing this. I’m writing this because I want people to drink better beer, and not just for personal financial gain. I’m doing this because beer is delicious and you deserve better. And due to the explosion of craft breweries in America, it’s easy to find new and tempting beers.

But as with anything new, finding a beer you like can be tricky. Because it is so versatile, there are any different varieties and styles of beer; it can truly be dizzying. A good way to approach your journey into the world of beer is to head to a website like Beeradvocate.com. It has wealth of information regarding beers new and old and could guide you in the right direction.

Another good resource is “Tasting Beer,” a book by Randy Mosher. Mosher has written a few books about beer, as well as many articles for All About Beer magazine. But the best way to start is to head to your local grocery store (Wal-Mart doesn’t count), head to the beer section and start picking out beers. Many stores will let you create your own six-pack so that if you don’t like one beer, you’re not stuck with five more of the same beer that you don’t care for.

An even more fun way to experience new beers is to have a beer tasting party. Have your friends bring different brands and styles of beers to even further expand the variety of beers available. And since you’re drinking with friends and not by yourself, you’re not a loser. Win-win!

A common complaint I hear about craft beers is, “It’s too expensive. I’m not paying that much for a six-pack.” You pay more for a better cut of steak, a better car or a better vacation. Do yourself a favor and pay more for a better beer.

The point is this: With the staggering amount of breweries in the United States – and more opening every year – you have plenty of options to choose from. Don’t be held back by the thought that all beers taste like the one you drank at “Penny Pitcher” night back in college.

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