BKF: Hello Fred, can you tell us a bit about the diversity of the beer market today?
Fred: There are so many categories and subcategories... Ales, Porters, Stouts, Imperial Stouts, Imperial Porters, Barrel Aged Stouts, Barrel Aged Porters, Brown Ales, Pilsners, Lagers, Schwarzbiers, Doppelbocks, Hefeweizens, Barleywines, IPAs, APAs... The list goes on and on. Many of the styles will have different flavors added to their beers like chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, or syrup. That being said, I think a lot of choices are rather seasonal.
Stouts and porters are more full-bodied beers that I find are best enjoyed in winter. I find the two styles to be rather similar, with stouts tending to have a more coffee flavor and porters to have more of a chocolate flavor. Sours are tons of fun, many will make your mouth pucker. Belgian beers have a distinct taste due to the yeast. It is hard to describe, but is easily recognizable. Farmhouse ales can have an earthy tastes and a farm-fresh barnyard smell. IPAs are wonderfully divisive... for those who find them too bitter, I suggest trying one with citrus-flavored hops, or an American Pale Ale (APA).
BKF: Any advice for someone interested in exploring and tasting different types of beer? What to taste for? How to choose?
Fred: The best advice I can give if you are getting into beers and exploring different styles is to go to breweries! Brewery tours are so much fun. You learn all about beer, get to see where it is made, and most importantly taste super fresh beer. I also like to order beer flights and try small pours of many different styles. Serious drinkers will say to get the full experience of a beer you will need to drink a whole glass in order to fully appreciate the beer. If you are just trying to find the styles that you like, flights are a good/economical way to experience many different styles.
What I am looking for in a beer depends on the style. If I’m drinking a stout, I want to taste a creamy beer that has a nice roasted flavor. If I’m drinking an IPA, I want to punched in the face with tropical, citrus fruit flavor. When I am drinking a lager I want it to be crisp and refreshing. If I am drinking a sour, I want beer that will start off with fruit flavors that finishes super tart. When I am choosing a beer, especially an IPA I look at the hop variety and IBU of the beer. If a beer looks good in a store, I like to check Untappd (a social network for beer drinkers) to see how other beers drinkers or friends have rated and commented on the beer. Breweries will give flavor profiles of the beer and give you a good idea of what you are getting into. Rate Beer and Beer Advocate are good resources as well!
BKF: Any beers that taste best in winter?
Fred: In the winter months I look forward to stouts, browns, porters, winter ales, trappist beers, Belgian Quads, and barleywines. I’m generally looking for a full bodied heavy beer that is higher in ABV. They a-e sipping beers that pair well with cold winters and warm fires. The beer I look forward to the most is Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island out of Chicago. If you can get it, it is amazing! It is released once a year on Black Friday, and is generally the Black Friday shopping I look forward to the most.
BKF: Any favorite beers at the moment?
Fred: One of my favorite styles of beers are is sour! Casey Brewing and Blending has some of the best sour beer I have ever had. I am not sure if they distribute to New York though. They are best known for their fruit sours and get fresh fruit from local farmers. They barrel age their beers and you can taste the quality. When you take the first sip your mouth is overwhelmed with fresh fruit flavor, that smoothly transitions to sour, and leaves you feeling surprisingly refreshed. I have had friends that did not like sours try their beer, think it is delicious, and turned them into sour fans.
I love IPAs and that is probably most often the style of beer I drink. Some of the best IPAs I have had come from Toppling Goliath. Their Pseudo Sue is a great citra hopped beer. It has a bold hop flavor that finishes with a slight bitterness. Brickstone Brewery has some great IPAs. I love their Hop Skip, it is full of citrus flavor. New England Hazy IPAs are very popular right now. In the Steep from Outer Range Brewing comes out and it is bright yellow. The beer is super creamy and loaded with citrus flavor. It finishes with little to no bitterness. Chasin’ Freshies from Deschutes is fresh hopped IPA that tastes as though the hops went straight from the vine and into your glass. This year they used simcoe hops which is a favorite variety of mine. The hops tastes of orange and melon. Bell’s Brewey Two Hearted Ale or Double Two Hearted Ale is delicious! It is packed with intense pine hop flavor that is balanced citrus hop flavor. The Double Two Hearted Ale is sneaky strong at 11%. Wilson IPA from Roadhouse Brewing is another favorite. It packs a mix of tropical citrus fruit flavor and pine. This is a flavorful beer that is easy to drink. For the price Lagunitas makes some great value beers. I will often have some of their bombers and think this is delicious, how do they make money selling this at his price? Their beers are so flavorful. I love Hop Stoopid, A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale, and Lagunitas Sucks. One of my favorite bombers from them is Cappuccino Stout. You get a fresh coffee flavor that adds to the roasted stout flavor.
BKF: How should one best store/care for beer?
Fred: The best way to store/care for beer is in a dark area of the house with a consistent temperature. As for how long to keep beers, it depends on the beer. IPAs are best kept in the fridge, drink them they are delicious. They can also lose hop flavor over time so the sooner you drink them the better. Higher ABV beers are great to cellar and become better with age. I have multiple years of Bourbon County Brand Stout in my basement that I have been saving. Also a high alcohol beer like Dogfish Head 120 is meant to be aged. I bought a four pack and have opened one up each of the last four years to see how it has aged. If you are thinking about aging beers one thing to be careful of is flavor additives. I found that coffee and vanilla flavors will fade overtime, which is something to look out for in some stouts.