Cheers to Tyler Thursby from Phoenix for this guest post on tips from moving from macro to craftier brews! Wanting to try something different than the usual fare but aren’t sure of where to start? Here are some points to consider! – Vin
Need a resolution for the new year? Learn to recognize the signs of bad beer!
If you’re searching for a New Year’s resolution, make 2014 the year of no more bad beer! Developing a palate for beer takes a considerable amount of time and experience. Tap into your inner beer geek and train your palate to recognize the telltale signs of substandard beers.
Brewing a delicious beer is extraordinarily difficult but when you’re sipping one, the higher quality is easily distinguishable. How balanced a beer is when it comes to bitterness, carbonation, color, clarity and taste are all critical components in terms of measuring quality.
Bitterness in beer traditionally stems from the presence of hops but can also be attributed to different varieties of barley. Beers that don’t strike a fine balance here can occasionally indicate lower quality. Believe it or not, intensely bitter beers are sometimes considered an exception. This relationship is perhaps no more evident than Stone Brewery’s flagship beer, Arrogant Bastard.
There are few things that can tarnish a beer more than a total lack of carbonation, giving it the feel that it’s been sitting out for hours on end. Oxidation is more often than not what kills a good beer. Too much oxidation removes that characteristic bite to your beer, that refreshing crispness that many of us have grown to love. Some breweries do not properly protect their beers from air or light, destroying their brew in the process. The only exception to the carbonation rule generally relates to cask ales and barley wines.
If you’ve ever had a pint of Guinness poured right in front of you, you’ve probably sat in admiration of the color – evolving from a velvety brown into a ruby black as it begins to settle. This change in coloration can occasionally indicate the sign of a bad beer.
The color and clarity of your beer is very important when it comes to determining quality. The hazy coloration is sometimes the result of improper pasteurization or filtration, affecting your beer’s overall flavor. If you notice any sediment floating in your beer, this isn’t always natural. Some poorly created beers suffer from chunks of protein or yeast swimming through the glass – never something you want to see when you’re about to wet your whistle. These free radicals usually indicate the beer is infected.
Flavor is king when it comes to the realm of craft beer. You’ve probably heard of a beer being labeled ‘skunky’, but what does the term actually mean? When the hops within your beer react to ultraviolet light the taste is completely compromised, resulting in something truly foul.
Many craft breweries go to great lengths to protect their product from light, casing their beers in brown bottles or cans, the latter of which offer ideal UV protection. Beware of beers that arrive in clear bottles, their casing renders them highly vulnerable to skunkiness.
Have you grown accustom to drinking whatever domestic beer happens to be on the shelf of your local grocery store? Don’t let the world of craft beers pass you by. Make 2014 the year of no more bad beer!
Tyler Thursby is a writer/beer geek living in downtown Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to Travel By Brewery, a site specializing in craft beer news and reviews.