A caveat: Read only if you are proud enough to embrace the unfamiliar and extraordinary.
Popular beer culture here and in America has led us to have an appetite for unceremonious mass-marketed beer. We know the one popular brand on these shores all too well, and across the Pacific, you have Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Generally, if one decides to veer out of the norm, then an order of fine Scotch is ensued, and the alternative is usually a fondness for exquisite wine. There is, however, an increasingly popular alternative: Artisan, or Craft Beer.
European countries have always held their brew in high regard, and plenty of North Americans, appropriately disappointed with the absence of character in their beverages, decided to step it up and produce “micro brewed” products that are all about offering the consumer quality rather than making a fast buck. Hence, world-renowned beer guru Michael Jackson (yes, that’s his name) describes the U.S.A. as the “New World of Beer”. You can tell the difference as soon as you pour the bottle into a proper glass, opening your taste buds up to a whole new universe of exciting flavors!
A primer: I wouldn’t want to get into heavy details, but there are two methods of producing beer: ales and lagers. At the end of the process, top fermenting yeasts are added to ales, and bottom fermenting yeasts to lagers. Ales are bolder, fuller in body and flavor and “hoppier”, pertaining to the hop plant used to disinfect and add bitterness to your favorite blend. Less hoppy styles are the dark and rich stout and porter as well as some varieties of exceedingly refreshing wheat beer. Lagers, on the other hand, are more familiar than you think. Light, crisp and less bitter, they are often pilsners like all San Miguel and Asia Brewery variants, as well as bocks and the generally more economical “malt liquor”, such as Red Horse. A great misnomer is that gin or alcohol additives are placed in such beverages to increase the content. To save on sugar and fermentation time, these blends are made with “fusel oils” or potato starch, as certain local brands use chemical agents to speed up manufacture and raise alcohol content. Craft beer, on the other hand, is “pure”. Some brews are the regular malt, barley and hops, but most venture into unique ingredients such as chocolate, cinnamon, peppers, ridiculous amounts of hop and fruits among others. One of my personal favorites is Rogue’s Chocolate Stout, which I pair with a rich chocolate cake for that complete experience. Pairing is yet another thing beer geeks as myself are into, as it’s not just wine that goes well with haute cuisine.