It’s ok that you don’t know everything about everything about beer. It’s ok that you don’t know anything about beer or that the only beer you’ve experienced is something disturbingly light in a temperature-reactive can from a case of 36 you paid $13.96 for at your local Sac and Pac. It’s even ok that you enjoyed it a little bit. The big thing to realize is it gets better than light lagers with flashy advertisements and lack-luster payouts.
That being said, making the leap from your garden-variety barbecue standbys to the truly spectacular plethora of craft brews can be overwhelming, and one unexpected experience may be enough to sour your taste for adventure for a long time.
Which introduces our new series, Drink this, Not that, a primer to beer for those who may have picked up some embarrassing habits in their past. We aren’t here to judge. We’ve been there too, and we are going to put you on the road to recovery.
We’re kicking off the series by taking on a giant, our old friend Bud Light. It doesn’t get more commonplace than this bad boy, and there are reasons behind that. It smells kind of like beer. It tastes kind of like beer. But it also tastes kind of like water and a little bit like apple juice. It goes down like club soda and has about as much excitement, making it a champion of beer pong lovers and seasoned shotgunners.
We are no longer looking for a lager we can swallow in 20 seconds from a hole we popped with our dorm key, though. That’s the one night stand of beer practices. Leave the past in the past. Focus, instead, on the qualities you like in that lighter shade of pale American lagers and search out a more sophisticated partner for your nocturnal adventures.
Lagers are made differently from ales in that lagers use a bottom-feeding yeast and are fermented at a lower temperature for a longer time. That leads to a very clean-tasting brew. Lagers are smooth and refreshing. They focus on the taste of grains and yeast and maybe an extra hoppiness if the brewmaster is being particularly adventurous.
Try, instead, something like Wasatch 1st Amendment Lager. If a Bud Light is a one night stand of a lager, this beer is his older brother (the one who’s in medical school with the killer smile). It’s light and easy to drink but also has body and intrigue. It’s a little sweet, pretty carbonated and bready enough to break you out of that boring rut you may have found yourself in.
You could also explore a bock. Its process qualifies it as a lager, but it is darker and maltier with just a little hoppy bitterness for balance. It’s smooth like a Bud Light but with a little more backbone from the maltier flavors. Shiner Bock is a clear, easily obtained bock, but if you’re looking for another goodie from Texas, check out Saint Arnold Spring Bock.
Or, if you really want to go for something outside of the box, try a hefeweizen. It’s wheat for sure, but cut it with a little bit of lemon, and it becomes amazingly drinkable and refreshing. Hefeweizens are actually ales, inherently giving them more flavor and body than their long-fermenting cousins. Fellow Austinites should check out Live Oak hefeweizen for a great representation of this style. For those outside the (512), Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse is a readily available solid hefe.
How to try?
A lot of groceries these days have a “build your own 6 pack” program. I highly recommend trying a couple different true-blue lagers, hefes and bocks this way. That way, you haven’t committed to six of any one thing. Drink them light to dark starting with the hefes and the lagers and moving through to the bocks so you don’t overwhelm your palette all at once, and have fun with it! It’s beer, and moreover, it’s cool beer that is both exciting and familiar.