Alright, so it’s time to live up to my name – or rather the name of my blog. A whole post devoted to beer terminology and things a newbie should know. Actually, more like 5 posts; this is part 1 of 5. Suffice it to say that this is the first step in one’s beer education. For the butch, these are things that I, a beer fanatic, think you should know about – unless you don’t <gasp> like beer. For the femme, these are things that you should understand so that when your butch says how excited she is to be bringing home a growler full of the Belgian Tripel from Alesmith, you will get it. I cannot tell you how exciting it is for me that the gorgeous fiancé, who doesn’t like beer, has learned so much about beer that she can walk into a brewery or liquor store and know what I will like and what I haven’t yet tried. Isn’t that what we all want, really? For the one we love to love us enough that she cares about stuff that we care about? I am a luck son of a butch. Ready? Here we go!
This is one of the two big categories of beer; lagers are the other. Ales are “top fermented,” which means that the beer ferments at the top of whatever it is stored in. Fermenting on the top means that the beer is ready in 7-8 days, which is faster than a lager. Ales need to be stored at 60 to 75 degrees, and that is probably why ales are so popular in San Diego, and on the West Coast. The ale yeast produces by-products called esters which are flowery and fruity. Ales are delicious.
Belgian Tripel: aka, Heaven. This is my current favorite so I want to give a full explanation of the type. The name “Tripel” actually stems from part of the brewing process, in which brewers use up to three times the amount of malt than a standard beer requires. Traditionally, Tripels are bright yellow to gold in color, which is a shade or two darker than the average Pilsner. The head (this is the foamy top of the beer, ladies) should be big, dense and creamy. Aroma and flavor runs along the complex, spicy, fruity with a sweet finish. The beer’s sweetness comes from both the pale malts and the higher alcohol. The lighter body comes from the use of Belgian candy sugar (up to 25% sucrose), which not only lightens the body, but also adds complex alcoholic aromas and flavors. Belgian Tripels have high alcohol content, so beware. Here are my favorites: Alesmith’s Horny Devil (San Diego, USA, see the letter X soon for more on this brewery), Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde (Quebec, Canada, see the letter U soon for more on this brewery, too) – which I am drinking as I write this post, Brouwerij St. Bernardus’ St. Bernardus Tripel (Belgium), and Brouwerij Bosteels’ Tripel Karmelite (Belgium). My mouth is watering just thinking about these four lovelies.
A Cierone (pronounced, sis-er-own) is a certified beer expert. This is the equivalent of a wine sommelier – only less snooty. The word literally means one who guides sightseers. This is the butch who can tell you everything about beer, how to make it, store it, serve it, what the different types are like, and what kind of beer goes best with that Chilean sea bass you are about to eat. I don’t know the answer, by the way, but I am about to enroll in the Cicerone Certification Program, so I might know the answer soon! The program is run by these guys, http://www.cicerone.org/, but you can use the word without being certified. For example, I am an aspiring Cicerone. You will find a cicerone running a brewery or a gastropub – super knowledgeable and hospitable.
This is an extra hoppy take on an IPA, which is many people’s favorite type of beer. I only recently started to appreciate the IPA style. IPAs are very hoppy (hard to explain if you don’t drink beer, but try one and you will know what I mean), flavorful and bitter. The Double IPA was actually first brewed by brewers in California, at least according to BeerAdvocate.com, and is like an IPA on steroids. IPAs are robust, malty, and might just rip your tongue out – they are that strong. The highest rated Double IPA (on Beeradvocate.com) is Pliny the Younger, brewed by Russian River, and the third highest rated is Pliny the Elder. Pliny the Elder is one of the more famous beers – it has been relatively hard to find and so it garnered a mysterious Holy Grail type reputation. I tried this beer a few days ago, and it was good. Not great, but good. Not surprisingly, the gorgeous fiancé thought it tasted horrible. If I hadn’t heard so much about it, I probably would have enjoyed it more. I haven’t tried the Younger version, but will let you all know when I do.
For better or for worse, eating goes along with craft beers. There are three different types of eating that go well with craft beer, or are commonly found by craft beer aficionados.
1. The coolest of these is a gastropub, which is a restaurant that specializes in good beer on tap and in bottles, but also tries to appeal to foodies with a decent selection of cool eats that are trendy and small. We have a fair number of these in San Diego, and a few of my favorites are: Whisknladle (the best place EVER to eat and drink, even though it’s more of a high-end restaurant than a gastropub), The Urge Gastropub, The Linkery, and The Range Kitchen & Cocktails.
2. Next is a brewpub. A brewpub is a regular old pub that sports a crazy selection of beers on tap and in bottles, and serves pub food… fish and chips, burgers and chips, truffle chips, chips covered with cheese, you get the idea. The difference between a brewpub and a pub is just the focus on a big selection of interesting beer.
3. The last type of eating that is common around a brewery is a food truck. Food trucks, popular in large cities all over the country and really trendy, have become very common at breweries because most breweries don’t have the time/energy/expertise to serve food, but their patrons get hungry after they drink. Your basic tasting room, which is what most breweries that are open to the public have, just cannot offer much past a bowl of stale pretzels or some popcorn. Have a beer or three, and walk outside to get a BBQ pork sandwich, or a spinach wrap. According to my gorgeous fiancé the coolest food truck in San Diego is Miho Gastrotruck. Others that deserve a mention are Super Q (gay-owned BBQ) and Eat at Recess.
Stay tuned for post 2 of 5 soon, where I will cover Flights, Grand Cru, Hitachino Nest, Innis & Gunn, BJCP, and Kona Brewing Company. Until then, study up, future cicerones!
It’s butch to enjoy beer. Be butch.