Beer is good. We all know that to be the truest of trues. It’s the official drink of any and all celebrations (sorry, not sorry Champagne), and we dare you to find a better handheld companion for a lit grill.
But navigating a beer list can be overwhelming if you’re not up to speed on what’s happening in the brewing world. We’re here to help. We have a ton of experience pouring (and drinking) craft beer, so it’s safe to say we can be your brew sherpa. Worst case scenario, we can be your drinking buddy.
For this short guide, let’s break it down like this: beer styles, flavors/ingredients, how drunk they’ll get you, the IBUs, and what grub they go well with. Cool? Cool.
We’re absolutely sure you’ve heard of an India Pale Ale. If you haven’t, stop reading right now, call your dad, and convince him to buy you one. American IPAs are the top-selling craft beer style in the U.S. and the category continues to shift and mold, but the bones are still the same. A big trend right now is a fruit-forward IPA: from grapefruit to tangerine to mango, fruit is in. Get you one.
Flavors: Strong hops, with notes of floral, citrus, or pine.
ABV: 6.3 – 7.5% (layman’s: have a few of these and you’ll need an Uber.)
IBU: 50-70 (layman’s: IPAs can be higher on the bitter scale, but not “bitter beer face” bitter.)
Notables: Bell’s Two Hearted, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Lagunitas
Tigín Pairings: The Smalls.
Why you should drink it: There are so many variations within this style, some subtle, some not so much, but IPAs are everywhere and there’s a reason.
AMERICAN PALE ALE
Think a less hoppy, medium-body IPA… you there? Good. Pale ales are easier to drink, go great with food and have less alcohol so you can order up another round without wondering where your BC Powder is in the morning.
Flavors: Mild to medium hops, with notes of floral, citrus, or pine.
ABV: 4.4 – 5.4% (layman’s: crack open another one — you’re good.)
IBU: 30-50 (layman’s: Not not bitter, but not enough of a bitterness to make you question your choice.)
Notables: Ballast Point Grunion, Founders Mosaic Promise, Sweetwater 420
Tigín Pairings: Pub Burger.
Why you should drink it: Have an Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale and you’ll see.
The blank canvas of the brewing world. Seriously, there are so many variables that go into brewing a sour that it would take pages just to go through them all. One thing remains true across the board: they’re sour and worth talking about. Gose brews fall into this category and if you’ve been to a bar in the last two years, you’ll notice an increase in menu space dedicated to this style.
Flavors: Sometimes acidic, sometimes fruity, all the time sour.
ABV: Varies (layman’s: who the f*** knows?)
IBU: Varies (layman’s: try a couple and find out for yourself.)
Notables: New Belguim La Folie, Allagash Confluence, Bells Oarsman Ale
Tigín Pairings: Fish Tacos.
Why you should drink it: Because comfort zones are for losers.
It’s saison season, everyone. These beers are packed full of flavor and subtle spices, but also super delicious during the spring and summer… and fall… and winter. So anytime, really. Light in color, low in IBUs, soft body, and high carbonation make this a go-to beer for the park or patio.
Flavors: Low hops, fruit and citrus forward, notes of spices (sometimes pepper).
ABV: 4.4 – 6.8% (layman’s: check the can before you drink six.)
IBU: 20-38 (layman’s: Not bitter. Full stop.)
Notables: Allagash Saison, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace Saison, 21st Amendment Sneak Attack
Tigín Pairings: Salmon Bites.
Why you should drink it: Patio weather, man. Patio weather.
Bold and beautiful, unlike the daytime soap, stouts really are a gift to the beer world. From chocolate to coffee notes, they’re packed with flavor and super, super tasty. You also look like a badass when you order it. If you’re looking to have just one or two brews, think stouts — you won’t regret it.
Shoutout to the OG: Guinness is the original craft and there’s a reason why this stout has been around since the mid-18th Century.
Flavors: Coffee, chocolate, oatmeal, dry-hopped, slight bitterness to balance sweetness.
ABV: 5.7-8.9% (layman’s: you’re only having a couple of these.)
IBU: 35-60 (layman’s: Low to medium, hopefully not like your credit score.)
Notables: Guinness (duh), Sierra Nevada Stout, Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout
Tigín Pairings: Sheperd’s Pie.
Why you should drink it: It’s a much better version of cold brew coffee.
Put your party pants on and fill up a cooler with session beers — you’re in for the long haul. These brews aren’t married to any particular style, but what makes them session is, well, you can drink a bunch of them over a long period of time. Think Bud Light, just craftier. The idea with these beers is to blend a certain style with a lower alcohol content, giving the drinker the best of both worlds. Party on, Wayne.
Flavors: Depends on the style.
ABV: 3.5-5% (layman’s: bring a koozie.)
IBU: 10-35 (layman’s: easy to shotgun.)
Notables: Founders All Day IPA, Anchor Steam, Stone Go To IPA
Tigín Pairings: More beer.
Why you should drink it: Be the cool kid at the golf course/beach/pool/tailgate/BBQ/family reunion.
Your favorite style left off? It’s all good. Check out this cool site to get your learn on (it’s where we got our learn on for this post)!
Happy American Craft Beer Week!