If you thought that enjoying craft beer was as simple as "drink the beer", you have dramatically underestimated how pretentious we are. But seriously, these are just a quick list of things to keep in mind when buying craft beer. They may help you to enjoy a beer more than you would have otherwise or maybe keep you from buying a beer that just needs to stay on the shelf.
1. Buy Good Beer
If you don't know a lot about craft beer, the beer aisle of a well stocked grocery store or bottle shop can be downright daunting. There are over 6,000 breweries in the United States and around 60 just in the Houston area. How do you choose? Well one way to branch out without going all in on a 6-pack is to utilize the build your own 6-pack that's found in pretty much every major grocery store nowadays. You'll pay a little bit more per bottle but it's a great way to try a bunch of new things without committing to a lot of it
The best way however is to hit up your local Craft Beer watering hole, Deacon Baldy's for instance, and try stuff there. The bartenders can guide you to things you might like and you can get a flight and try 4 at once. Plus they're only $6 on Thursdays. (Last plug I promise)
2. Buy Fresh
Beer has a shelf life believe it or not and that applies doubly to IPA's or anything that uses a good amount of hops. The flavor and aroma that hops lend to beer fade fairly quickly. The easiest way to check is just to look at the bottle or can for the date. That is NOT an expiration date, it's a born on date. You want to make sure that you aren't buying beer that's more than 6 months old at the latest, and as fresh a humanly possible for IPAs and Pale Ales.
It should be noted that corner stores, slow liquor stores, etc who don't sell as much beer will be carrying older stock than busy grocery stores. You know those people who go through a dozen gallons of milk to find the best date? That's me doing that to beer.
3. To Age or Not to Age
I know I just told you to drink beer fresh but some beers age well too. In general the higher the alcohol content the more likely it is to age well. There is risk though; the longer a beer sits the more likely it is to go bad. If you want to try aging a beer, stick to Stouts and Barleywine that are over 10% alcohol.
4. Proper Storage
Regardless of what kind of beer you're buying you should keep it cold and keep it upright. Aging beers can be stored at room temp without and will age faster there, but if you have the fridge space you should keep the beer there. If you want to know why beer should be store upright and not on it's side check out this article.
5. Serve At The Proper Temp
Beer, like wine, should be served at the appropriate temperature. In general, the darker the beer the warmer it should be served. Crisp lagers like pilsners should be enjoyed as cold as your fridge can take them and stouts should be served at roughly the same temp as red wine.
Why not serve beer as cold as humanly possible? Because our sense of smell is a huge part of how we experience taste, and cold kills aromatic compounds. Basically, cold makes things harder to smell, things you cant smell you can't taste. It's science.
6. Clean Glass
There's clean and then there's beer clean. When a glass is "beer clean" it means ensuring a glass that is free of any impurities that would give CO2 a place to cling to, ensuring the beer’s best look and taste. Lot's of effort goes into making beer and when you use a dirty glass particulates left over give the CO2 a place to grab on to and CO2 on the glass means less CO2 where it should be, which is in the beer's head and in your mouth. Not sure how to make that last sentence better... ONWARD.
7. The Proper Pour
Ever start something and then find something else that does the thing you were trying WAY better? Happened to me. Check out this video from SciShow about the best way to pour a beer and why.
8. Friends Make Beer Better
Beer is always just a little bit better when you're enjoying it with good company and good conversation. Cheers!