April 28, 2017
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Happy New Beer! Bill Siel offers a guide to exploring new beers in the new year



It’s a new year, so why not taste a new beer?

Perhaps you’ll taste beer in a new way while you’re at it.

I’ve heard many people say they don’t like beer and there’s nothing wrong with that, but when I ask which beer they’ve tried, I understand their dislike.

There’s a good chance it was over-advertised but under-flavored. Perhaps they were a bit too young to begin with.

It’s also possible it was an indulgently eccentric tour de force from an enthusiastic homebrewer.

I recommend a more balanced approach with these suggestions in mind.

Sample without commitment:

It can be really disappointing to spend $8-$12 for a six-pack when you don’t care for the first sip and there’s five bottles to go. Many beer stores offer dozens of single bottles to mix and match into a six-pack of your choice.

Read the labels:

There’s a lot of interesting information to help you make a choice. You’ll find unique ingredients and brewing methods mentioned and in most cases, the alcohol content. If the beer sounds crazy, go ahead, it might be tasty, too.

Visit a small craft brewery:

There are three of them in Kenosha and countless others in Milwaukee and Chicago. Servers in the taproom will gladly allow you to sample a small pour. The best method is to order a flight of 4-ounce sample-sized glasses, especially if the offerings number eight or more and you can’t decide. This strategy gives you a sense of each brewery’s strengths and weaknesses without the risk of being over served.

Ale or lager?:

It’s all beer so don’t worry about it. The distiction chiefly concerns the brewers. Ales ferment quickly at warm temperatures and lagers ferment slowly at cold temperatures. Delicious comes in both forms.

Don’t be afraid of dark beer:

There is no single “dark beer” style. It’s simply a color distinction. They all taste very different, so don’t be surprised if you find one you like.

Hops aren’t for everyone:

Every beer has hops in it but some have more, and lots more. IPAs (India Pale Ales) are famously popular everywhere for many good reasons, but it’s OK if you don’t like them. Don’t let it bother you. Move on.

Use a glass:

Drinking beer from a glass rather than a bottle is best. Rather than a mouthful of foamy beer, you’ll get a measured opportunity to taste the beer and there’s nothing snobby about that. You’ll also be able to appreciate whatever aromas the beer has to offer. Start simple, because after that there’s a whole range of glass choices and yes, it makes a big difference.

Ice cold is bad:

Nothing hides the flavor of beer like near freezing temperatures, and frosted glassware doubles the disservice. Many bars that offer several beers on tap have that element under control. Less cold brings out more flavors in all beer.

Try beers from around the world:

It’s a take-home travelogue out there. An extension of each country’s culture can be discovered in the beer it brews. If you like the imported versions, you’ll love to taste them on their native soil, should you pack your bags and go.

— Bill Siel, a Kenosha News photojournalist, has been homebrewing since 1989 and has been involved in Kenosha’s craft brewing community since 2012. Since 1991, he has been a certified beer judge through the American Homebrewers Association’s Beer Judge Certification Program.


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