An Introductory Tale of Ale: The Newbie Beer Guide for Gals

An Introductory Tale of Ale: The Newbie Beer Guide for Gals

Wondering what all the fuss is about craft beers and the babes and beards that love them? No longer wish to be the recipient of snickers and eye-rolls when you order a Bud Light? Want to get a beer education, but those weirdly intimidating, ironic-glasses wearing, I-know-you-just-got-all-52-of-those-tattoos-in-the-last-year seemingly 21-year-old bartender is being of no help? Fear not fair ale wenches!

Here is a mini beer guide to get you on your way to your first Oatmeal Cream Stout Mustache and beyond:

Are you a Light Liz or a Heavy Harriet?

Let us first begin with the beer terms you may come into contact with. Generally, you will hear and read the terms light, medium, and dark to describe beer. Light beers range from really pale yellow to a golden tan. Medium beers generally are part of the red/orange family. Dark beers are well, dark; they range from rich browns to a darker black similar to coffee with your stouts. Basically, it is just like Blondes, Redheads, and Brunettes but with malt and hops. Usually, you will find a type you like best right off the tap, and others you may grow to love like your boyfriend’s double-dog-dare-ya facial hair during Movember.

I received my beer education in England and Ireland many moons ago and was pretty hardcore light ales and lagers for many years. I flat out hated stouts, finding them bitter and more like a meal than a drink. Then I started to appreciate them as the years went by. Then with the craft beer boom, stouts just got crazy, creamy good and are what I am most likely to order 70% of the time. Like the Neanderthal I evolved, but I into a stout connoisseur.

Mouthfeel…it only sounds dirty

Mouthfeel is an oft used term to describe, shocker, how the beer feels in your mouth. It is also fun to say and can be a fun beer game (more on that another day). Beer experts get very technical with it and use all sorts of subcategories of mouthfeel like Alkalinity and Warming, but let’s start simple. Lighter beers (this had nothing to do with calories) are crisper and have a clean taste. Heavier beers, like your stouts and porters, tend to have a fuller, richer taste. Medium is a nice marriage of the two and where I would put some Scottish Ales and IPAs.

Malty, and Hoppy, and Spicy – Oh My!

There are a few more ways to describe beer like a pro. Malt is the main ingredient of beer and the level it is roasted (or kilned if you want to impress) affects the taste of the beer. Lighter malts taste nutty, medium roasts have a hint of a caramel-like taste, and dark roasts give the impression of coffee or dark chocolate. Hoppiness of a beer hearkens to the hops used to make it. Again, the lighter the hops, the lighter the taste. Bitterness comes from hops as well, but not all hoppy beers are bitter. It all depends on when and how the hops are added. Making beer is actually a pretty careful science. You could start out making a sour and just end up with a skunky pale. Spiciness in beers usually comes from cloves, star anise, and pepper; however, a few adventurous crafters are bringing in chilies for a little something different.

Belly Up to the Bar

Now that you are armed with a little bit of knowledge, visit a local craft brewery or bar with many taps. You can disclose your brewginity or not, but a good bartender will be kind and want you to try everything. Even after my many years of raising a glass, one of my favorite beer-tenders is still trying to find an IPA I will enjoy (they aren’t my jam, but I keep trying). Definitely sample before committing to a full-pour (which is why you want to hit a place with many taps – they will not open bottles for you to sample), or do a flight wherein you pick 3-6 beers and see what you like.

A Few Recommendations to get you started

Lighter Brews: Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale, Cascade’s Honey Ginger Lime Sour Ale, Three Wise Men Snow bunny Blonde Ale, and New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale.

IPAs (hoppier than the Lights): Odell Myrcenary (beware the 9.3% ABV), Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust (if you can find it), The Alchemist Heady Topper IPA, and Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA.

Fun, but will not come with an umbrella: Hands-down Founders’ Rubaeus (wheat and raspberry perfection – on Nitro it is a dream!) and Horny Goat Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter.

Dark: Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Tallgrass’ Buffalo Sweat, and of course the classis stout, Guinness.

Scottish Ale: Dark Horse Brewing’s Scotty Karate or Three Floyd’s Robert the Bruce.

Now get out there and sample, and maybe even join Girls Pint Out, which is a beer appreciation and education group just for the ladies in many major cities.

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