What’s Brewing? 5 gateway beers to drinking craft
We all know someone or are aware of a person who drinks beer but just won’t drink craft beer. They’ll say they are completely happy drinking the large commercial beers and just haven’t found the “right craft beer” yet.
Is this you? I thought it might be a good idea to take a moment to write about the difference between craft beer and big commercial beer companies, and why most craft breweries will offer “gateway beers” especially for consumers who have not yet figured out the difference.
A gateway beer is any craft beer that reorganizes a macro beer drinker’s palette into preferring the consumption of craft beer. Gateway beers gently help newbies understand what their palettes are missing. It’s not a matter of finding one particular craft beer that will enlighten someone’s taste buds as much as it is about choosing a style that they are already familiar with drinking.
Every brewery I’ve been in has at least one or two gateway beers on tap. A lager, pilsner, cream ale, and a Kolsch are good examples of gateway beers. For those still drinking domestic beer from large commercial beer companies, a Kolsch will be reminiscent of the beer you’re drinking now. It’s clean and crisp tasting with little to no finish at the end. It’s got a light body and is well carbonated too. It’s great served cold which is another thing you’re used to, but when it warms up a bit you won’t think about tossing it out.
Perhaps the most popular gateway beer is a lager since most of the large commercial beer companies brew these. Commercially brewed lagers still dominate most of the shelf space where we buy beer and have ever since prohibition ended. Consumers still drink more commercially produced lager beer even though craft lagers are just as clean tasting and have a refreshing taste too.
So why not keep drinking the commercial brand lagers especially since they’re less expensive you ask? The answer is, craft brewers don’t cut corners. Craft brewers don’t use adjuncts like corn and rice, which are less expensive than malted grains. Craft brewers aren’t using chemically treated water, industrial amounts of chemical flavorings or a hop extract called tetra-hops. This is a huge difference and especially if you care about what you’re putting in your body! Craft beer is to fine artisan food as the large commercial beer is to fast food. It’s a fair comparison. I have found that the people who care about what they eat often care about what they drink, too.
Adjuncts are ingredients used to cheapen the overall cost of making beer while faking your palette into thinking cheaper beer tastes great. And it does! But just like fast food must be consumed before it gets cold, macro beer must be consumed before it warms up. Commercial breweries will use a percentage of rice and or corn in place of using 100 percent malt to cut costs. Corn and rice dull the flavor and lighten the color while having little effect on the alcohol. If it’s consumed cold, you’ll never taste anything and it’ll go down nice and easy, like water.
Just don’t let your commercial beer get to room temperature or the ugly truth about what you’re really drinking will start to reveal itself. If you’ve ever wondered why the commercials always revolve around someone reaching for a beer out of an ice bucket or rising up from the cold mountains, this is why. Craft beer, on the other hand, can be served cold or cool and it tastes fantastic. At room temperature, more flavors from the various ingredients can be detected.
Next time you’re at a local craft brewery, ask if they have a lager or a Kolsch on tap. Notice how it tastes much like the commercial beer you’re used to drinking cold. Then start to compare the taste after it warms up a bit. At this point, you’ll realize that no matter how long you hold that beer in your hand you won’t feel the need to toss it like you would that cold mountain filtered corn water you’ve been enjoying. Cheers!
War Streets Brewery (Pittsburgh)
Carrington St. Kolsch (4.7% ABV). A light, crisp German-style ale that’s clean and easy drinking. It is classified as an ale from its yeast activity but has many lager characteristics. Light hop additions allow the flavor profiles from the Kolsch yeast strain to come through.
Quinn Brewing Co. (Irwin)
Kwinn Kolsch (5% ABV). A truly crisp and refreshing German-style Kolsch that is wonderfully drinkable and satisfying.
Reclamation Brewing Co. (Butler)
Promised Land Ale, Cream Ale (8.5%). Deceptively strong, the sweetness of the malt, honey and lactose mask how big this beer really is. The modest hop additions ensure the bitterness doesn’t get in the way of the flavor, yet, leave behind a nice floral aroma.
All Saints Brewing Co. (Greensburg)
15601 GBG Lager (5.2% ABV). This beer is influenced by both the Boston Lager and the Noble Pils. It is light amber to golden in color, with a fresh, almost spicy hop aroma, a crisp balanced flavor and a clean finish.
Coal Tipple Brewery (Burgettstown)
Pigear Pilsner (5.3% ABV). A refreshing, lite Pilsen ale.
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He’s the author and illustrator of “Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.”