Blue Sky Eye Magazine 2020

T he explosion of the craft brewing scene over the past decade has given beer lovers an amazing variety of new brews to try, catering to almost any taste. That’s fantastic, but at times it can also be bewildering and a little bit daunting. Faced with a menu listing dozens of colorfully named but poorly described beers, it can be easy to throw your hands up and fall back on old favorites rather than try something new. This is really an old problem, of course. Most modern craft brews are new takes on old recipes, and trying to figure out the difference between the many types of beer has been confusing for a very long time. Are Belgian and Irish ales just telling you where they came from, or are they different from other ales? What’s the difference between a stout and porter, and how can you tell them apart? Fortunately, learning about what you’re drinking is not nearly as difficult as it first seems. In the same way that most wines can be split into red or white, and then by grape, you can divide most beers into two categories: lagers and ales. You can then further break these down into dark and pale varieties. Technically, lagering is a way of conditioning a beer by keeping it in cool storage, which is confusing because by that definition almost any beer can be a lager. More practically, the term is generally used these days to refer to beers fermented at low temperatures with bottom feeding yeast. Bottom fermentation beers are usually light and smooth. In the same way that most wines can be split into red or white, and then by grape, you can divide most beers into two categories: lagers and ales. Pilsner and the aptly named pale lager are the most common types of lagers. They’re also some of the most famous and widely consumed beers in the world. This group includes brands such as Budweiser, Tsing Tao, and Heineken. Dark lagers are less popular among modern beers and include dopplebock and dunkel, among other types. Many craft breweries make excellent lagers these days, which build on their light and easy-to-drink nature. If you’re looking for something that has more character than the mainstream brands, but is more subtle than the strong ales dominating the craft brewing scene, these are well worth a try. Ales ferment at higher temperatures than lagers, with yeast that develops as foam at top of the tank, and are known as top fermentation beers. Ales are generally denser and have stronger flavors than lagers, and often have higher alcohol content, although this is not always the case. Bold, hoppy ales are the all-stars of the craft brewing renaissance, and it’s a rare craft brewery that doesn’t have at least one signature ale. Many types of ale are referred to by color, which makes them easy to identify. Pale ales especially follow this rule. This includes the bitter, powerfully hoppy India pale ale (IPA), perhaps the best known modern ale. There are also lighter pale

ales, such as golden ale, which are often overshadowed by the better known strongly hopped styles. Most wheat beers fall here, as well. Dark ales include stout and porter, which many people associate with powerful beers both in flavor and alcohol content. Interestingly, the most famous brand of stout, Guinness, is actually a relatively low alcohol beer. This category also includes brown ales and scotch ales, which are generally more mellow. A bonus trivia point, if you’re still wondering about stouts versus porters: stouts are porters, just a particularly dark and flavorful subset of the type. Knowing what to expect and why these differences exist makes comparing beers even more fun, so get out there and try something new! Blue Sky Vision Team Member Favorites: One Well Brewing in Kalamazoo Newaygo Brewing Company in Newaygo Brewery Vivant in East Grand Rapids Two Guys Brewing in Grand Rapids Steel Street Brewing in Ionia Unruly Brewing Company in Muskegon Grand Armory Brewing in Grand Haven Lansing Brewing Company in Lansing Looking Glass Brewing Company in Lansing Old Nation Brewing Company in Haslett

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