Father’s Day is special for me, as I have two boys (Colin who is 8 and Nathan who is 6), and I opened the Wrecking Bar Brewpub on Father’s Day 2011. Since I’ve been brewing beer for 20 years now, it may not be surprising that my boys know more about beer than a good chunk of the general population. I developed signature beers for each of them before they were even born by trying to guess their personality in-utero. This probably sounds like behavior of the ultimate beer geek, but to this day their personality is a great match to their “birth beers.”
- Do you want a light-bodied or full-bodied beer? This quality of beer is probably most overlooked when making recommendations. Wine connoisseurs have been describing their libations for years, e.g., “a full-bodied red” or “crisp and dry white.” Before the American “craft beer renaissance” of the last 20 years, many Americans had little choice but to swill light-bodied and often watery beer, but now most bars serve a plethora of creative and flavorful beers. One may be surprised to know that, although roasty and dark, Guinness is actually one of the lighter-bodied beers available (notice how it floats on top of a Black & Tan?). If it is warm out, you plan on drinking several beers, or you don’t want the “full stomach” feeling, a lighter-bodied beer is best. If it is cool or you are looking for a nice sipping beer to go with dessert, a full-bodied beer may be in order.
- Do you like hop bitterness and/or hop aroma or not? Many beer drinkers do not know what hops smell like. American hops can give a citrusy or grassy aroma and European hops are often floral or earthy in character. But, only hops added late in the boil/brewing process give aromatics and relatively few beer styles have significant flavor or aromatic hops added. Most people know hops from the bittering quality that they add to the beer. An India Pale Ale (IPA) uses high amounts of bittering hops early in the boil, thus giving many IPAs a puckering or even long lasting bitter feeling on the tongue. Enjoyable to some, others not so much.
- Do you like your beer complex or simple? Complexity comes through most in the flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel. Most lighter colored Belgian beers are simple in the malts (grains) used, however, the Belgian yeasts often add characters of fruit, spice, or bread to the aromas and flavors; resulting in very complex beers. A basic pale ale or light lager uses very few malts and the yeast is very neutral, resulting in a clean and crisp character. On the upper end of complexity, beers such as Russian Imperial Stouts, Belgian Dark Strong Ales, and Barleywines may use 10 or more different grains and yeasts with a great deal of complexity.
Happy Father's Day to all dads out there, and here's to finding your perfect brew!