If you home brew for long enough, one question is inevitable: “Can you make (insert popular beer)?” If I had a dollar for every person who’s asked if I can make Corona I’d retire a rich man. A good answer to the question above is “yes, but have you tried (insert craft style)?” Home brewers are in a privileged position to offer new and interesting alternatives to the mass produced beers that dominate the marketplace. We have the power to convert beer drinkers to craft beer drinkers! I’ve compiled a list of 5 beer styles that every home brewer should master to properly introduce Joe Average to the world of craft brewing.
Yes, I’ve started with a difficult one. The light lager is considered the pinnacle of the brewer’s craft – low body and bitterness, crisp dry finish and very clean flavour. With no room for flaws to hide, the processes for producing this beer need to be meticulous. Fermentation temperature control is an absolute must for lager yeast, and the yeast pitch rate needs to be a lot higher to compensate for the cold fermentation. Proper use of adjuncts is critical. For more information on adjuncts, check out this article. Lagers need to be stored cold (“lagered”) following fermentation, so a fridge with room for a fermenter is a must. In a pinch, a light lager recipe can be fermented as an ale to produce a cream ale. But temperatures on the cooler end of the ale yeast range are still required for that clean crisp flavour. Personally I’d recommend going the whole hog and brewing a lager. The results will be worth it. Most mass-produced beers are pale lagers, so it’s an easy transition for non-craft drinkers to make.
A good pale ale should be in every home brewer’s repertoire. This is a great beer for a brewer to show off their skills. They generally have a fairly light body and mild flavour, but there is great variety in pale ales. There are bitter, hoppy American styles, light and fruity English styles, and yeasty and rich Australian pale ales. The ale share a few common features however – a grain bill including mostly ale and crystal malts. American and Australian styles can include some wheat malt, and often have a slightly spicy malt flavour. English and Australian pale ales use floral and earthy English or European hops, while American versions use American hops for citrus and pine notes. English pale ale yeast leaves the beer slightly fuller and sweeter, and gives fruity esters to the flavour and aroma profile. American ale yeasts have a neutral flavour profile, and produce a drier tasting beer. People who have never tried a pale ale often experience hops for the first time, which is usually either a eureka moment or a turn off. Some people dislike the bitterness that hops contribute, so introducing people to lower IBU pale ales can be helpful.
India Pale Ale
Sometimes you may come across a more adventurous person who’s willing to try a more ‘advanced’ beer. India Pale Ale, or IPA, can be the perfect introduction. This is also a real home brewer’s beer and developed out of the craft beer scene on the West Coast of the USA. A good IPA will be impressive to other brewers and beer drinkers alike. IPA is essentially a beefed-up American Pale Ale, with increased hop presence and alcohol content. The malt body should be similar to that of an American Pale Ale, to provide room for the hops to shine. Judicious use of American hops is a must, the beer must be very bitter and exploding with citrus and pine flavours and aromas. This style really showcases a home brewer’s use of hops, and can really expand a beer drinker’s horizons!
How many of you have heard this before? “I don’t like dark beer.” This can be an anger provoking statement among craft beer enthusiasts, and one home brewers must expect from people trying their beer. But imagine the satisfaction from converting a non-dark beer drinker! Few feelings compare. I’ve done some research into why people don’t like dark beer, and two most common complaints are the bitterness, and the roast flavour. I’ve found a way around this, by brewing a stout with less roasted malt and more crystal and chocolate malts. This produces a sweeter, more palatable brew that reduces the roast character and decreases the perceived bitterness. This can be an easier introduction to stout for light beer drinkers, though is still not guaranteed to succeed. Some people are destined to remain beer plebs, despite our best efforts.
Brew What You Love
The final beer that every home brewer should master is their own favourite beer style! Keep in mind above all else, you’re the brewer so you get to choose what beer you make. Yes, it’s great when other people like your beer. But I for one am not going to slave over a hot mash tun to brew beers that I don’t like to drink. If you like Scottish ales, brew them. If you like sour beers, brew them. Don’t let other people’s tastes dictate what you brew. By the same token, if you don’t like a recipe, modify it to suit your tastes. Chances are you won’t be the only one who likes it! Push the envelope and experiment with your brewing, that’s where innovation and progression come from.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions or comments, leave them below! Happy brewing!