We're living in a renaissance.
While that could be true for many reasons, the specific reason I'm going to dive into today is beer. Yes, we're living in a beer renaissance, my friends; especially in the US.
For too long, when we talk about beer, the iconic fizzy water beverage comes to mind. My father, rest his soul, was a Pabst Blue Ribbon man. It's all he knew. While those big-name beers serve their purpose, there is a growing market of truly delicious beers sprouting out between the cracks. Now more than ever, consumers are discovering that the word "beer" means more than just a weak lager made by a company with a huge marketing budget. According to Beverage Industry magazine, the top craft beers enjoyed a 19.4% increase in sales last year. Society is branching out, and discovering the wonder of robust porters, citrusy bitter IPAs, sweet Belgians, cloudy refreshing wheats, and malty warm ambers.
With this market shift, people are rediscovering the lost concept of supporting small, local businesses. It's a great thing when the consumer can sit down at their local brewery and have a beer with the owner; someone on their level, just trying to make an excellent product. Suddenly, buying beer gives you a sense of contributing to your community; like you're making a difference.
I'm proud to live in Michigan, where we take our craft beer seriously. Grand Rapids, MI was 2013's "Beer City, USA" in a poll created by renowned beer columnist Charlie Papazian. Beer festivals all across the state are consistently selling out, bringing hoards of people who want to try all the latest and greatest brews. We have the big names like Bell's, Founders, and Short's... but the newer little guys are getting recognition too. It's not unheard of to drive an hour to check out the newest brewery opening up.
Now, you might be saying, "Gary, I don't like that fancy pants craft beer; it's too strong". I hear you. I was like you. I hated all beer at first, and when I finally grew to accept it, it was the standard "Light" selection. The first craft beer that I ever liked was Bell's Oberon summer wheat, which coincidentally was just released for the season this week. My advice for you would be to just dive in and start trying new beers. Go to your local brewery and order a "flight", a.k.a. a sampler tray. They'll give you a bunch of beers to try, and then you can start figuring out what you like. You might be surprised!
The other side of this coin is home brewing. Most people imagine that making beer is very difficult, but that's not really true. Beer, at its core, is four ingredients: water, malted barley (malt), hops, and yeast. That's it! Obviously the amounts and types of each of those things vary, and you can always add in more ingredients (ever had a beer made with baby formula? I have. It wasn't that great). If you're interested, find your nearest home brew shop and talk to them; they will get you started. Alternatively, there are some great online brewing stores.
That's all. I'll leave you with something unrelated to beer.
"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known" - Carl Sagan
Speaking of Carl Sagan, watch the new Cosmos series based off of the original; it's excellent.
PS: If you have any advice for an aspiring brewmaster, or excellent beer recipes, send them my way!