If you’d like to have a richer experience while drinking a pint, here are 3 great resources to expand your enjoyment:
The first is a video series. The craft brewing revival and industry today owes much to the UK writer Michael Jackson, aka “The Beer Hunter”. The craft beer revival started around 1965. Jackson popularized the idea of beer styles (pilsners, IPAs, porters, stouts) which gave people a language to talk about the growing number of craft brews.
in 1989 he produced a 5 episode TV series called The Beer Hunter. In the first episode, California Pilgrimage, he interviews Fritz Maytag (yes of Maytag, the company) who bought the then almost bankrupt but now famous Anchor Steam brewery in San Francisco. If you’re interested in the genesis of California craft beers, Maytag is one of the critical catalysts. In later episodes Jackson takes you to the UK (Best of British), Bavaria (The Bohemian Connection) , the Netherlands (Our Daily Bread) and Belgium (The Burgundies of Belgium) and ends with a dinner cooked with and served with beer (The Fifth Element). These videos are available on VHS / or you can search You Tube for the Beer Hunter. While there are sound quality issues, I watched the series here.)
Though he passed away in 2007 at age 65, he’s still honored with gravitas at the World Beer Cup as late as 2012. Jackson is widely credited with sharing what was going on in the beer industry with brewers. In the spirit of continuing to share, his short form writings are on his website. A simple search on Amazon will show you the breadth of his books.
The second great resource is a beautiful book called, The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes (2013). My husband bought this for me for Christmas! Green and brown embossed stylized bottles of beer adorn the cover. The font choice, color and contrast are beautiful and the cover is the tan color of the head on a porter. Inside the page design includes botanical drawings (very orderly) as well as beer mug rings (very messy). But I digress.
For each beer style (Jackson’s contribution), such as, Porters and Stouts, there is a chapter, in this case “Turn on the Darks”, which has the history of the style, and then Two to Taste for each variation of the style: American Porter, Dry Irish Stout, Brown Ale, Baltic Porter, Milk Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Foreign Extra Stout, American Stout, Imperial Stout. I could complain that he left out Imperial Porters but this list should keep me busy.
There are 12 chapters including “classes” on lagers, pilsners and other cold fermented beer, witbiers, hefeweizens and other cloudy wheat beers, pale ales, IPSs, Trappist and abby-style ales, barley wines and other winter warmers, aging beer in wood, and sour and wild ales ending with Around the World in 80 Pints and pairing brews with food. This is a great guide for understanding what you’re tasting, how styles differ from each other and the distinctions within a style.
The third and last great resource is an app called Untapped. Having trouble remembering which beers you’ve already had? Untapped allows you to keep track of what beers you have tasted as well as rank and comment on them and share them with others. For each beer the app lists the style (again Jackson’s contribution), ABV, average rating by others, comments by others as well as your comments and rating.
Untapped also has a wish list feature so if you read about or hear about a beer you want to try you can add it to the wish list. Lastly, Untapped has a “Find It” button which will help you find where you can find a particular beer around you. Given some of the beers in The Complete Beer Course, I’m going to need this feature. Untapped awards badges for, well, a huge variety of things: Photogenic Brews for taking pics of your beer, God Save the Queen for drinking British Beers, Das Boot for German Beers, Heavy Weight for dark beers, etc. And they go from level 1 up to level 50. (Try the app CaskFinder in and for the UK.)
With a sense of the history of the craft brewing industry, a course to guide you through the styles and an app to help you keep track, drinking a pint at your local will only get richer. Enjoy!
Always drink responsibly.