One of the benefits of having a weekly column focused on culinary exploits is the freedom to write about anything that catches your fancy, as long as it tastes good. For that reason, this week’s column is focused on beer. As we move into the autumn season, many rich seasonal beers will be brought to market, and it’s a great time of the year to enjoy good beer.
Taken from the book called “The Short Course in Beer” is the following: “Beer is, at its best, a philosopher’s drink. It stimulates sensitive souls to ask questions without arousing the arrogance that might lead them to easy answers.” Obviously this was not written to describe your typical watery, heavily carbonated beverages that try to pass themselves off as “beer.” This was meant to describe real beer, which is full of flavor and personality.
Interestingly enough, there were numerous breweries all over the country prior to prohibition in 1919 – more than 1,500 of them. This prohibition period witnessed the underground growth of spirits, as you could pack a lot more punch in a smaller container for transport. Remember, all booze was illegal, and it was easier to deliver and hide spirits such as vodka, gin and whiskey. Many breweries closed during prohibition, and when prohibition ended in 1933, the economic depression slowed the rebirth of most breweries. Flavorful local and regional brands were replaced by national brands whose strength was their advertising, not their flavor. Until 20 years ago or so, that's where we were stuck. But, we have seen a resurgence of craft beers. While beer consumption is decreasing, the consumption of beer with flavor (craft beers) is actually increasing.
Let's briefly discuss beer styles and definitions, realizing there is a lot of flexibility in all of this. Consider this list as a very generic starting point.