What is craft beer? It’s beer made by smaller breweries around the world, done in dozens of different styles. It’s beer that embraces flavor, instead of avoiding it. Some may be bitter, some may be sweet, while many find a balance in between. The breweries spend their money on ingredients instead of marketing, and embrace the concept of craftsmanship.
What’s in a beer? Normally, at least four ingredients: Water, grains (usually malted barley), hops and yeast. The hops provide the bitterness in beer, while the grains provide the sweetness. Sometimes other flavors are introduced, like fruits or chocolate or coffee. Craft brewers take pride in experimenting with different styles and different ingredients. For beginners to craft beer, these flavors may be surprising at first, but that surprise quickly turns to enjoyment.
Where do I start? If you’re new to craft beer, look for a lighter beer, like a Pilsner or a wheat beer or a lager. Then move on to lighter pale ales and gradually move your way up to hoppier and higher-alcohol beers.
How many styles are there? Dozens upon dozens. Beers are either ales or lagers, depending on how they are made. While mass-market beers tend to almost always be lighter lagers, they only represent about 2% of the styles out there. Pale ales are the most popular craft beer style now, but there are dozens of other styles, from milk stouts to brown ales to hoppy Pilsners to triple-strength Belgian ales to sour ales. The fun is in trying what styles you love best.
Where are craft beers from? Now, all over the world. While Britain and Belgium have always had smaller breweries, other countries weren’t so lucky until recently. But in the past few decades, hundreds (now thousands) of craft breweries started in the United States, kicking off a trend that spread to Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Italy, Scotland, Norway, Lebanon and other countries before finally heading to Hong Kong. Some breweries embrace traditional styles, while others are all about experimentation, but they all have one thing in common: a love for beer.
How do I learn more? A great way is to have a tasting: Pour the beer in a proper glass – a wine glass usually is great. Check out the color (beers vary, depending on the malts used) and the aroma, and then check out the flavors. Is it sweet, sour, bitter, or somewhere in between? Is it high or low in alcohol? Does it use barley, rye, wheat or some other grain?
Where do I learn more? A craft beer bar is a great place to start; your bartender can help guide you through the choices. And if you want to try some at home, there are plenty of choices now available in Hong Kong. Just visit our members page to find out who is all selling craft beer.