Myths, Monks, and Good Beer

So many of the beers that I enjoy and then blog about are those “other” beers, you know, the ones which are mostly kept in their own separate cooler case at your local market.   The ones from the other cooler…queue the eerie music, right?  One cooler is mostly beers whose names are two words – ready? -second word…“light”.  When people do glance over at those other beers, you can almost hear the thoughts spinning.  As if there’s something odd about them.  If you could hear those thoughts, you’d hear the same kinds of comments one would voice if upon hanging out with your best friend for the first time in a couple weeks, you see to your amazement that he has somehow managed to grow a second head.  They’ve been ostracized to their own cooler, after all, and there must be a good reason for it, right?  And come on, they even have strange labels on them with pictures of things like dogs, skeletons sitting on barrels, goats (goats? What’s up with the goats?), and…monks?  I mean really, I don’t hang out with monks, and while I’ve never had the chance to hang out with monks, honestly, this doesn’t really sound like much of a good time to me.

So there they sit, all those oddly named and oddly labeled beers.  Some people will come and go, grab their case of whatever on special and will never wonder these thoughts, but some will.  Some, like I did once, edge closer to the case and look and wonder what all these beers have to offer – but then, to so many, the reasons not to try something different start to edge into those thoughts.  That’s when the myths start rolling around in one’s head.  Like so many myths, these statements are way too general and do not account for the vast variations in tastes and flavors beers can have.

I heard the first one just recently, and focuses on ales.  “I don’t care for ales, they all taste bitter, or heavy, or just are just too different.”  Ok, this is akin to trying blue cheese and saying you don’t care for cheese at all.  There are simply too many varied kinds of ales, and within those generalized styles, each individual beer can be very different from the next.

Darker beers are “heavy” or more filling than lighter beers.  Someone with this opinion might try a dark (or “black”) lager, for example, or perhaps a brown ale – while color might make someone think a beverage is heavy due to a darker color, these beers and others can be quite light in body, as light as just about any run of the mill golden colored lager.

Those other beers are too bitter.  Honestly, this one can be both true and false.  But the fact is, this is not true as a blanket statement for all the beers someone hasn’t tried and certainly isn’t a good reason not to try something in “that other cooler”.  Sure, many craft beer lovers do enjoy hopped up, more bitter beers.  But this is certainly not true for all.  There are plenty of flavorful, smaller, craft brewed, well made beers that are delicious in their celebration of malty, sweet flavors.   This equates into wonderful toasted or roasted tastes that instantly fit in on a cool fall evening.  Some of these beers have flavors that are reminiscent of things such as dark fruits, plums, raisins, and more.  Think English Brown Ales, bocks, and doppelbocks for examples.

Darker beers are higher in alcohol content.  Again, not necessarily true.  Familiar with Guinness perhaps?  You couldn’t force the slightest bit of light through most stouts, they’re as dark as night – but can weigh in as low as 4% ABV.  That’s just barely over most run of the mill, commonly found lagers.

There are plenty of myths that people can have about those beers in the other cooler.  But there is too much variation in taste, flavor and body to rule them all out.  To those people who wonder about trying something different, sure, there will be some beers that might not agree to someone’s individual tastes.  But on the flip side, there are way too many being produced to which those same people would agree taste absolutely delicious.  Personally, I hope even more people will take a glance at that other cooler.  Articles around the internet note that craft beers seem to be continuing their trend upwards in popularity.  And what of those monks on the labels?  Throughout history, monks were at the forefront of the development of good beer, and frankly, beer in general.  So you might not want to hang out with them, but I would ask…don’t you want to know what they have known about good beer for a very, very long time?

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~ by thebeerroad on March 12, 2010.

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