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Craft Education: 5 Ways to Take Your Craft Beer Experience to the Next Level

CRAFT EDUCATION: 5 WAYS TO TAKE YOUR CRAFT BEER EXPERIENCE TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Disclosure: This piece originally appeared in the 2015 edition of Ohio On Tap a publication of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. Pick up a copy at your local Ohio craft brewery.

I’m a firm believer in the notion that the more you know about the things you love, the more you can come to appreciate them. OK, maybe not hot dogs. Some stones are better left unturned. Craft beer, though, this is undoubtedly a prime example. Sure, you don’t have to know all that much about beer to enjoy it, but this I promise you. To know craft beer is to love craft beer.

Those of us looking to up our craft beer game beyond the bottle are faced with a truly challenging question. What exactly can we do to become better, more educated craft beer drinkers? As we’re smack dab in the middle of a beer renaissance, finding ways to start or continue your craft beer education has never been easier. To help you along on your barley-fueled brain boosting adventure I’ve put together several suggestions for how you can take your craft beer experience from amateur to aficionado.

TRAIN YOUR PALATE

Hey, Captain Obvious, this one’s for you. Few would argue that the best way to learn about craft beer is to drink craft beer. It also happens to be the most fun. It’s one thing to read a book about the history Flander’s red ale. It’s a life-changing experience to actually drink one.

Sample beers from across a wide variety of brands and styles. Sure, it’s OK to have favorites, but don’t get sucked into a rut. Challenge yourself. Try beer styles you don’t think you’ll like or that you’ve not experience before. Make it even more fun by tracking your progress with an app like Untappd.

CRACK THE BOOKS

I know what you’re thinking. You gave up books after college. Calm down, this is different. These books are about beer. There are so many great books on the subject of beer that the hard part might be deciding where to begin. You can choose to stay really broad with the tome-like The Oxford Companion to Beer by Garrett Oliver or you can get über-specific on a single subject as in For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops by Stan Hieronymus. Every beer geek worth her salt needs a reference library. I recommend starting yours with Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher.

CRACK THE BOOKS

I know what you’re thinking. You gave up books after college. Calm down, this is different. These books are about beer. There are so many great books on the subject of beer that the hard part might be deciding where to begin. You can choose to stay really broad with the tome-like The Oxford Companion to Beer by Garrett Oliver or you can get über-specific on a single subject as in For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops by Stan Hieronymus. Every beer geek worth her salt needs a reference library. I recommend starting yours with Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher.

LEAD AN EVENTFUL LIFE

Another way to immerse yourself in the world of craft beer is by participating in local craft beer events. It seems like everyone and their brother is getting their own beer week and I can’t go a day without hearing about a new beer festival. Speaking of beer festivals, attending them is a great way to network with other craft beer geeks and, if you’re lucky, chat with a brewer or two. Take your pick – beer pairing dinners, craft beer festivals, bottle shares, brewery tours – they’ll all help raise your craft beer street cred.

FUSS OVER YOUR CRAFT BEER

Taking the time to really appreciate that beer in front of you will do wonders for your craft beer IQ. Hold the glass up to the light. Is it a golden-colored witbier cloudy with suspended yeast or a brilliantly clear straw yellow pilsner? Stick your nose right in the glass and inhale. The aromas found in beer are made up of hundreds of chemical compounds – from the catty, pine resin of American IPA to the coffee and chocolate of a roasty stout. Take a sip and allow the beer to linger on your tongue. Does it have the prickly carbonation of a Belgian ale? The lingering bitterness of an imperial IPA? Craft beer is meant to be savored, so ignore the haters and fuss all you want.

BREW YOUR OWN BEER

Homebrewing. It’s really become something of an obsession for me. I’ve been brewing my own beer for nearly 10 years now and if you’re really looking to take your understanding and appreciation for craft beer to the next level, there’s no better way than to step into the shoes of the brewmaster. Brewing your own beer is fun and easy. It’s all about malt, hops, yeast and water. You’ll quickly come to understand that brewing great beer is just as much an art as it is a science. And bonus, it’s been proven that homebrewers tend to have more friends than their non-homebrewing counterparts.

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