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Beer 101

Beer 101

Girls Take Flight! Looks Aren’t Everything, But They Sure Do Help!

Just like we eat with our eyes when a plate of food is put in front of us, we drink with our eyes when a flight is presented to us. The beautiful hues of ales, ambers, lagers, and ports can make for a Kodak moment you want to remember and share with others.

When your selection is given to you in order from lightest to darkest, you can’t help but smile and say, “How pretty!” Automatically your tasting is off to a great start. Take a moment and look at your selections. Watch the bubbles rise (a sign of a clean glass). Hold the glass up to the light. Revel in the beauty of the different shades, and see if the color resembles the description given on the menu. Try to guess which pour is which without reading your selections.

 

 

 

I personally feel ambers are the prettiest of them all. The rich reds are so warming and gorgeous, I hate having them disappear. It’s really amazing how just the slightest variances in color can enrich and add eye candy to your tasting. If the taste is as yummy as the color, a total win!Take the time to visually enjoy your flight as well as taste it. After all, looks aren’t everything, but they sure do help!

Take the time to visually enjoy your flight as well as taste it. After all, looks aren’t everything, but they sure do help!

Now sit back, and enjoy your flight!

Beer 101

Beer 101: Take Out-What are Growlers and Crowlers?

Part 3:  Take Out-What are Growlers and Crowlers?

Well, as promised, here are my views on the growler and crowler thing.  Of course my husband never leaves without one or the other, so I have seen the filling process several times.  So you go to a brewery, you do your flight, order a pint of the beer you like to drink there and make sure its the one you like, and then you want to know how to take some home.  Well your in luck, because you can get your favorite craft beer to go in a growler, which is usually a 1/2 gallon jar, or in a crowler, which is a 32 oz can.  It’s like going into Starbucks and ordering a venti or a short.  It’s all about what size you want and how fast you are going to drink it.

First, I will tell you about a growler only because that is what we have most of in our house.  My husband has started quite the collection, he has one from all the different breweries he has visited.  The first time you buy the growler, get it filled, then bring it back when its empty for more beer. WHAT..….how convenient!  We have a pretty large collection in my house, and there is something in common with all of them, they are dark brown glass jugs.  At first I thought this was just a preference for the brewery because its a dark color, like beer, and manly looking. But, come to find out, the dark brown glass prevents light from getting through to the beer and causing the beer to produce a bad taste or smell, a term we all know as “skunked beer”.   Not all growlers are glass, some are ceramic, stainless steel, or plastic.  From my perspective most are glass, and I am starting to see the stainless in most breweries as well. 

Next they fill the growlers.  But its not as straight forward as you think.  Most growlers are filled in breweries by attaching about a foot long hose to the end of the tap, then sticking the other end  of the hose in the growler to the bottom.  I watched and thought “why are they doing that”.  I found out the answer is that the tube is a specific length to go to bottom of the growler, and it helps to get an effect of filling the growler from the bottom up.  This helps to reduce filling time and save beer.   Another method used is by purging the growler with CO2, which helps eliminate oxygen in the growler before pouring so it keeps the beer fresher longer. Using both of these methods helps give the beer you take home the best taste and longest shelf life.

Now let’s discuss the caps, they are different too.  Some growlers have a tilt top lid, its just like the kitchen canisters I have in my house, if that helps give you a visual.  There is a rubber ring on the inside of the lid which, when shut and latched, helps form an air tight seal on the jug.  Another method I have seen is a standard looking cap, with plastic or another type of lining that gets screwed on the top, then wrapped with electrical tape to form an air tight seal.  I know it sounds weird but thats what they all do to seal in the freshness.  It’s cheap and it works.  The last thing you will see is a homemade tag or label of your chosen beer attached with your new growler that has the name of the beer and the ABV%.  Now you are ready to go home, break the seal and drink your favorite craft beer any time you want.  Best thing is, you have a growler keepsake, whether it is a onetime souvenir, or from the brewery right down the street,  you now have your own refillable growler.

Now we will talk about the crowler.  This is a 32oz take-home can of your favorite beer.  It starts off as an empty, topless aluminum can which is labeled and personalized per brewery, and a lid.  Prior to filling the Crowler, they usually purge a little co2 to the can prior to filling it with beer to help keep it fresh and last longer once sealed.  After filling the can, breweries have this awesome machine that they put the can under which lifts the can up to seal the lid on the can.  It is loud, it spins, and looks like something that belongs in a machine shop.  Once done, voila, you have a fresh 32oz can of your favorite craft beer to take home and put in your frig.  Unlike the growler, this is not refillable, but still a cool keepsake.

      

     

These are the two types of take-home beer options that I have seen so far.  I am sure there are more types and also different styles each brewery uses to produce and sell there awesome craft beer that allows my husband to contribute to their business.  Some people may ask which one should I buy? It all depends on your taste or if you want a collector jug.  The major differences obviously is the size you leave with, and also the shelf life.  Typically, a growler should be consumed in the next 24-72 hours, especially after it has been opened.  The crowlers will last longer, I have seen them in my fridge for weeks and when opened still look and taste like they did at the brewery. 

So there have you my input on take-out beer  from your favorite brewery.  So the next time you go to brewery and get beer to go, pay attention to how they do it.  It really is amazing.  Sometimes I think it seems old fashioned and out of date, but then I think NO!,  this is what makes the craft beer scene so cool.  Making craft beer really is an art, there are so many touches and things done to keep it that way, and taking home freshly made beer is one of them.  It’s gives you a down-to-earth, homey, and folksy feel and it is awesome!  So the next time you go to a brewery, get some of your favorite craft beer to take home in a your very own growler or crowler.   

Tara 

tara@sjbeerscene.com

Beer 101

Beer 101: Why Are We Taking a Tour and What The Hell is a Flight?

Part 2:  John finally got me to say yes!

So here is my experience entering a brewery for the first time.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, what to wear, and, most importantly, what I would drink.  Honestly I didn’t know if they served food, if they had other alcohol (yeah, I know a brewery means beer), I was going in blind.  So I got dressed and we headed to my first brewery.  Well, first off, I realized that I was way overdressed.  Attention ladies and gents, you don’t need to wear anything other than what you are comfortable in. Secondly, I figured out that they only serve beer.   And, lastly,  it was nothing like I had envisioned it to be.

So we enter the brewery and off on a tour we go.  A what?  Yes a tour.  I looked at John and he knew what I was thinking, “what the hell is this crap?”  John later explained to me that all breweries in the state of New Jersey are required to make every patron take a tour in order to taste the beer.  And, unbelievably,  every time you enter a brewery, no matter how many times you have been there, you start with a tour.  So after a 5 minute tour, I found myself totally surprised, yet enthralled with the whole thing.  The warehouse-like, big brew area was surprisingly really cool and interesting.  I was looking all around taking it in, saying “Wow! the beer is actually brewed in those big shiny different shaped metal vats.”, and yes, I now know they have names other than “shiny vats” which I will get into in another article LOL.  So off to the tasting room we go. How cool and awesome these tasting rooms are!  For those of you that have been to one,  you know what I mean.  They all have their own theme, most that I have been to are very trendy, rustic-like, and have their own off-the-beaten path type of decor. Some have tables, others have beer barrels, some have picnic tables, every tasting room I have entered is very unique. But, in my experience,  they all provide that down-to-earth homey atmosphere for tasting locally made craft beer.

So now I am into it! I am ready to get my first taste of fresh-brewed craft beer.  John says to me “we will do a flight.” A flight? What the hell is a flight? I have no idea what that is, but I trusted my husband and just stood next to him trying not to look too confused while he asked the bartender for one. So the server grabs this wood plank looking thing that has 4 perfect mini glass holders, and starts to write in front of each glass holder the numbers of the beers John chose. First, why are they writing on it, and, second, is that a permanent marker?  Ok, so they write on it so you know which beer you are tasting and, yes, the marker wipes off so the planks are reusable. This made me happy because I could already see John’s giant pile of wooden planks he would keep as souvenir’s of the brewery placed around the house as “art”. So what is a flight? A flight usually consists of 4 – 6 small glasses holding only about 4 ounces each of the beer you chose to taste and they fit perfectly into those little glass holders on the plank. So John grabs the flight and off we go to a table to give them a try.

All of the beers that John chose were different.  They each had different colors and smells.  He was trying to explain why they all looked different and  started spitting out Beer types, words I had heard before but had no idea the definition of.  Stouts, lagers, IPA’s, double and triple’s, wheats, Belgians, and others.  I was so confused!  So I asked John to stop with his yapping and I just started tasting them.  To be honest, the first few times I went to breweries I wasn’t sure what I liked.  I typically drink vodka, so this was a palate changer. I would taste and say “yeah thats good” , then I would taste another and say “no I don’t like that.”   I couldn’t remember what I tried each time we went.  John would say “you liked this, so you should like that”.  In the beginning I would let him order for me and that’s what I drank.  Every time we went, he would encourage me to taste his flights and ask, “what do you smell, and what do you taste?”  It has become a really cool thing we do.  I love smelling to see if I can figure out the hints and notes of the beer, and, as I have become more understanding of the types of beer, have begun to develop likes and dislikes and can recognize them immediately.

I look back now and see how far I have come, especially being so reluctant in the beginning about craft beer and breweries.  Please, don’t be afraid to give it a try!  The next time your significant other, or a friend says “lets go to a brewery” don’t snub your nose at it like I did in the beginning.  I think everyone should give it a try.  Just the atmosphere alone will suck you into the brewery life, it is like no other drinking experience. Please give it a try, you wont regret it!  It has become one of my favorite places to hang out and see all the great people I now call my friends.

Next:  What the hell is a Growler?

Tara
tara@sjbeerscene.com

Beer 101

Beer 101: The Education of a Beer Lover’s Wife

When my husband and I first started talking about starting a website dedicated to the South Jersey Beer Scene, I was having a hard time figuring out where my place would be. I have never been a beer drinker, but I have been going to breweries, bars, and bottle shops with my husband for some time. I don’t know much, I am still learning. I thought a lot about my place in this endeavor, and it finally hit me. I wanted to share with you my experiences and learning as a beer study.

Let me preface this by telling you I know almost nothing about beer, but I am the wife of a beer loving fool. There it is, that’s my story to tell. I want to share with you my experience as I grow as beer drinker. I am not here to teach you, but simply help you by sharing with you what I am learning as I grow into a beer buddy with my husband.

Everyone has a hobby, and my husbands is beer.  He doesn’t drink beer for a buzz or the feeling, he drinks because he loves the taste. He loves trying a new beer and describing the makeup of the beer to me, it’s subtle and bold hints of flavor, why he likes it or not, and what makes it that way. With the rise of several breweries here in South Jersey, I am getting quite the education. We often travel around to the local breweries and bars to try new things and see what is going on in the community around us. I am learning a whole new language about beer, and believe me, there is a lot; Its like Beer 101!

I want to share with you my introduction to breweries and beer, and what I am learning along the way.  I feel very intimidated about beer and I know I am not the only one out there, I had no idea how little I knew. I have been really studying the scene for well over a year and I still don’t know much, but as I continue to follow my husband’s passion I hope to help all of you out there that are like me, the beer newbie. I want to share my thoughts and experiences from the first time I walked into a brewery to where I am today, and for you to join me as I further my beer education. I have opened my eyes to trying new things and actually enjoy tasting and learning about beer.  I don’t like every beer I try, but that’s why there are so many different kinds. It is something my husband and I do together, and have a lot of fun doing. So even if beer isn’t your thing, give it a try.  We have met so many wonderful people, had some great conversations, and made lasting friendships with people who are as passionate about beer as my husband is.  I have found that the brewery has become an important hub to the local community, a meeting place. You don’t go to listen to bands, or to watch TV, you go to talk to you neighbors and meet like minded people. So put your phones down and enjoy the company, because the company is awesome! From the newbie (like me), to the frequent flyer, up to the owners and brewers of the establishments.

I hope you enjoy what I share, and if any of you beer newbies have anything you would like to share reach out and let me know!

Tara

tara@sjbeerscene.com