So, you don’t like beer, huh? Then maybe you just haven’t tried the right one.
There are a lot of beers in the supermarket cooler and many of them do taste a lot alike. But there are dozens upon dozens of other kinds of beer you’ve probably never had.
Like, for example, “Cakewalk,” a vanilla cream ale from Michigan’s Right Brain Brewery, or the “Harvest Moon Oatmeal Stout” from Mackinaw Brewing or the “Strong Brew Coffee Porter” from Rare Bird Brewpub.
There are more than 150 styles of beer recognized by the Brewers Association — from the American-style lagers at the grocery store to India Pale Ales (IPAs), porters, stouts and beers with notes of fruit, pumpkin, coffee or chocolate.
“Our goal is to find something for everyone,” said Joe Short, founder and CEO of Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, near Traverse City. “Our favorite customer who comes in is the person who doesn’t like beer. That’s where we get excited about the possibility of conversion.”
Short’s, Right Brain and other local Traverse City breweries are taking part in Traverse City Beer Week (TCBW), Nov. 9-16. TCBW features a variety of tastings and other events that make a great introduction to craft beer.
Even though the craft brewing industry is rapidly growing, it still makes up just a tiny fraction of the commercial beer market. That small scale is partly what defines craft beer — it’s the opposite of big industrial brewers.
But it’s also defined by the craft of brewing. While the predominant style of beer sold in the United States is a light lager that’s more or less the same all across the country, craft beer is as unique as the brewery that makes it. The Local’s Light classic American lager by Short’s is different from the Northern Light lager at North Peak Brewing, which is different from the Glen Light lager at Cherry Public House, and so on.That’s not even to mention the vast array of other beer styles that craft brewers create. They experiment with yeast, hops and malted barley ingredients to produce a variety of different colors and flavors of beer: the “Cherry Springer” cherry ale at Lake Ann Brewing, the “Pembroke Stout” at Earthen Ales, and the “Trail Ryeder” IPA at Hop Lot Brewing, for example.
“No one beer captures all consumers,” Short said.
But which kind of craft beer might capture you? Short offers three suggestions to help you discover craft beer that you’ll enjoy:
Start with a sample tray. Try a variety of styles so you can taste the difference between a sour beer and a hoppy beer, for example, or between a Belgian beer and an American ale.
Ask your server questions. When you taste one kind of beer, find out why it tastes the way it does. When you find a particular style of beer that you like, your server will be able to identify what you like in that beer, so you can try other kinds with similar characteristics.
Narrow down what you like best. If you discover that you like light lagers, then explore more lagers because you might also like an amber lager or a dark lager. Or, if you decide that you like the smell, flavor and bitterness of hops, then keep exploring IPAs and other beers within that window.
The key is to explore craft beer, because there’s so much more out there than the familiar beer that you might not even like. Traverse City Beer Week is a great time to do just that, with 19 breweries and tap rooms participating!
Events include the 5th annual TC Ale Trail IPA Challenge, a Flapjack and Flannel Festival, The Great Beerd Run and many activities hosted by individual breweries. For example, you can discover the creative magic behind Right Brain’s award-winning beer on a free brewery tour 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, and sample special mini-flights of craft beer starting at $6.
Check out the full schedule of TCBW events here.
If you spend a couple days enjoying the festivities, you can take advantage of Fab Fall packages being offered by many Traverse City-area hotels, resorts and B&Bs now through Dec. 14. The packages include lodging deals as well as discounts on dining, shopping, breweries, wineries, spas and more.
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