Style profile: Stouts, powerful and pungent, aren’t for the faint of heart

Black as midnight in the Irish countryside on a moonless, cloudy night while you’re wearing sunglasses, stouts are to beer what a fine French roast coffee is to tea. Dark, powerful and pungent, the aroma and appearance of stouts often belie a smooth drinkability that typically puts at least one stout near the top of any beer connoisseur’s favorite brews list. Continue reading

Style profile: IPAs keep pushing the envelope

India Pale Ales, or IPAs, are like your your quick-witted buddy from school who always has a sarcastic zinger AND your back in any battle – they keep you on your toes, and keep you coming back for more. Always hoppy, often bitter, usually sharp-tasting, and occasionally tongue-punching, IPAs are the current kings of American craft brewing. There are three basic types of IPAs: English IPAs, American IPAs, and Imperial IPAs (in order from mild to powerful). Continue reading

Making hard cider, part 1

The only thing better than hard cider is hard cider you make for yourself. Americans have homebrewed hard cider since the early days of colonization, and it’s a remarkably simple process that I’ll detail below. Books have been written about making cider, so consider this a basic overview. Continue reading

Strategies for finding great beers

Let’s be honest: the mutitude of beer choices is intimidating. Standing in front of a well-stocked beer aisle can be dizzying for even the most experienced beer geek.

One could spend hours with a smart phone researching the choices at a smaller place, nevermind standing in a huge liquor store like Wines & More or Yankee Spirits. Heck, the choices can be mind-numbing at a well a well-stocked smaller location like Douglas, Barry’s, Muckey’s, or Lee’s Market.

So how does one make a choice when facing such a massive selection of options? There are multiple strategies that work well and can be mix-and-matched as needed. As you read on to figure out how to navigate the maze of beer choices, never forget: all beer is good beer. Don’t let the near-infinite beer choices cause anxiety. Continue reading

Autumn beers and their malty goodness

It’s late-August and the fall beers have arrived in force. Until recently, autumn offerings focused almost exclusively on rich, amber, malty brews based on the traditional German Oktoberfest style. Nowadays, fall beers feature enough pumpkin ales that attempting to try all of them might actually lead to seeing Schroder’s Great Pumpkin. Continue reading

The benefits, and hazard, of canned beer

I write this column while enjoying the complex, yet easy-drinking Barstool American Golden Ale by the extremely promising Foolproof Brewing from Pawtucket. The beer is unusual not because they manage to squeeze so much flavor into a 4.5% sipper, but because the beer is poured from a can.

That’s right, the can is making a comeback. Long-vilified in craft brewing as the realm of 30-packs of light, flavorless brews, canned craft beers have become as popular as the guy that brought a keg to the party.

Suddenly, craft breweries across the country are selling their beers in cans, and some sell ONLY cans and kegs. Foolproof distributes their top-notch offerings in cans and kegs only, as does Maine’s Baxter Brewing, Vermont’s amazing Alchemist Cannery, Brooklyn’s Sixpoint and dozens of other breweries across the country.

Heck, Sam Adams now sells its flagship Boston Lager and its Summer Ale in cans. Fellow local brewers Harpoon, Cisco, Berkshire, Newport Storm, Narragansett, Gray Sail, and Wachusett all began offering some of their brews in cans in the last several years.

The advantages of cans are numerous: they’re cheaper, can be stacked and stored easily, block skunky-beer-inducing UV rays, are lighter, are easily recycled, and are simply more convenient for the user. And these aren’t your dad’s cans – the beer contained within don’t taste metallic thanks to advances in can technology, so they usually taste just as good as their bottled counterparts

Unfortunately, that same technology has a dark side: the cans contain BPA (bisphenol-A), an amazing bottle protector that also an endocrine disruptor (Google it). BPA keeps the beer from leeching metallic flavors into the beer. That’s good. It’s also a health risk. That’s not so good.

BPA has been loosely linked to a host of medical issues, including obesity, diabetes, neurological issues, and cancer (among other things). It’s been banned in baby bottles and sippy cups in the US, and studies have shown that it does leach into beer in very small amounts.

It’s obvious that BPA has come to the attention of the nation because most reusable water bottles now read “BPA-Free.”

Most brewers completely ignore the issue, and those that address it do so in a very general way. New Belgium, the country’s 4th biggest brewery and a leader in green brewing, basically says that it’s up to the consumer to decide their own risk. Most of the others completely ignore the issue.

In the end, the majority of BPA leeching risk comes from exposure to heat and long-term exposure to the BPA. Therefore, I definitely drink fresh local canned beer, but am slightly wary of canned brews that have been sitting on the shelves for months and shipped across the country.

Originally published on August 15, 2013