Fairly recently, I had the pleasure of being part of an excellent discussion revolving around favourite beer styles. Eventually the discussion turned to a perhaps familiar place: If you could only drink one beer style for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Of course, for a beer geek this is an almost impossible conundrum. I’ve tried to solve it, but I can only narrow it down to three styles and no fewer. If really, really pressed I could probably narrow it down to two but that would hurt my soul a little. And seeing as how this is my blog, I see no reason to inflict such sorrow upon myself, so with that I give you the three beer styles that would keep me content forever.
In no particular order…
1. India Pale Ale. It’s probably tough to tell at this stage in the blog, but I’m a huge hop head and it doesn’t come hoppier than the IPA. I’ve yet to meet a beer too hoppy for me, from Green Flash’s Palate Wrecker to Mikkeller’s 1000 IBU. If hops are awesomeness (which they are) then saying that something is too hoppy is saying that it’s too awesome, and saying that a beer is too awesome is… Well, that’s just crazy, right? Trust me, the logic is rock-solid. In all seriousness though, a heavy dose of hops can add big aromas and flavours of pine, lemon, lime, grapefruit, flowers, grass, herbs, or even tropical fruits like mangoes, papayas, and passion fruit. When a really skilled brewer is able to take all the complexity from their chosen hop varieties and balance them with a big caramel and biscuit malt backbone, that’s when this style really shines for me. With so many to choose from, it’s not hard to find a great IPA that suits your taste just right. My personal favourite IPAs: Central City Red Racer IPA, Surly Furious, BrewDog Hardcore IPA
2. Stout. To me, stout is the ultimate winter warmer or a perfect drink for a cool autumn evening. Having evolved from porters, traditionally stouts are heavier in body than their ancestors but share many aspects of their complex flavour profile. Stouts are bold and heavy beers with a smooth and luxurious mouthfeel. They are typically lightly-hopped, allowing the brewer to showcase the abundant crystal, chocolate, and black malts that give these their traditional coffee, chocolate, molasses, or even wood smoke characteristics. That doesn’t mean they need to be strong though – traditionally stouts are only 4-5% abv with imperial stouts pushing up into the low teens percentage-wise. I tend to like my stouts on the stronger end and on a cold night to warm the bones. Oh yeah, and if you age stout in wood barrels for a period of time, magical things can happen. My personal favourite stouts: Southern Tier Creme Brûlée, Founders Imperial Stout, Half Pints Le Temps Noir
3. Saison. Perhaps an oddball choice for some, saison is experiencing a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Traditionally a style brewed by Belgian farmers to quench the thirst of their farmhands during harvest time, saisons are an incredibly drinkable, refreshing and all-around delicious style beer. It all starts with the subtle aromatic combinations of orange peel, coriander, peppercorns, lemon, and cloves. Then there’s the sight of the fluffy white head that just won’t quit and the swirling haziness of bottle-conditioned yeast sediment and fine carbonation. And that’s all before it hits your lips. If you haven’t had a saison before, get ready for a treat that tastes as good as it smells with some added farmhouse “funk” to give it that rustic, old-world taste. If you’re lucky and holding a really great bottle, you might even have some Brettanomyces in there adding that little bit of tartness that really adds the punch that makes this a sublime style. My personal favourite saisons: Saison Dupont, Boulevard Saison Brett, Logsdon Seizoen Bretta
So there you have it. A collection of IPA’s, stouts, and saisons should cover my bases and appease every inch of my palate if a beerpolcalypse ever should occur. On second thought, let’s hope that never happens. There’s far too much amazing beer out there to limit ourselves.