Craft Beer 101

August is Craft Beer Month here at Mollie Stone’s, and we carry hundreds of varieties for you to taste. From pilsners to lagers, have fun experimenting to find your favorites. Craft beer is a result of great attention to the details of the unique brewing process of each kind of beer to produce just-the-right taste. Read on to learn more about what goes into the creation of handcrafted beers.

Brewing Craft Beer

We all know beer comes from brewing, but what exactly happens? Brewing is the process of malting cereal grains (commonly barley and wheat), followed by the fermentation of the sugars produced. Most beer is flavored with hops, the female flowers of the hop plant, to add bitterness and act as a natural preservative. Herbs and fruit may also be included to add a unique flavor.

Major Beer Style Families

The two major varieties of beer are ale and lager, and the difference lies in the fermentation yeast used. Ale yeast is called “top-fermenting” because it floats to the top of the fermentation tank after alcohol has been produced in a fast, hot energetic process, reminiscent of red wine fermentation. As a result, ales are richer and offer a broader range of flavors, with noticeably more yeast and complexity than lagers. Pilsner style beer falls into the pale ale category. Lager yeast is bottom-fermenting and sinks, fermenting much more slowly and at colder temperatures, much like white wine fermentation. Lagers are crisp, clean, and thirst quenching. Ales and lagers can be either pale or dark and light or full-bodied, so guessing a beer’s taste based purely on appearance may be misleading. Alternatively, lambics uniquely use wild yeasts and improve with some aging. Many of these beers pair well with food just as easily as well-made wines.

Serving & Enjoying Craft Beers

Most beers do not benefit from aging, and are at their best in their youth within a few months of release. The lighter alcohol brews should be served at cooler temperatures. Lagers with a lower alcohol range (approximately 4.5-4.7% ABV) are best served chilled at 48-52 degrees. They should be poured about 12 inches above the glass to allow some carbonation to escape and create a smoother taste. Serve lights ales at 54-57 degrees, and full-bodied ales at 59-64 degrees.

Have Questions?

Our resident Craft Beer Expert Kiley Van Zant has over 30 years of experience in the industry and has been with Mollie Stone’s since 1992. His interest in the craft beer movement developed in 1999 and he has since forged relationships with many local brewers. His beer philosophy is: “Always have an open mind when experimenting with new beers – your palate might surprise you.”

Be sure to share your craft beers with us in the comments below! Don’t forget to share your photos with us by posting onto our Facebook page or using the hashtag #SayCheersWithMollies on Instagram or Twitter.

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Remember to please drink responsibly.