Explore Craft Beer from Home
Make the most of a winter pandemic season by expanding your palate
This season presents multiple reasons to explore craft beer from home. The lingering pandemic makes hanging out in brewery taprooms less advisable, while cold temperatures make visiting beer gardens less pleasant. Fortunately, there are reasons – and ways – to expand your knowledge safely and warmly. After all, more time spent at home, relaxed alcohol distribution regulations, and the increasing diversity of beer styles make this a perfect time to explore.
Throughout the U.S., regulators have responded to the pandemic by allowing greater distribution leeway to breweries. In Virginia, for example, breweries may offer curbside pickup, direct-to-consumer delivery, and in-state shipment. This makes supporting local breweries even easier.
However, beer delivery services can help you explore and support craft breweries farther afield. Delivery service Tavour suggests five ways to accelerate your craft beer experience in 2021.
1. Try far-away breweries through a craft beer delivery service.
Delivery services grew a lot in 2020, including Tavour, an app-based service that works with more than 600 independent breweries all over the country. Download the app and get access to limited craft beers you can’t find in stores near you.
2. Go for a new beer style.
The new year is a great time to shake off old habits and try new beer styles.
Normally prefer beers as dark as night? Try a light-hued golden stout. Think you don’t like sour ales? A silky, succulently tangy fruited sour like The Brewing Projekt’s Puff Tart series could change your tune. If you’re really daring, tease your palate with something totally outside of the box, like Martin House Brewing’s Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer.
These are merely examples. Beers sell out quickly on Tavour, but they offer new beers daily. Plus, their selection ensures you’ll find something to please your palate and your itch to experience something new.
Some other possibilities:
- If you hate the bitterness of IPAs, try a New England-style IPA. Those that are dry hopped – and double and triple dry hopped – offer a wave of hop flavor without the bitterness.
- If you have a sweet tooth, check out a milkshake beer or a pastry or dessert stout.
- If you’ve long been a lager lover, check out back-to-basics lagers that many craft breweries are embracing. After decades of pushing the envelope, some breweries have returned to crisp, clean lagers. Look for a Kölsch, Helles, Pilsner, dark lager and schwarzbier (with dark malts in the mash), and Mai Bock.
3. Do a blind tasting.
Can you taste the differences between two beers of the same style? Try refining your palate by doing a side-by-side tasting – extra points if you do so without peeking at which is which! You can compare the same style from different breweries or variations within a style, such as a West Coast vs. New England-style comparison. To go even further and actually make sure the beers are from opposite coasts, check out renditions like Culmination Brewing’s West Coast Story and Adroit Theory’s EBK New England-style IPA (from Oregon and Virginia, respectively).
4. Age a beer.
Not all beers are meant to be aged before sipping, but the ones that are can yield some seriously tasty results after sitting for months or even years. The best beers to age are lambics, wild ales, strong ales, stouts (especially barrel-aged), and other big, bold brews with higher ABVs (think double digits).
Allowing these beers to sit for prolonged periods of time in a cool, dry, dark place will mellow out the boozy heat and reveal deeper nuances of flavor. Many sour ales can be aged as well but stay away from heavily fruited varieties. Hop-forward beers such as IPAs should not be aged either – although hops act as a natural preservative, hop flavors drop quickly, negatively affecting the balance that the brewer intended.
5. Stock up on proper glassware.
The pint glass may be a go-to for many, but each style of beer is meant to be sipped from a certain kind of glass. For example, a Pilsner is best enjoyed in a tall, thin glass with a wide mouth and tapered angles. This helps enhance the beer’s aromas and even keeps the beer’s head intact for as long as possible. Meanwhile, a slow-sipping strong ale does better in a snifter or stemmed goblet, letting you swirl it gently to release deeper complexity.
Explore craft beer from home while planning for the future
While implementing these suggestions to experience beers from new-to-you breweries, you just might get the urge to visit some of them. Check out the breweries’ web and social media sites and start planning your post-pandemic brewery-hopping itinerary.
Here’s to a long winter made easier as you explore craft beer from home.
Besides being editor at Boomer magazine, Annie Tobey is a freelance writer covering craft beverages and active travel. Outside of the pandemic, she strives to live her slogan: A breeze on my face and a draft on my lips.