Craft Beer is gaining respect amongst food and beverage elites

Earlier this week, noted owner/founder of Dogfish Head Brewing Company, Sam Calagione, was awarded a James Beard award for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional of the Year.

This is a big deal for Calagione, who had been nominated in the category for seven straight years, but had never won.

The only other brewer to ever win the award was Garrett Oliver, owner of the famous Brooklyn Brewery.

What distinguishes Calagione and Dogfish Head from many other brewers is the level of success they have had with highly experimental craft beers. Even their IPA’s are quite a contrast to the standard IPA fare. They practically invented the East Coast IPA, which is less bitter and more balanced than the West Coast IPA. This is especially true in their famous 90 Minute IPA, which is almost always on an any best IPA list.

They have experimented with some insane beers, including taking a Pennsylvania staple, scrapple, and aiming to make a breakfast stout with that as a base ingredient. That beer ended up being as Beer for Breakfast in 2014 and was actually released in bottles.

Needless to say it is not that surprising to see Calagione and Dogfish Head receive this recognition. Dogfish Head has clearly been a major player in the craft beer scene for a long time (22 years) and Calagione is a big character who brings a lot of personality and marketing sense to the company.

Nonetheless, the impact this has on craft beer cannot be overstated. Beer generally is treated as the low-culture style of alcoholic beverages. It is much more common for people to think that a beautifully crafted spirit or special wine is a far superior alcoholic drink than any beer out there.

There is also long been a viewpoint that beer should respect the European traditions and stick to very certain principles when making beer. Dogfish Head squashes that notion by winning such a prestigious award by making a name for themselves by not sticking to tradition.

I hope that this award allows more and more people to get inspired by good beer and realize that there is nothing wrong with appreciating good beer.

There are so many people who fancy themselves as wine experts or whiskey/tequila lovers and no one bats an eye. However, people who say they love craft beer are often sneered at or called a beer snob. This is something I speak of from experience, especially being a college student.

There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into brewing beer and breweries are often expected to offer a wide variety of styles. To be able to nail so many styles is something truly special and Dogfish Head has done that over the years.

If the judges for James Beard Awards can see and respect craft beer, so can the masses. Go on down to your local brewery and try some beers. You may be surprised at what you find.

Meanwhile, I am going to go pour myself a nice, cold 90 Minute IPA.

Tips for newbies to craft beer

I’ll never forget the first time I tried actual craft beer. For the longest time, I thought I was fancy when I had a bottle of Blue Moon in my hand. Needless to say, I thought I was going to love craft beer when I took a visit to a brewery with a friend.

I was dead wrong.

I ordered a sample of five beers and could barely drink more than a sip of each. They were so harsh, so bitter, and just flat-out disgusting to me.

However, I was still curious about craft beer and what distinguished good beer from bad beer, so I started researching more about it and tried a few other craft beers. Eventually, it started to become enjoyable.

This brings me to my point. Craft beer can be enjoyable to everyone; you just have to find the right style for you. That is why it drives me nuts when someone simply says they do not like beer. Beer is like music, there are so many styles and there may be some you enjoy and some you don’t, but you can enjoy some.

Craftbeer.com recently had an article about a certain style of beer they felt was great for newbies to craft beer.

While I do not exactly think a dark beer is the best place for one to get started, a lager makes sense.

You see, all of the mass-produced beer out there is simply a lager or pilsner. While the mass-produced Budweiser’s of the world may not be great, just because a beer is a lager does not mean it is bad.

This is why it makes sense to try a dark lager if you are new to the land of craft beer. They can be somewhat hard to find, but they combine the familiar notes of a typical beer while also adding in some characteristics of sweetness that they can grab people in.

However, dark beers tend to scare people that are not used to them and they are not wrong for this.

Dark beers tend to be porters or stouts, which are very flavorful, very intense, and quite heavy in their body. They are not easy beers for the newbie and dark lagers can still be quite scary.

For me, I would say a standard amber ale or basic German-style lager, such as Brooklyn Lager, is a great starter beer.

The Wall Street Journal also has a great YouTube video detailing the styles of beer out there and what each one does.

In essence, I would try to find a place that has many craft beers on tap and try a small sample of all of them, go from very light beers to very dark and see what you like. After all, it might be the stout or bitter IPA that makes you fall in love with craft beer. For me, it was Blue Mountain’s Dark Hollow that made me truly amazed with the power of good beer, so you never know.

Let me know below what beer got you into crafts or why you do not enjoy them! Cheers and happy drinking!