Craft beer drinkers definitely have their own taste in mind when it comes to their beer of choice. We tend to prefer flavorful beers that are not represented in the mass market macro-pilsners brought to you by the big beer companies. The flavor spectrum for craft beer is ever expanding. However, it seems to be common belief that all craft enthusiasts are hopheads. “What is a hophead?” you might ask. Hophead is an affectionate name for craft beer lovers whose go-to beer is a pale ale or an IPA, whose palette is most notably dominated by a bitterness brought to you by hops that are thrown into the beer during brewing. Hopheads are those who like their beers aromatic and bitter. Does this apply to all craft beer drinkers? No. And it shouldn’t have to.
I hated IPAs when I was younger. I didn’t like bitter beer at all. I was into the Belgians, the Germans, the malt-forward beers that had a nice spice element to them that gave the beer a nice finish in the taste department. I had tried a few different IPAs but they never really did anything for me, other than give me a funny look on my face and a bad taste in my mouth. I know what many of the hopheads are thinking – “your palette was underdeveloped,” “you just haven’t experienced a good IPA,” etc. I found the beer that changed my opinion on IPAs once and for all when I had a Heady Topper for the first time. Holy cow, was that a delicious beer. Once that happened, my appreciation for hoppy beers was born. Today I love a good IPA. But the question remains for everyone else – can I truly be a craft beer lover without being a hophead? Do I have to perpetuate the stereotype? No, you don’t.
Our credo when we started this thing was “stay thirsty, but stay different.” Meaning that you didn’t have to tow any particular line when it came to beer you like to drink. Some people like a good Stout, others like a Kölsch, Berliner-Weisse or Gose. The point to this whole thing is that with beer being as versatile as it is – thanks in large part to the craft beer community and its ascendance to the upper echelon of pop culture – there is a flavor out there for everyone. Think back to the late 70’s/early 80’s. You had basically three choices – Bud, Miller or Coors. And they all tasted pretty much the same. Now you have myriad styles of beer to try and plenty of opportunity to find the style that best fits your persona and your palette. Does it have to be an IPA? Not at all, unless that is what you want. Below is a selection of some fine beers that are not hop-centric – just to name a few. You can be proud to savor these and still wave the flag in the name of craft beer. Give them a try if you can and see what you think. Cheers!
Oskar Blues Ten Fidy – Russian Imperial Stout Founders KBS – Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Southampton Double White – Belgian Witbier Westvleteren XII – Belgian Quadrupel
Surly Brewing Darkness – Russian Imperial Stout Hill Farmstead Ann – Farmhouse Saison
Brooklyn Black Ops – Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout 3 Floyds Brewing Dark Lord – Imperial Stout