Light beer has the inexorable pull of gravity. It’s comfortable. It’s the same and it’s a known quantity from the first to last sip.
But that familiarity can become paralyzing. In the growing sea of craft beer choices, it can be really difficult to make the leap from Coors Light or Miller Lite or another mass-produced light brew to something that ends up sitting in the back of your fridge.
“I always end up with Bud Light because I can’t make up my mind,” says Melissa Saubers, the owner of Cowork Waldo.
There are lots of drinkers out there like Saubers, who want to branch out but aren’t quite ready to leave the nest. So on a recent Thursday, we enlisted the staff of Bier Station to help her ‘Find Her Beer.’ The goal of this sponsored series is to guide someone to that one beer they want for the rest of this (and many other) nights.
“People think light beer is just those beers that don’t have much going on flavor-wise,” Bier Station bartender Alex Proffer says. “But pilsners and lagers are what conquered the world. You have to give them respect just like Derek Jeter.”
Proffer has brought over a flight of four brews that range in color from straw yellow to a rich maple brown. With the beer in place, our drinker and drink slinger delve into what exactly they’ll be drinking.
“Is beer made of malt and hops?” Saubers asks.
“With modern beer, it’s the balance of malt and hops that matters,” Proffer says. “Malt can bring in different flavors depending on how much they roast it. With hops, you can get sweetness or a citrusy, piney flavor.”
“I don’t know if anyone is born loving beer or that anyone turns 21 and likes beer. It’s an acquired taste. You need to taste everything to get used to it,” Proffer adds as he hands over the first snifter from the wooden flight tray.
The first candidate is Yuzu – an Imperial Berliner Weisse (a traditionally sour wheat) from the New Belgium Brewing Company.
“It’s very light, but it’s got a little bit of tartness,” Proffer says of the German wheat brew.
“I like it,” Saubers says and then gives a slight shrug. Her second sip is less enthusiastic. “It’s okay. I might like it a little lighter, although I don’t know how much lighter we can get.”
In an effort to move away from color being the defining factor, Proffer turns next to Samuel Adams OctoberFest.
“It’s definitely bready. There’s a little more caramel malt, so it might be a little sweeter,” Proffer says.
“I like this one a lot,” Melissa says. “It reminds me of cooler weather. Bonfires. It’s smooth. It doesn’t have an aftertaste or kickback.”
“That’s the balance,” Proffer says. “We’re getting into fall when you have some pretzels and mustard. It’s a little sweet and not as crisp as a pilsner.”
Saubers puts her nose back into the OctoberFest as the search for an easy drinking beer continues. Southern Tier’s Compass – an ale brewed with rosehips that clocks in at 9% ABV — proves to have too much of an alcoholic punch, while an Abbey Tripel (a strong, yeasty ale) is dismissed by Saubers because of its “funky aftertaste,” from the aforementioned Belgian yeast.
Proffer wants Saubers to think pink next with Boulevard Gose – a German salty wheat beer (and latest in Boulevard’s Backroads Series brews) made with hibiscus flowers (hence the pink hue) and coriander.
“You can smell the salt,” Saubers says. “It’s refreshing, almost like sparkling wine. I can see how this would be really good in summer, but it’s just too bitter.”
Proffer tries to uncover what Saubers means by bitter – the challenge for all beer drinkers is that everyone has their own language for communicating what is on their palate.
“What you like is what you like and that’s the most important thing,” Proffer says. “It was a hundred and three degrees the other day and I was playing Frisbee. I didn’t play for very long. But then I had a Miller High Life. And it was like ambrosia.”
He heads over to the refrigerated case at Bier Station, hoping he can find a year-round bottle that Saubers will like. He first grabs a Kolsch – a German brew known for having a hoppy profile without a very bitter finish.
“The lightness is almost perfect and the crispness is good, but there’s just a little aftertaste,” Sauber says.
“Maybe you’d like a little more caramel aftertaste, something that wouldn’t be so tart?” Proffer says referring back to the OctoberFest, which is the clear frontrunner.
Next up is a Radeberger Pilsner, a crisp brew that has been made in Germany for more than 140 years.
“I want to like it. Darn it,” Saubers says. “Its just got even more of what I didn’t like in the Kolsch.”
“You’re a patriot, what can I says,” replies Proffer.
For the final brew, Proffer pulls out The Ogden (a dry hopped brew fermented with Belgian yeast) – a Goose Island beer that Saubers readily admits she would never pick.
“I would never thought that something very hoppy or Belgian could work,” Saubers says.
“It’s got Citra – this great American hop that gives it some grapefruit notes, and a crisp pale malt,” Profer says. “Since it’s a Tripel, there’s lots of that malt in there. It’s a weird beer because Belgians would never brew a hoppy Tripel.”
“In the future, I won’t worry how hoppy something is. I’ll worry more about balance,” Saubers says, while Proffer nods.
With that, she heads to the bar to order another Samuel Adams OctoberFest – pledging to stockpile her fridge when the seasonal brew disappears at the end of fall. Proffer recommends she look for its spring counterpart, Maibock, in a few months when her stash runs out and the weather warms.
“This one is perfect actually,” Saubers says holding up the glass of Sam Adams.
Find Your Beer is a monthly series on The Recommended Daily that is sponsored by Bier Station. A reader, who may normally be a spirits or wine drinker, visits the tasting bar and bottle shop for a one-on-one session with a Bier Station bartender. And together, they’ll sit at the bar as long as it takes, to find their beer. In our previous edition, we helped a wine drinker find her beer, a barbecue guy find the perfect accompaniment to what’s in his smoker and a spirits drinker find that one true brew love.