It’s March. With Saint Patrick’s Day and Spring Break right around the corner, this is the perfect time to try some craft beers.
Craft beer (like wine) can seem daunting. There are hundreds of breweries across America. Each one could have an unfathomable variety of IPAs, Stouts, Porters and Pale Ales. It’s understandable for any newcomer to be overwhelmed by this sea of Ales and Lagers. Please think of this as a helpful beginner’s guide to some higher quality brews. Plus, every beer mentioned in this piece can be found on Drexel’s campus at either Heirloom Market (3401 Chestnut Street) or Old Nelson Food Company (3400 Lancaster Avenue), so you won’t have to do any unnecessary traveling.
Alright, let’s begin.
First, most beers are made from four main ingredients: water, barley, yeast and hops. With these ingredients, a brewer could either make ales (pale ale, porters, stouts) or lagers (pilsner, light beer, kolsch). With regard to beer’s alcohol content, it’s measured in Alcohol By Volume. The bitterness of hops is also measured by the International Bitterness Unit. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to be looking at three beer variations: Pale Ale, Indian pale ale and wheat beers.
When it comes to pale ale, a good starting point for every Philadelphian is Yards. Brewing thousands of kegs right on Spring Garden, Yards has arguably become a staple in Philadelphia. The company’s pale ale (Philadelphia pale ale) has a 4.6 percent ABV and 37 IBU. The pale ale also has some nice citrus notes and is an overall well-balanced beer. Unlike other ales, Yard’s Pale Ale won’t overwhelm you and can be a great introduction to any beer novice. If you like Yards, go on and try their other drinks. Their Washington Porter, a porter with notes of caramel and chocolate, is surprisingly fun. And their delicious Jefferson Golden Ale, a bright honey-flavored ale, is a personal favorite.
Now, IPAs it can become a bit daunting. India pale ales have become a favorite in the craft beer scene, so there are literally hundreds to choose from. But if you had to start somewhere, the Lagunitas Brewing Company is your best bet. The Californian company is famous for its Lagunitas India Pale Ale. The beer has a 6.2 percent ABV and 51.5 IBU. This caramel-colored IPA is a great initiation into the IPA world. Remember, this is an IPA, not a Lager, so get ready to get a lot of hops and a distinct aftertaste.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s Allagash White. This beer is a wheat beer (specifically a Belgian Style Witbier). It has 5.2 percent ABV and 13 IBU. This is a cloudy straw-colored beer spiced with coriander and citrus. You should expect some strong yeast flavors too. You may also have a very large head of foam if you’re drinking the wheat beer from a glass.
After trying these beers, feel free to venture out to some other brands. If you like Lagunitas IPA, try a Sierra Nevada Torpedo. If you like Yards Pale Ale, try Fat Tire Amber Ale. And, if you’re looking for some beer events around Philly, there are two big ones coming up this season. The Philly Craft Beer Festival at The Navy Yard is on March 7 and will have 150 different beers for sampling. Yards brewery is also having the Philadelphia Real Ale Invitational on April 19 where they will be serving 50 cask-conditioned (unpasteurized) beers.
Whatever you decide to do, remember it’s just beer. It may be cliche, but the most important thing is to have fun, try something new and (of course) drink responsibly.