Local brewers’ top picks for those who are new to craft beer
I’m not one to interject movie lines into a conversation very often – at least not with the same wit, timing and frequency as my husband – but there is one line I’ve been known to use, on a fairly regular basis, whenever the conversation turns to beer. Drumming up my best impersonation of David Bowie playing Andy Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat, I quip with airs, “I don’t like beer.”
Wine, cocktails, hard ciders – I have my list of preferred beverages, and it’s a menu that changes with the season and occasion. But beer has never been my drink of choice. (And if there isn’t another choice, I’ll usually go without.) For me, the mention of beer makes me think of, at best, coolers filled with Bud Light and Miller Lite – the predominant brews at family barbecues. At worst, I remember the stale, watered-down liquid that tried to pass for beer at house parties in college. I just don’t, and never will, like beer. Or could I?
My hophead friends tell me I’m missing out, especially with the advancements made in the home- and craft-brewery scenes and the multitude of fresh and exciting options they’ve contributed to the menu. So with the Door County Beer Festival set for June 18, I asked the pros at a few of the local breweries for their best “beginner” craft-beer recommendations to convert a self-proclaimed non–beer-drinker into a true believer.
Door County Brewing Co.: Big Sister
Flavor profile: This hibiscus witbier not only makes a great introductory brew, but it’s an excellent choice on a warm summer afternoon. A super refreshing and crisp summer seasonal, it features a subtle spice from a Belgian yeast strain and a floral tartness from the hibiscus flowers used to create it.
Why you have to try it: Matt Sampson, director of brewing operations for both Door County Brewing Co. and Hacienda Beer Co., said, “The beautiful, pink hue immediately grabs your attention. [And] the pairing between hibiscus flowers and the Belgian yeast character is a welcome, refreshing pairing in a world full of hoppy beers.”
Hacienda Beer Co.: Motel Citroën
Flavor profile: A blonde ale with lime and lemon verbena that’s citrus forward and features subtle herbal notes thanks to a lot of fresh lime juice added near the end of fermentation and lemon verbena added to the kettle.
Why you have to try it: “If you love lime-forward cocktails, or even a lime wedge in your light lager, Motel Citroën will be familiar, yet intriguing due to the addition of lemon verbena,” Sampson said. “The star of the show, though, is that fresh [lime] juice, providing a canvas to sip on all day long in the summer.”
Bridge Up Brewing: Knee-High Cream Ale
Flavor profile: A cream ale that’s light, crisp and slightly sweet due to the corn in the grain bill. Despite the name, there is no cream in it, but it does have an approachable, clean taste that leaves you wanting another. The lack of hoppy bitterness that tends to turn off so many is one reason why this is a top pick for people who are new to craft beer.
Why you have to try it: “I call it a lawn-mower beer,” said managing partner Trent Snyder. It’s lower on the ABV [alcohol by volume] at 5.25%, making it a refreshing option for those days filled with weekend-warrior projects. “It’s truly a beer you can start with and stick with all day.”