There is, in each of us, a better version of ourselves. Ideally the gap between who we are and who we ought to be expands and contracts over time with a gradual progression towards closure. We hope this casual inner-person shines through at opportune times, and occasionally he does – when we take the first step towards a long-held dream, when we deliver a well-cadenced and clever retort in a verbal spar, when we sidestep our insecurities and get the girl. Such flashes of the person we always envision becoming remind us of our goodness and potential. There is, in each of us, a craft beer lover.
It’s no surprise that the term “self-actualization,” the motivation to realize one’s full potential, came from a German. Sure, American Abraham Maslow crowned his famous hierarchy of needs with the “self-actualization” phase of psychological development, but no such idea would spring from a mind nationally untethered to great beer. Thank you, Dr. Kurt Goldstein. Better yet, thank your brewer.
Of course the full realization of one’s potential need not come with a cold amber in hand, but there’s no feeling quite like the hoppy elation of a great brew. The heady fumes of just one India pale ale set its drinker on a path of emotional levity and satisfaction. With its spicy depth, a rich Belgian wheat pushes its malty sophistication on your palate with subtlety and finesse, somehow raising the level of relaxation and debate. A crisp Saison at sunset in late August is a closer encounter with poetry than some of us may ever experience. True to its name, a chocolate or oatmeal stout sits strong on your mind and warm in your belly, bringing comfort in a dark night. Yet while each of these lively masterpieces flaunts its vibrant character differently, all of these brews encourage a certain clarity that comes with personal fulfillment.
The problem for many would-be philosophers is finding their beer. Our inner-microbrew sensibilities emerge most fully for something particular, but finding that something takes effort. Getting to the point where we’re “self-actualizing” on a consistent basis requires patience and dedication, but the psychological rewards of a robust beer life are invaluable.
Everybody must start somewhere, and below are four starter beers to help guide the emotional and intellectual ascension. None is exceptionally rugged in complexity (those will come), yet for those currently drinking light macrobrews sold containers of more than six, or anyone heretofore unversed in beer, consider this the next step towards understanding the depths of your character and ability.
Fat Tire Amber Ale
Brewer: New Belgium Brewing Company
Hands down the best starter beer for anyone looking to break away from the Millers and Buds of the world. Rich without being sweet, Fat Tire is a mainstay in most bars and grocery stores, yet still brings satisfaction to even the most advanced beer drinkers. Pairs wonderfully with a tailgating party or happy hour.
Blue Moon Belgian White
Brewer: Blue Moon Brewing Company
Sweet with citrus, Blue Moon is an excellent introduction to both Belgian and wheat beers. The truly serious Belgians of the world typically haul in awards at international beer competitions, but the leap to expert-level craft brews of any variety can be intimidating. Use Blue Moon to determine your preferences for sweeter, spicier beers (patent descriptions for wheats and Belgians, respectively).
Brewer: St. James Gate Brewery
One of the world’s most iconic (and ironically un-beer-like) beers is the Guinness Draught. This creamy concoction with hints of cocoa and chocolate hits all of the tasty essentials of a stout or porter, and Guinness’ distinctive taste allows for a quick judgment on these two heavy styles of beer. The quality of any given pint of Guinness
deteriorates the farther from its source (Dublin) you are – bear that in mind before you sample.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Brewer: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
The best for last – Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In this four-beer list, this is the biggest step forward for any budding craft connoisseur, but this particular microbrew provides great exposure to exceptionally hoppy ales. Hops, a type of berry, impart a bitter, tangy, and highly aromatic taste that either turns drinkers off or becomes essential to their beer preferences. Pale ales also typically have a higher alcohol content than most light beers. Any entry-level beer sampling would be remiss not to include a hop-heavy ale.
Every one of us has a beer that, when drank responsibly, induces enlightenment and goads our better self to come out. These four by no means encompass the whole spectrum of viable “gateway
beers,” however each allows the chance to further explore and determine one’s craft brew tastes.
Ever eloquent in his brevity, Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Good people drink good beer.” With all due respect to Mr. Thompson, the truth is that good beer makes us good people both introspectively and socially. In the often difficult journey to become the person you prefer, let craft beer do the work.
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