Remember that one beer, that sticks out clearly in your mind… the one that said to you – what if beer could taste like more?
We all have that particular memory of a beer which changed our perception and palates, and the word to describe that would be… Gateway beer!
First – what exactly does gateway beer mean? Well, urban dictionary defines it as:
A beer that acts as a gateway to drinking tastier, more delicious craft beers. A beer you drink because you truly enjoy the flavor, not just as a reason to get schnockered.
Apparently the term was a spin-off from the term ‘gateway drug’, which refers to a substance that, when consumed, leads the (ab)user to eventually graduate to other stronger stimulants.
Many would say that gateway beers are great for would-be craft beer drinkers, which would mean something not too extreme in flavor, but well balanced, approachable and fragrant/tasty. But dosen’t that sound like something a hardcore hophead would retire to after a slew of palate-crushers?
The Denver Post echoes this – clear, crisp beers with a dollop of hop aroma, flavor but less bitterness are gaining popularity with both new drinkers and experienced imbibers alike. Low in alcohol, big on flavor, awesome on drinkability – they appeal to both sides of the craft spectrum.
However I would argue that gateway beers are all about the moment and the personality of the drinker. The time of day, the season, the venue and the mood all play a part in creating the impression of the beer, and the memory of it. Some people remember a Belgian Trappist ale blowing them away, and changing the beer game totally. Others might have gotten started on how rich, malty and drinkable Samuel Adams Oktoberfest was in comparison to similar macro-lagers or malt liquor. An iconic amber ale like Fat Tire of New Belgium, might have done the trick for those with a sweeter tooth. And of course, there are fruit beers like Hell or High Watermelon Wheat…
Maybe it’s time to stop trying to find the closest thing to commercial that people normally drink – maybe it dosen’t hurt to throw them in deep water and talk them through the experience. Personally – the Rochefort 10 brought me into craft beer, and professional brewing. I guess it rather helps that that was a Belgian Dark Strong of double-digit ABV – but I’ve always been a fan of intense flavors, just that I never liked beer until then.
The next time when you drag your next unsuspecting victim up to the array of colorful taps and mind boggling bottles – go with the flow! Whether the beer happens to be decadent and luxurious or sessionable and friendly – it should ultimately be well made and strike a good balance with flavor and complexity.
If you can’t make up your mind – here are some of my recommendations:
Or any other fresh hoppy offering at wherever you happen to be. However, Sierra Nevada was a bold strike in craft brewing back then, and by today’s standards, holds its own as a distinctly hoppy pale ale.
Like roasty, chocolatey and coffee flavors but can’t bend your mind off Guinness, Murphy’s, Beam’s and other Foreign Exports? Black butte is approachable, and still packed with a big chocolate-coffee aroma, while not being aggressive on the palate.
Spicy. Complex. Warming. Rich. Sweet. A well aged Chimay Blue blends these attributes into great harmony, and will definitely get the attention of those who gravitate towards port wine, complex whiskeys and other similar spirits.
A really great beer to enjoy out in the summer – fruity, smooth, sweet banana and vanilla tempered with spicy yeast notes. If you’ve tried Erdinger – choosing the freshest Weisse available will be a pleasant surprise.
You probably won’t find this near you – but choose a well made Munich Helles(light lager) and you’ll be amazed at the step-up from commercial macros – the lack of skunk, not too corny, no fruity flavors – just pleasant rich malt and a touch of hop bitterness. Another golden summer day. I traveled to the Tegernsee brewery south of Munich and tasting it fresh was unparalleled. So I’m listing it for memory’s sake.
Now, choose wisely.