When is beer more than just beer? When it’s a craft brew, of course. The world of craft beer is wildly diverse and innovative – but if you don’t know your IPA from your XPA, your sour from your fruity, this guide will help you get up to speed. Learn about the different styles of craft beers, how to serve them, and what to enjoy now – and all year round.
Think of it as the difference between a loaf of supermarket white bread and an artisanal sourdough. Unlike the big-name beers you might be familiar with, craft beers tend to be made in relatively small batches by independent brewers. This allows the brewers to experiment with innovative ingredients and processes to create unique and complex beverages.
Try this Kick off your craft beer journey with the lush tropical fruit aromas and white wine flavours of Brouwerij Frontaal Kia Ora New Zealand IPA.
Craft beer ranges from crisp lagers to fruity pale ales, sweet stouts and funky sours, each differentiated by their use of hops, malts and yeasts and their fermentation method. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Lagers These crowd-pleasers (including pilsners) ferment at low temperatures over a long period of time, creating a refreshing, clean drink that can range from mild to bitter in flavour.
Ales This is where beer gets complex. Ales are made using the oldest type of fermentation method – top fermenting, which creates big, bold flavours and a higher alcohol content. IPA (India Pale Ale) is known for its bitter, citrusy hit of hops, while pale ale dials down the bitterness, adding balance with malt. Stouts and dark ales often have sweet notes of coffee and chocolate thanks to malt-forward recipes.
Sours This traditional style is made using wild fermentation methods and often uses fresh fruit to flavour the brew, creating dessert-like flavours that zing.
Try this: Explore the diversity of hops with the 8 Wired Hop Salad IPA, which uses four different types to create a drinkable fruit bowl in a can.
If you want to impress your mates with your craft beer know-how, drop these terms into convos.
Crushable Along with the term ‘sessionable’, this refers to low to mid-strength beers that go down easily and keep you coming back for more.
Hoppy This is how you’d describe a beer with a wallop of hops, like a double IPA. Along with bitterness, hops add a distinct fruity edge.
XPA The X stands for ‘extra’ in this style that lands between smooth pale ales and the bitter bite of an IPA.
Craft beers fall on a wide spectrum, so even if you don’t identify as a beer person, there’s likely a brew for you. It’s all about finding your perfect match.
Wine-drinker? Go for a sour and discover tart, sweet flavours that are more reminiscent of a bubbly than a beer. Love a cold one on a hot day? Try a pale ale to explore fruity hops without sacrificing refreshment. Foodie? You’ll love the complexity of a hazy IPA or the roasted coffee and chocolate notes of a stout or porter.
The rule of thumb for storing craft beer is to keep it cool, steady and dark. Beer can be spoiled by light, humidity and oxygen so it’s important to treat it with care.
Most craft beers are designed to be enjoyed fresh – especially if they’re highly hopped, like an IPA, as the flavours and aromas of the hops will disintegrate over time. So, keep your bottles and cans in a cool, dark spot (the fridge is fine, but if you want to get technical, aim for 7-10ºC for lagers and 10-12ºC for ales) and drink within a few months.
High-alcohol beers (over 8% ABV) can hold off the effects of time longer, so they’re better suited to ageing.
Try this: Stock your bar fridge with the Brouwerij Frontaal Juice Punch New England IPA for summer and enjoy the stone-fruit and candy aromas.
Aussies love to crack a tinnie, but the best way to enjoy your craft beer is to pour it into a glass so you can enjoy its colour, flavour and fragrance.
Use a tall glass for a lager or pilsner (extra points if you have a beer ‘flute’) and bust out your biggest red wine glasses for your ales – the bowl will capture the fruity aromas and allow room for a frothy head.
Once you get serious about craft beer, you may want to invest in glasses made for your favourite brews. Look to brands like TeKu and Spiegelau for quality options.
Try this: Give an award-winning brew like the Chur Me Time Mosaic Hazy IPA the respect it deserves by pouring it into a stemmed glass.
Here’s what you need to know: the lighter the beer (in colour and alcohol), the colder it should be – lagers are best served straight from the fridge, while pale ales, IPAs and stouts can do with warming up slightly to around 10ºC to allow the flavours to flourish. Don’t chill your serving glasses, as the condensation can dilute the beer and change the temperature. Simply pour the beer straight into a clean, dry glass.
Craft beers are fantastic with food – play with contrasting flavours, such as a tropical pale ale with a spicy curry, or use the bitterness of an IPA to cut through rich, creamy cheeses. Lager is perfect with crispy finger food – think grilled prawns or salt and pepper squid.
Try this: The juicy, mango-tinged sweetness of the Amundsen Apocalyptic Thunder Juice New England IPA will pair beautifully with charred meats at your next summer barbecue.
Like food, craft beer is all about the seasons! Experiment with different styles to suit the weather and the meals you’re enjoying. In summer, pale ales are refreshing, and their crisp, fruity notes work perfectly with grilled seafood. As the temperature drops, you might be ready to cosy up to heartier brown ales, stouts and porters that pair well with slow-cooked meats and indulgent desserts.
Products featured are available from 01/02/23 to 07/03/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.