Just as the dark and dank days of winter give way to the bright exuberance of summer’s sun, our palates move from cravings for heavier fare to something decidedly lighter and easy going. When it comes to imbibing in our favorite beverages, few are so synonymous with the season’s activities as beer. With apologies for the alliteration, whether it’s a barbecue, baseball game or a day on the boat, beer is typically there. The question is, however, how typical is the beer?

Everyone is familiar with the ubiquitous American light lager beers. They’re produced by corporate behemoths and backed by multi-million-dollar ad campaigns designed to convince us that their particular light, fizzy product is somehow colder, tastier or just plain hipper than the competition. The problem with this — or one of them, at least — is that all of these beers are virtually the same. They might contain slightly different ingredients or calorie counts, but they’re all still light lagers — a beer style that is only one of more than 140 recognized world beer styles. That’s the beer equivalent of watching a black-and-white TV in a high-def, color world.

This summer, why not consider adding some color and character to your beer world and try some of the terrific ales and lagers available as summer seasonals from America’s blossoming craft beer industry? Fortunately, increased interest and demand for craft beer has drastically improved its accessibility throughout the United States, including Southern Illinois.

Now, there is simply no good excuse for going back to that same old can again — not even the can itself.

Advances in canning technology have done away with the perceived metallic taste many have traditionally observed in canned beer, dating back to its introduction in the 1930s. Craft beer, known for its emphasis on quality and flavor, has adopted this improved technology of late, and many world-class craft cans are now available to consumers everywhere with more being added all the time. Cans might carry the stigma of being a little low-brow or inferior to the glass bottle, but, truth be told, they’re superior in several respects. For one, they are impervious to light, which is very bad for beer. They’re also very portable, and you can take them places you can’t take bottles. So, the next time you enjoy a Sunset Concert in Carbondale or a day on Rend Lake, you’ll be thankful for those crafty cans.

SHAWN CONNELLY writes for Beer Connoisseur magazine, is a craft and specialty beer retail consultant and an award-winning home brewer. Read his blog at beerphilosopher.com.

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