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The Spectrum of Beer

Updated: May 4, 2023

If you were to assess the range of beers available in our area simply by retail representation, you’d think there are only three beer styles – light, really light, and seltzer. Just kidding, seltzers are not beers!

One of the reasons that many people seek out craft beer is to escape the boring and homogenous range of offerings from large-scale breweries. The smaller, craft breweries can take more risks with their styles and ingredients, since they can brew pilot batches to fine tune recipes.

That’s not to say that craft breweries don’t also default to a range of styles that they feel will meet the demands of their customers, whether those customers are buying retail cans or bottles, or whether they are visiting their taproom. That’s why you’ll see a lot of lagers and blondes on the lighter end, and pale ales and IPAs at the hoppy end. These beers are clearly two of the best-selling styles and brewers aren’t dummies.

What I find interesting are the styles that revolve in and out of favor over time. As an epicenter of brewing, Belgium has influenced craft brewers for decades. But, even some of the more popular Belgian styles have fallen in and out of favor. Sours are probably the remaining stronghold, even though they are often brewed using non-traditional methods these days. A Belgian golden is a great style, as is its stronger cousin, the tripel, but the demand is just too low for these to be produced on a regular basis. At least one Belgian-inspired brewery in southern California shifted from Belgian styles to hazy IPAs a few years ago, fueling a return to relevance on the back of a very American style.

Weather can be a factor, too. In cooler seasons, people lean toward darker and roastier styles – browns, reds, and stouts. Warmer weather brings radlers, fruit beers and maybe a hazy wit with a slice of orange. Then you have the weird beers that use non-traditional flavoring with the likes of lemon grass, oysters, curry, and even sriracha pepper sauce. Some may not suit your palate, but others may surprise you.

The point is to look further than your standard supermarket fare. If you are in a beer rut, seek out quality craft beer. Pick a style that you haven’t had in a while. Try one that you haven’t seen before. Savor the experience.

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