Cheers, Queers! The Craft Beer Decoder Will Help You Find a New Favorite

In my last post, I introduced all the political, cultural and community-driven reasons why this Bud’s not for you, queers. To recap: craft beer is resolutely where it’s at and choosing a craft brew over a can of PBR not only benefits your palate but also supports small business, slow food and the celebration of difference in a stiflingly homogeneous world. But what if you prefer the taste of Coors Banquet or Miller High Life? What if all you want out of your beer experience is a lime-topped Corona? Never fear – the craft beer decoder is here!

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Graphic by Maggie Owsley

As a bartender in a craft beer bar, my favorite customers were always the skeptics. Afraid to step outside the sudsy boundaries of their comfort zones, they nervously scanned the 24-tap beer list, searching for a name they’d seen at the grocery store or on a billboard.

“What do you like?” I’d ask. The floodgates swing open: Heineken, Bud Light, Guinness, Stella. For each Big Beer brand that escaped their parched lips, I had a recommendation, pouring samples into shot glasses and sliding them across the bar with an encouraging, “Try this one!”

So, in an effort to pull you thirsty readers away from lining the pockets of conservative conglomerates, let me suggest some crafty alternatives to the brews you already know and love (or at least have gotten used to…).

If you like: Heineken
Then try: Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils (NC)
Much like its import counterpart, Mama’s Little Yella Pils opens on the skunky side, with a pungent blast of sweet malt and crisp, grassy hops. The initial bite fades out quickly and that reassuring, familiar malt fills your palate. Miss the green bottle? Don’t. Beer is a lot like a vampire (the old kind, not the Twilight hunks) – its hoppy body is destroyed by sunlight. The element breaks down a beer’s chemistry, resulting in a sulphuric odor and taste. Luckily, Oskar Blues’ aluminum craft cans keep beer as fresh as the day it was brewed. And you can bring them to the beach! Bonus!

If you like: Corona/Pacifico
Then try: Del Norte Orale (CO)
Ah, the Mexican light lager. Ever wonder why Corona promotes shoving a slice of lime into your freshly opened longneck? Citrus has properties that neutralize the foul taste of sun-spoiled hops (see light anecdote above), so Corona can continue to package its brews in clear glass and steer clear of customer complaints. Avoid the sun poisoning altogether while beating the heat with a Del Norte Orale. It’s a remarkably smooth and easy drinking Mexican-style lager from the Wild West of Denver, sure to satisfy all your taco-pairing needs.

If you like: Negro Modelo/XX
Then try: Anderson Valley El Steinber Mexican Dark Lager (CA)
Sold in in tallboys or on tap, Anderson Valley’s El Steinber is a fantastic example of a big beer style gone craft – an adaptation that uses the general guidelines for structure but adds in some unique touches like a bit of coffee and some sweet grain. Roasty and nutty with a dry finish and a medium-light body, El Steinber perfectly compliments a warm, sunny afternoon.

If you like: Bud Light/Coors Light/Miller Lite
Then try: Captain Lawrence Captain’s Kolsch (NY) or Schlafly Kolsch by the Saint Louis Brewery (MO)
American light beer was modeled after a the German “Diat Pils,” a beer marketed towards diabetics in mid-century Eurpoe. The original recipe diminished carbohydrates by over-fermenting the beer. Ironically, though, the long fermentation process resulted in high alcohol levels and thus, more sugar and more calories. American breweries took that concept, added some adjuncts (or ingredients not used in traditional brewing, like rice and corn) and watered the whole mess down, then marketed to binge drinking Americans with slogans like “When you’re having more than one!” The marketing worked and now Bud Light is one of the top selling brands in the country. Opt for something different with an ice-cold Kolsch. This even-toned German style is light, crisp and much lower in ABV (alcohol content) than its hoppier craft brethren. Besides, you can feel better knowing that your “more than one” supports some rad independent businesses.

If you like: PBR
Then try: Narragansett Lager (RI)
This is a toughie – PBR is PBR and there’s not much else like it. Most of its value is social – its reputation rides on its appearance and the hipness we associate with it. Break away from the pack with a ‘Gansett! One of the last remaining independent regional breweries, Narraganasett tastes a lot like cheap beer and is priced accordingly. It also makes a killer base for boiling shellfish and the tall boys even feature a recipe on the back. Plus, it’s tagline is “The Official Beer of the Clam.” Just sayin’…

If you like: Schlitz/Lone Star
Then try: Full Sail Session Lager (OR)
Personally, I love a good Schlitz. The unfortunate thing here is that Pabst also loves Schlitz, so much so that it scooped it up along with a bunch of other tried and true regional breweries and consolidated into one large corporation. Oregon’s Full Sail Brewing Company, on the other hand, is 100% worker-owned, cranking out barrels since 1987. This refreshing all-malt, pre-Prohibition style lager is sure to satisfy your cold one craving and fits seamlessly into a shot-and-beer combo paring. They also come in adorable little stubby bottles.

If you like: Blue Moon/Shock Top
Then try: Allagash White (ME)
In an effort to compete with the growing craft beer industry, Coors launched Blue Moon in 1995 and it quickly became one of the superbrewery’s top sellers. Anheuser-Busch saw Coors’ witbier attempt and released Shock Top, mimicking Blue Moon’s yeasty flavor profile and orange slice garnish. Both beers, however, pale in comparison to a pint of Allagash White. This citrusy wit pours a beautiful straw color and needs no added fruit to enhance its extremely well balanced, lemonade-like character.

If you like: Bud Heavy/Coors Banquet
Then try: Blue Point Toasted Lager (NY) or Yuengling Traditional Lager (PA)
Long Island’s Blue Point brewery puts out some fantastic beers, including their popular Toasted Lager. This solid, easy-drinking American Amber lager is the perfect pizza shop beer – not too heavy but with enough bisquity malt backbone to really bring that cheese-and-pepperoni slice to life. Yuengling is another great alternative to the King of Beers. As the oldest operating brewery in the country, this family-owned Pennsylvania outlet adheres to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. They’ve been churning out bottles of their refreshing, 4.4% ABV flagship American Lager on-and-off since before Prohibition, garnering such a reputation that simply ordering a “Lager” in almost any bar in Pennsylvania, Delaware or New Jersey will land you a pint of Yuengling.

If you like: Guinness
Then try: Brooklyn Brewery Irish Dry Stout (NY)
Brooklyn Brewery is another craft darling. Established in Williamsburg before Williamsburg was Williamsburg, owner Steve Hindy and brewmaster Garrett Oliver were pioneers in both the revitalization of New York City and the craft beer movement. Their Irish Dry Stout rivals Guinness in that famous creamy body and soft head, and far outweighs it in flavor profile, freshness and quality. You have to try a properly poured Brooklyn Stout to really get what I mean — I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

If you like: Stella
Then try: Victory Prima Pils (PA)
At this point, Stella is really just a fancy Budweiser. Brewed by the same folks with the same ingredients, only a name and some high-cost marketing set the two apart. Victory Brewing Company, however, is no InBev (the corporation that owns Stella & Bud), and their Prima Pils is in a class of its own. Over the years, Victory’s team has developed a special relationship with the great brewmasters of Germany, ensuring access to the best German hops and the most innovative brewing techniques. The insanely fresh Prima Pils represents a beautiful friendship between the American palate and the German backbone and could kick Stella’s wimpy butt any day.

If you like: Smirnoff Ice/Mike’s Hard
Try: New Belgium’s Trippel Belgian Style Ale (CO)
So many “non-beer drinkers” are turned off of beer because all they’ve experienced is the sudsy yellow sixpacks tossed around at college parties. Another world is possible, folks! If you prefer your alcohol to come dressed in sweet, try a Belgian ale like New Belgium’s Trippel. This SweetTart of a brew packs a punch full of fruity flavors that won’t leave you with that “bitter beer face.” Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery is also one of the only breweries presently owned and operated by a woman, so there’s that, too.

Cheers!


A documentary filmmaker by trade and training, Meredith develops digital content for Homoground, a queer music podcast, and heads up the female-centric craft beer blog BeerdedLadies.com, amongst other more lucrative pursuits. Meredith is originally from St. Louis but now lives in Brooklyn where she can usually be found enjoying a cold one or playing softball in Prospect Park alongside her mutt, Miko.

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Meredith has written 4 articles for us.

51 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    ERMUGURHD. Autostraddle is for and always inside mah brainz! Just started getting into craft brewskis and starting to throw around words like ‘mouthfeel’ because yes, I DO want to be that girl.

    ‘Beerded Ladies’ is a genius beer blog name.

    Also, who prefers the taste of Miller High Life. I genuinely want to know, and will abstain from any and all snark if someone replies. Like, you can do PBR if it’s suuuuuuuuuper chilled, but then it’s a race against time as your hand warms the can and the ever-present pee taste assaults you.

    Also also also – if someone (me!) was so inclined to get started with crafting their own brews, can you give us some tips? Or *nudge nudge* even a full-fledged post?!?

  2. Thumb up 3

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    Yuengling! It’s been a favorite of mine/my family forever. Sadly, I now (blasphemously) live on the west coast where the stuff is impossible to get. Which leads me to this True Story: IF I ever get married it is stipulated that my family has to bring along kegs of Yuengling to serve.

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        YES. good call. I jumped to the comments to ask specifically if any Boston Straddlers knew of ANYWHERE I can get a damn Yuengling in this city. It’s the one thing I miss about my hometown. Even the bars with 100+ beers carry Victory, but no Yuengling. I want my Yuengling. Seriously, will travel anywhere in eastern MA to buy some, help meee…

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          It isn’t available anywhere in MA. Because of the way the beer distribution system in the US works, brewers sell to distributors who sell to retailers. If a brewer doesn’t work with a distributor in a given state, there’s no way for retailers to (legally) carry that beer. Yuengling doesn’t work with any distributors in Massachusetts, so you have to go to New York to get any. It’s a pain!

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      Re: warm beer – you’re not alone! Most beer styles should be ideally be served between 39-57°F. Drinking an ice-cold beer actually numbs the taste-recepters on your tongue. So if you really want to taste a beer, you should drink it around the 40-50°F mark, depending on the style. Budweiser, Miller and Coors began marketing the whole Cold as the Rockies thing so that people wouldn’t taste their low-quality, often skunky beer as precisely…

      Here’s a good resource for beer temp if you’re interested (or if you just want to “I told you so” your buddies): http://www.ratebeer.com/Story.asp?StoryID=479

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      Rolling Rock & Michelob are both light, “European-style” pilsners (a type of lager). You can definitely sub in Narragansett or a Full Sail for these two, or you could sample a can of crisp Avery Joe’s Premium American Pilsner (CO) or get international with a German Bitburger (their distribution is expanding, so keep your eyes peeled).

  3. Thumb up 3

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    Finally decided to register to this site thanks to this article.

    I’ve been very lucky to live in a area with lots of craft beer options (south jersey but very close to philadelphia). Yards and Victory are wonderful. There is Prism Brewing co outside of philly which had a event with Woody’s during this year’s pride. Their shady blonde sounds wonderful right now especially in this weather!

    But Yuengling is my go to beer when my other options are miller etc. I can’t drink much so if I’m going to have a beer I’m going to enjoy it. My poor friend was a bit sad when she found out yuengling wasn’t a option at a wedding she attended on the west coat because it isn’t distributed there.

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      Yesssss. My roommate’s dad brought us some Prism beer for the cookout we had. I count myself so lucky to only be an hour away from Victory. Delaware also has some really great breweries. Dogfish Head obviously, but also the Old Dominion/Fordham brewery is in Dover. They’re tour only costs $5 and you get a tour five samples and a free pint glass! They also do craft soda that is absolutely delicious.

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        I LOVE dogfish head. They make such great beers. I’ve only had one or two beers from old dominion and have enjoyed them. But i will have to check them more then.

        Another nice brewery is flying fish which is now located in somerset, NJ.

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          I’m a NJ native who has been living in Massachusetts for as long as I’ve been able to drink legally, but I’m about to move back and am super excited to be able to get Flying Fish whenever I want now!

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    I just had a Session for the first time the other day. So delicious. The empty, now lable-less bottle is on top of my fridge because I’m sure I can craft with it in some way. But mostly, I just keep realizing I need to buy more Session.

  5. Thumb up 2

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    Hell yeah, this post. I loooovvveee Allagash and New Belgium’s Trippel. If you’re in Baltimore, Union Craft’s Duckpin pale ale is another great way to go. Also, Brooklyn Summer ale, Shiner Ruby Redbird (brewed with grapefruit), and 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon (brewed with watermelon and comes in a can with the best design ever!) are fantastic choices for the summer.

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      Fruit brewed wheat beers are my kryptonite. Forever crying that I can’t try Shiner’s Ruby Redbird. My current favorite is Abita Brewery’s Strawberry Harvest Lager, which is nice & mild on the strawberry flavor, not like Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat Ale which is like drinking a blueberry muffin that gets you drunk.

  6. Thumb up 2

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    This post provides answers to all the questions i’ve been asking myself all week.
    It also makes me want to go to my nearest liquor store/microbrew bar place and start trying some of these.
    11:52 am is an okay time to start drinking, right? Right.

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    This is possibly the most petty or at least pedantic comment ever, but I just thought I’d point out that while Oskar Blues does now have a North Carolina location, they’re really still another Colorado brewery. We used to eat at the restaurant out in Lyons when I was a kid. :)

    Man, I miss living somewhere with good microbreweries.

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      Nice catch, nyna!

      The Colorado brewpub is indeed a magical place! I actually featured the CO Oskar Blues outlet in my 50 States of Beer: Colorado post [http://beerdedladies.com/meredith/2013/4/24/50-states-of-beer-colorado] on my blog.

      I listed them as NC because for these purposes because that’s where the main production hub is for their canning line now, while the CO joint still turns out lots of kegs, one-offs and seasonals.

  8. Thumb up 4

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    Gansett sponsors Providence club rugby. As in, they donate copious free beer to us and our opponents (read:brand new lady friends) after every game.

    If that’s not being the Official Beer of the Clam, I don’t know what is.

  9. Thumb up 2

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    Belgian ale is what got me drinking beer…I’d thought beer was all like the gross Bud & Bud Light folks drank where I grew up, until I studied abroad in France and had a real, genuine Belgian ale (I think it was a Leffe Blonde). It was an “aha” moment very similar to realizing I was queer…and I’ve been a beer fan ever since.

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      Me too. Belgian ale’s like the gateway beer. Then you get hooked on the meaty, dark stuff.

      Also I recently realised that a pint of ale is waaaay cheaper than a pint of lager here in London, and significantly cheaper than a glass of wine. We have so many great brewery pubs now, not to mention the artisan stuff and micro brewery activity that’s really taking off.

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    Just taking this opportunity to rep Boulevard Brewery, from Kansas City, MO! If you’re into pilsners, they’ve got the KC Pils that’s decent. (Not really my preferred type of beer, but it’s solid.) Their wheat is also really popular and tastes good mixed with lemonade. Also, Tallgrass Brewery out of Manhattan, KS has a good selection and their can design is pretty enjoyable too.

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    So, as a douchebag beer snob (I mean, I moved from a great brewery area in Upstate NY [Ommegang, dude] to Portland, OR) I came to this post expecting to solemnly shake my head with disapproval, but daaamn. This is spot-fucking-on. Well done! I’ve had all but one of the beers on this list, and seriously, for anyone who drinks the macro beers, just try the other ones that are recommended! I wish the Victory Pils was a little easier to find, but I live in hop-central at the moment where pilsners tend to be shunned in favor of IPAs, it’s too sad.

    Anyway, the beers that Meredith recommended are so, so much better than those bland macrobrews. It’s seriously worth trying the other beers, especially if you get the chance to try them twice so you can adjust to the new flavor. Good beer will change your life! Though I have to admit that I still dig Negra Modelo, I can’t help it.

  12. Thumb up 1

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    I never log in, but I had to say THANK YOU for this! This will help me in my efforts to turn friends and relatives into beer snobs. I am soon relocating from southern California to Connecticut, I think what I’ll miss the most are my San Diego IPAs!! Stone – Mission – Green Flash!!

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    Fell in love with Pete’s Wicked Ale Strawberry Blonde (on tap) during a travel assignment in Boston.

    Love the local St Arnolds Fancy Lawnmower on a hot summer day.

    Introduced to Yuengling on the drive up to Boston when stopping in PA overnight. Very yummy but unable to get it down here.

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    I love that so many people on here are craft beer fans. When I tell people at work that I like craft beer they are usually like, “You like draft beer?” When I find a fellow craft beer fan I about explode with excitement.

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    I want to print out this list and keep it at the liquor store where I work. I have so many customers who come in asking for shitty beer and sometimes I like to try to talk them out of it. This is a great reference!

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