Zen and the Art of Craft Beer by: Nathan Utley

A Trappist monk by the name of Thomas Merton once wrote, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony.”  To me Merton’s philosophy applies as much to one’s beer as it does to one’s life.  Every craft beer enthusiast has undoubtably encountered their share of beers that were all intensity and no balance.  A beer with a well-balanced sweet and bitter character delivers all the sequestered goodness that its hops and malts can bring to the glass.  For example, nicely balanced beers like Scaldis from Brasserie Dubuisson in Belgium and Monk’s Revenge from Terrapin in Georgia are wonderfully complex and nuanced (not to mention high in ABV) without being sickeningly sweet or brutally bitter.

In all honesty, I am not an avid supporter of American IPA’s in general.  However, every rule has its exceptions.  Within that style there are plenty of well-rounded, impressive beers; beers like Up the Creek from Thomas Creek, ACME IPA by North Coast Brewing Co., and Titan IPA from Great Divide prove that you can create a balanced India Pale Ale and remain true to style.  It certainly isn’t my place to pass judgement over entire styles of beer; and I am not here to say that one beer is good and another is bad.  I say only this: I have found that beers possessing a carefully crafted balance of flavors provide a more contemplative and satisfying experience.

In conclusion, for those of you who are interested in experiencing the vast and diverse world of craft beer; I leave you with a query and one piece of advice.  My question is this: can you name the styles of beer you prefer, the flavors/characteristics you find appealing in a brew, and which beers you’ve tried before?  If you knew the facts, congratulations, you have learned quite a bit about beer.  If the answers eluded you this time, don’t sweat it.  This is one quiz that’s fun to study for.  Whenever you find yourself trying a new beer, examine your own thoughts before asking others for theirs.  Take a moment to consider what you like or dislike about it. Remember, every time you try a new ale or lager you have an opportunity to learn about both the beer and yourself.  Until next time, happy tasting everybody.

Nathan Utley

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