The discussion was about how to classify and appreciate beers in different ways. And they were breaking it into two categories that focused on how the beer is consumed rather than how it was made or the flavor. This really resonated with me.
In the end, the kind of experience you are wanting should determine the type of beer you plan on drinking.
But what is a drinking beer compared to an impact beer? And does it really matter or is this just another way to make craft beer confusing?
Impact Beer Vs. Drinking Beer
I often hear the phrase, “this beer is really drinkable.” Which sounds kinda weird; shouldn’t all beer be drinkable?
If a beer isn’t “drinkable” then what is it?
The point of the phrase “drinking beer” or “drinkable” is to tell the dinker that the beer doesn’t have strong or harsh flavors. Many would use other words like approachable or maybe even subtle.
A drinking beer does not have huge, harsh or polarizing flavors. Typically, they will be light to medium bodied and refreshing.
And with a softer, more nuanced flavor, many would say that you must enjoy a few of them to truly appreciate them. These beers are sometimes overlooked as being simple but that isn’t normally the case.
Instead, the interesting parts of these beers are often only subtle so the drinker must look for them.
With lower ABV, they will also be the kind of beer you can drink repeatedly over time without severe impairment.
I never condone over drinking but if you are going to enjoy more than a couple beers then this is the type beer you should gravitate towards.
There isn’t specific styles that fall into this description but I would put pilsners, blonde ales, mild ales and similar styles into this range. The podcast included Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in this category and said that you have to drink it repeatedly to get all of the uniqueness out of it.
But again, it’s not about the style but more about the way that they are consumed.
In contrast, impact beers are big, bold and unapologetic.
For the most part, this is where most of the modern craft beer world lives. Beers that have huge hop profiles, high ABV or are barrel-aged could all fall into this description.
This type of beer is upfront and only requires a sip or two to find the flavors that it has. In addition, the flavors and aromas are not normally deep, layered or nuanced. Instead, it brings just a few flavors and pushes them out there.
It doesn’t take a well-trained palate to appreciate or understand these craft beers.
Many love these types of beers because the flavors they claim to have are easily detectable. This leads to a great drinking experience.
In some cases, these big beers can have a “palate wrecking” effect. Meaning you won’t easily be able to move onto another beer and fully taste it.
For example, a beer like Dogfish Head 120 is a triple IPA with 18% ABV. The flavors are harsh and will impact any beer you decide to drink after it.
What I Drink
There was a time when I didn’t drink beer. Then I learned about craft beer and started to enjoy it but the styles I liked were limited.
I would drink wheat beers (fruited and non), dark ales (stouts and porters), and occasionally a lager. But as time progressed, I found myself gravitating towards bigger, stronger and more flavorful beers.
From double IPAs to Lambics and barrel-aged stouts to pepper beers; I began searching for beers that would impress me. So impact beers were my beer of choice.
And for the most part, that is still what I drink today. I look for beers that have lots of upfront flavor instead of something subtle and nuanced.
I like the bold, in-your-face approach. And for the most part, I only drink one or two beers at a time so I like to pack a lot into those two beers.
But that doesn’t mean that drinking beers don’t have their place in my beer fridge. I have learned a much greater appreciation for beers that are more subtle.
The podcast said that those that don’t appreciate a drinking beer probably have not had enough of them or haven’t developed a strong enough palate. While I probably fall into both of those categories, I also think it’s just a matter of preference.
I have a long way to go to be able to pull every nuanced flavor out of a beer. Maybe some day I will develop these skills but until then, I will gladly drink my impact beers.
But as always, I say to drink what you like. If you prefer big, powerful beers then enjoy impact beers. If you want something on the other end of the spectrum then a drinking beer is more your style.
There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a great craft beer.