FEBRUARY 2016 ;e Costco Connection 59
By Matt Mize
WHAT EXACTLY IS “craft beer”?
Ask 10 different brewers and you’ll
get 10 different answers.
Here’s what we do know. By
definition, a craft brewer produces
6 million barrels of beer or less per
year, less than 25 percent of it is
owned by a non-craft brewer and it
brews beer from traditional ingredients (water, grain, hops and yeast).
For people like you and me, craft
beer is more a matter of local flavor,
quality ingredients, careful brewing and rich,
complex flavors. It is about highly skilled
brewers who are coaxing maximum flavor
from minimal ingredients—not mass-producing a commodity. At its most fundamental,
and in its truest form, craft brewing is an art.
The craft brew movement is booming,
with a reported 3,500 craft breweries in the
country, and growing. Craft beer as a category
can be intimidating to consumers because of
the wide variety of styles, brewers and unusual
brand names that may or may not have any-
thing to do with the beer itself. And then
there are the many different formats: tradi-
tional 12-ounce glass bottles, 22-ounce
“bombers” and 64-ounce “growlers.”
The key is to not be intimidated by the sea
of choices and just dive in. With a little trial and
error, and an adventurous spirit, you can dispel
the mystery of craft beer and begin to unlock a
category that offers as much complexity and
depth as high-end wines and spirits.
Here’s a primer to get you started.
India pale ale (IPA)
Traditionally, an IPA was a heavily hopped, high-alcohol ale that was
designed to stay fresh on the long
trip from Great Britain to India during its colonial occupation, with
hops being a natural preservative.
Today, IPA is without doubt the most
popular, and fastest-growing, segment of the craft beer world. Every
day it seems as if 20 new IPAs appear,
IPAs tend to be heavier on the palate, with
varying degrees of bitterness, but can display a
surprisingly long, fresh herbal and citrus finish. The category can be even further segmented into English IPA, American IPA,
Double IPA and their lighter, easier-drinking
cousin, Session IPA. These styles range in alcohol percentage and bitterness, so take some
time to find out what fits your particular tastes.
IPAs are great on their own, but they also
pair well with foods that have big, bold flavors—think dishes with rich, bold spice profiles like chili, carne asada or a bacon burger
with blue cheese crumbles.
Whereas IPAs tend to focus more on the
bitterness of the hop components, Belgian ales
emphasize the nutty, bready, roasted qualities
of the malted grains. Styles within the Belgian
category can range wildly on the alcohol level,
from 4 percent to a knee-shaking 15 percent
by volume, and can vary from pale gold to
The specialty malts used in these brews
impart aromas and flavors of fresh bread,
baking spices and roasted apple, with a
slightly sweet finish. Belgian ales traditionally
pair well with rich, creamy cheeses, such as
Kirkland Signature™ Isigny Brie from France,
and fruit-based desserts.
Porters and stouts
These dark beers, while technically part
of the ale family, are nothing like the IPAs
mentioned here. Both are rich and dark in
color, ranging from brown to black. Stouts
tend to concentrate more on the roasted flavors of malted barley, while porters focus
more on the hops and caramel character
imparted by certain grains and sugars.
Some brewers blur the lines between
these two popular styles, so don’t be surprised
if it’s difficult to tell the difference. Stouts and
porters pair well with oysters, creamy soups,
rich stews and dark chocolate. All of these
foods are enhanced by the creamy, chocolaty
character of the beer.
If variety is truly the spice of life, craft beer
can add another layer of flavor to an already
rich existence. On your next trip to Costco,
take a chance on any of these craft beer styles,
and by all means, share them with a friend.
Matt Mize is a buyer in Costco’s wine, spirits
and beer department.
Craft beers offer
worlds of exploration
If variety is truly
the spice of life,
craft beer can add
another layer of
flavor to an already
The Costco Connection
Costco offers a variety of craft beers in
warehouses where beer can be sold. The
selection varies from region to region and
changes during the year.