Five regionally brewed gateway craft beers for the non-craft beer drinker

If you are a beer geek (or snob, your choice really), going out with friends is fraught with turmoil when they ask you for recommendations. The pressure is seriously on! Do they like hops? Do they like malt? Do they like balance? Do they know? Will they hate me and shun me forever if I choose the wrong beer?

See, the problem for a beer geek, which will make anyone self-conscious, is that point when you involuntarily wrinkle your nose and scrunch up your face at the mere mention of Bud or Coors or, even, Canadian. Why are you not choosing something decent? Something local? Something brewed with care? Something not full of, well, junk?

Here is my list of safe beer recommendations from some regional brewers for those willing to consider something new – in other words, gateway craft beers for the non-craft beer drinker:

Last Best’s Olsch Kolsch B’Golsch

Kolsch was a somewhat overlooked style native to Cologne, Germany, prior to the explosion of craft breweries. Last Best’s version of the revitalized Kolsch style is clean, light and imminently drinkable. This one is an excellent substitute for lovers of traditional Canadian lagers. While it is an ale, rather than a lager, the basic flavours remain true to an easy drinking style, approachable by almost anyone.

Six Corners’ Stump Splitter

If your friends fancy a darker beer, more commonly associated with English styles, you could do worse than suggesting Six Corner’s amber, Stump Splitter. New Belgium’s Fat tire is the classic North American Amber, yet Six Corners improves on this style by upping the hops to make it a little more bitter, but supremely balanced. It does not veer into the unfortunate India Red Ale territory, but it’s much more interesting than its American cousin.

Blindman’s Kettle Sour

Blindman is now on its eighth incarnation of the popular Kettle Sour series, not including a summer detour into the Lemon and Lime release. Kettle Sours are sort-of “fake” sours, which makes them incredibly drinkable — perhaps the perfect summer and/or easily quaffable beer. Think of them as the Fresca of beer. Not ridiculously mouth-puckering like a “real” sour, just refreshing and demanding of another.

Common Crown’s Brewmaster Blonde

Blonde ales are roundly poo-poo’d by the craft beer cognoscenti (“This is a good one, I just don’t love the style” — insert nose in air). Similar to Kolsch, they are very similar in composition to lagers, but, technically, ales. Common Crown’s version is perhaps the best I have ever tasted. It is a little heavier in body, a little sweeter, and oh-so slightly hoppier, with a nice little lemon/floral kiss from the Centennial hops. In short, it is delicious and a real crowd-pleaser.

Zero Issue’s Cryostasis Pils

I’m a huge fan of German-style Pilsner. It is so easy drinking and the noble hops are elegant and floral in their contribution to the overall balance. Zero Issue has created a classic version of the style with Cryostasis. Of all of the recommendations, this one is actually a lager, but it is so much cleaner tasting, with none of the artifacts and aftertastes from high volume “macro” beers. And, the can looks cool, too, if you like comic books (who doesn’t?).

There. Five beers to maintain friendships, expand horizons, and provide an opportunity to discuss why these beverages are so much more fun or interesting or, simply, refreshing to sip on. Oh, and don’t blame me if they don’t work, blame your friends and their lame tastes, for I am a beer geek … snob … geek … whatever.

Jay Nelson is a beer geek, not snob, who has written for a small number of mostly forgotten publications, in a wildly erratic manner, since being named the Editorial Editor of his High School newspaper.  He is a non-award winning home brewer and a non-BJCP certified judge, although he aspires to both.