German wheat beer at Oktoberfest; a bottle of a light Mexican cerveza to go with your chilaquiles verdes; a British ale with bangers and mash.
Wherever you are in the world, nothing finishes a meal quite like a glass of beer.
But anyone who drinks beer will tell you that not all beers are created equal. For instance, the difference between craft beer and mass-produced beer has long been the subject of debate.
Are there any real differences? Or is it simply a matter of beer snobbery?
Mass-produced beer refers to beers produced on a mass scale. These are the industrial breweries cranking out millions of barrels a year, such as Budweiser, Heineken, and Coors. Craft beers are typically crafted on a smaller scale in smaller batches. But a brewery can be relatively small and not produce beer that’s considered craft beer. That’s because the biggest differences between craft and mass-produced beer lie not in their production but in their ingredients.
All beers have certain foundational ingredients, namely water, hops, yeast, and grain. But craft breweries tend to put a greater emphasis on the quality of the ingredients. They spend more time choosing the right grain and selecting and comparing hops. Along with this, craft breweries put a greater emphasis on creating a more complex flavor experience. Because of that, craft beer is more likely to include other interesting ingredients such as fruit, spices, or even chocolate.
Beyond taste, both types of beer tend to have a district look to them. Industrial beers are often a pale yellow, and they hold their head for less time than craft beers. On the other hand, craft beers have a darker look, more of a brown than a yellow.
Because craft beer flavors tend to be stronger and more complex, makers can add a higher alcohol content than industrial beer brewers can. However, contrary to popular belief, this difference isn’t much. Craft beers tend to have an alcohol content about 1% higher than regular commercial beers. The strength of the beer comes less from the alcohol content and more from its flavor combinations.
Related Read: What To Know about Wine Before Attending a Tasting Event
Food Combinations for Craft and Commercial Beer
Now that we understand the difference between commercial and craft beer, the only thing left to do is apply this information in a practical way—that is, how to pick the best one to pair with your bangers and mash or chilaquiles verdes.
Commercial beers such as American lagers tend to have a less powerful taste. This makes them good options to pair with lighter food without overpowering them. Commercial beer’s light, refreshing nature makes it an ideal choice for washing down spicy dishes as well. Some good food choices include fajitas, buffalo wings, pasta, shellfish, salmon, and salad.
If you’re drinking a craft beer, you’ll want to be sure to pick a food that the complex flavors of the beer won’t overpower. This includes heavier or richer foods such as desserts or roasted or smoked meats. Some examples include BBQ meat, oysters, mole poblano, steaks, cheeses, and chocolate. The differences between these beers don’t mean one is better than the other. In fact, that’s what makes the experience more exciting. Whether you’re drinking a cold refreshing Miller or a handcrafted artisanal brew, we hope every glass hits the spot.