Beer comes in an incredibly wide variety. While there are many types of wine and mead, the flavour spectrum of wine and mead is narrower than that of beer. This is one reason we enjoy beer as much as we do- Susan can enjoy her sours and I can enjoy my wood-aged beers, sometimes at the same brewery. This means we’ve been to hundreds of breweries, and we have identified a handful of variables which we feel makes for a ‘good’ one. It’s difficult to know any of these ahead of time, so you can’t exactly plan your trip around them. However, you can make notes for future trips and other travellers!
I cannot emphasize this enough. Whenever we hit a brewery which is _all_ hop oriented, or _all_ sour, or even _all_ Belgian, it’s just not as pleasant. Note above where we talk about the flavour range of beer? Why limit that when you decide what beer to make? The most successful breweries have something for everyone, regardless of season. During the summer, for god’s sake, please at least have an amber or brown, if not a porter or stout, for those of us who like the malt side of things.
2) True to Style
We’re kinda beer geeks. As such, we know about the BJCP beer styles– not enough to be certified judges ourselves (at least, probably not…) – but enough to know when an Irish Red is a little too malty or a little too flavourful, or when a porter has a bit too much burnt character, or when they’ve gone off the res with citrusy hops in an English bitter. If you label something an APA, make it to style. If you want to put a unique spin on it, that is great- just make sure to note that in the description. If you want to go completely unique, fine, but at least give a base style or flavour profile we can work from. But, ideally, make the beer to style.
It’s a short list, because it’s not that hard. We understand there’s all sorts of elements like financing and marketing and the actual brewing process- that’s all important and great. As a consumer, though, we just want these two things. And it is absolutely incredible how few breweries get these two right. Copper Creek in Athens is one of the best along these two points, as is Green Man in Asheville. Copper Creek has only four beers, but they’re always made perfectly to style, and there’s something for everyone: a light-bodied beer for those who want something simple, a hop-focused beer, a dark beer (porter or stout on nitrogen!), and a miscellaneous, like a Scottish or a Belgian of some kind. Every brewer can take a note from these guys. Check them out if you have a chance!