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Brewed Awakening

There are a number of persistent myths about craft beer that unfairly distort facts and confuse. We demystified a few of these so that you can hold your own against a know-it-all.

Rachel Wright
December 1, 2016

Craft beers have taken the nation and our region by storm, introducing intensely creative flavors and a culture that can be somewhat intimidating for a first timer. Here, in Green Country, we’re practically swimming in small-batch suds thanks to breweries like COOP Ale Works, Marshall, Prairie Artisan Ales and Mustang.

But with so many flavors, packaging, unique names and brew methods, it’s easy to understand why some might feel lost when trying to decide which brew to buddy up to first, despite the craft beer community’s welcoming nature. And it probably doesn’t help that you get conflicting information and opinions. Even die-hard suds lovers could use some help navigating the he-said, she-said of our favorite taproom offerings.

To help cut through the confusion, we sat down with Michelle Cozzaglio, manager of The Fur Shop. The Fur Shop, located in downtown Tulsa, is a great place to start your journey through the craft world with 20 beers on tap and more than 100 brands, including bottles and cans to try from local, regional and national brewers. Pull up a stool and let’s hop to it.

“People unfamiliar with craft beer automatically believe all craft beer tastes bad. I come across this often at the bar and it’s absolutely not true,” Cozzaglio says. “Craft beer has so much to offer, there's something that everyone can enjoy.”

Craft beers have a lot to offer and come in all shapes and sizes. But what makes a craft beer a craft beer? According to the Brewers Association, an American craft brewer is three things: small, independent and traditional. They produce 6 million barrels of beer or less annually, which is 3 percent of U.S. annual beer sales; less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned by an alcohol industry member that is not itself listed as a craft brewer; and, finally, has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and fermentation processes.

Let’s take a walk through some popular beer myths with Cozzaglio, and throw in a little history and science, so the next time some hipster millennial tries to outsmart you on a night out, you can hold your own.

Myth: Beer is best from the bottle or can
To fully experience the heart and soul your brewer put into his or her art form, pour that beer into a glass. Enjoying a craft beer is like enjoying a fine wine, so give your nose a chance to get involved. Drinking from a glass allows you to smell all the aromas that accompany the flavors — and you can skip the metallic flavor a bottle cap or aluminum can add.

Myth: The colder, the better
Sure, on a hot day at the lake, a frosty brew quenches thirst like no other. But when you’re sipping on a craft beer, most are best served between 46 and 60 degrees.

“People unfamiliar may not understand this concept but appreciate it once it’s explained,” says Cozzaglio. “Where a lager, ale or Pilsner is best served between 32 and 45 degrees, an Imperial Stout
i s best served warmer, around 60 degrees. I know it sounds weird, but it’s true.”

Draft beer is usually dispensed between 38 and 42 degrees. Give your glass of goodness a minute or two to warm up in your hands before you dive in.

Myth: Bottled beer is better than canned beer
“Longneck bottle, let go of my hand.” Beer connoisseurs around the globe agree that cans are far superior to bottles when it comes to preserving a beer’s intended taste. Cans protect ale from UV rays, which can give beer an unsatisfying skunky taste. In addition, the airtight seal of an aluminum enclosure ensures no carbonation escapes, keeping that liquid gold fresher longer. If bottles are your thing, brown glass is the best option. It’s like sunblock for suds.

The strongest beer The Fur Shop currently offers is the Avery Uncle Jacob’s Stout, a bourbon barrel aged stout coming in at 17 percent.

Myth: Dark beer is stronger than pale beer
Not necessarily. Guinness Draft is the most popular dark beer sold in the U.S. and to many an American’s surprise, a “pint of Gat,” as the Irish call it, is only 4.2 percent alcohol, compared to 3.2 percent domestics like Miller Lite or Bud Light.

“The strongest beer we have currently is our Avery Uncle Jacob’s Stout, a delicious bourbon barrel aged stout coming in at 17 percent,” says Cozzaglio.  Avery Brewing Company’s Uncle Jacob’s Stout is on the other side 
of our “not necessarily” statement aforementioned. It’s dark. Really dark. Avery describes it as a “robust, silky-smooth, full-bodied and altogether extremely American rendition of Imperial Stout aged for six months in bourbon barrels.”

Myth: All dark beers taste the same
No way! The three most popular dark beers sold in the U.S. are Schwarzbier, Dunkel and Stout — and while they’re all dark in color, their contents and taste differ.

Schwarzbier, sometimes called a special dark, gets its dark color from black malt and has a bitter flavor. Stouts also contain black malt, but also have roasted barley and oats or wheat which provide a bigger head on the beer, for those who enjoy a lasting beer mustache and a smoother taste. Dunkels, often referred to as darks, ditch the black malt for a dark crystal malt or chocolate malt, which pull double duty in providing the dark color and a sweeter flavor. 

Cozzaglio leaves us with
some gateway craft beer recommendations, all available at The Fur Shop.

“Some of my first-try craft beers were Dead Armadillo Amber, Roughtail IPA, Anthem Arjuna (a Belgian style-wit) and Boulevard Tank 7 (Farmhouse Ale). All of these were simple and tame first tries that helped me discover all kinds of different craft beer.”

Every Tuesday evening, The Fur Shop has Pint Night, when members of LOCAL (League of Oklahomans for Change in Alcohol Laws) speak about new beers and beer issues, and Cozzaglio and her team add new beers on draft.

The Fur Shop
520 E. 3rd St. | Tulsa
Monday-Sunday: 4 p.m.-2 a.m.