Have you heard of the term Gateway Beers but not sure what it means? Well it is really quiet simple. A Gateway Beer is a beer that opens the gate (metaphorically of course) to a whole new world of beers to someone who wouldn’t normally drink craft beer. What that means of course is that there is no clear set of rules that make a beer a gateway beer, it could be literally any beer, as long as it is the one that sparks the interest for you to start on your craft beer journey.
So where did it start for this beer lover? Well it all began with every Australian 20 year olds right of passage, a trip to Europe and like the spirit of the great Australian adventurers that went before us, our goal to drink our way around Europe, one pub at a time. We soon learned that when we hit a new country we just needed to learn the phrase “One beer please” in what ever the native tongue was, because what ever we ordered tasted pretty good and we didn’t really know what we where ordering anyway. This made it so exciting because every town, pretty much had it’s own local beer, especially in countries like Germany, with centuries of beer making culture. This lead to my first true love of beers being German Lagers. They where so interesting compared to our Australian Lagers.
Well it was the eighties and there was a very sparse offering of beer in Australia. Pubs pretty much just served “their states beer” which was Resches, Tooheys or Carlton in NSW, VB and Fosters in Victoria, XXXX in QLD and good old Coopers in SA.
So when I returned to Oz, I started trying to seek out “Imported Beers” although there wasn’t much available. Back then you could only get beers from big International Brewers like Heiniken, Stella, Peroni and my favourite, Lowenbaru.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and the range of beers available in Australia are amazing. Of course the big commercial brewers are still around, but the Australian Craft Beer scene has taken off and there are literally hundreds of local craft beer breweries and thousands of them world wide. Today an independent bottle shop might carry a couple of hundred different types of beers, with some of the big ones carrying up to a thousand, so with so many options available, where do you start?
Well let’s be clear, there is no correct place to start your beer journey, and there is no single gateway beer that will open the door for you, it is very much an individual matter of taste. Having said that, there are a few styles of beers that might make your journey from Mainstream Beer to Craft Beer easier and the list below is a good starting point.
Probably the most important thing to consider is the STYLE of beer. The American Brewers Association list of 150 styles of beer and other associations list more. Some of the more subtle styles to seek out in the beginning might include
- Young Henrys Natural Lager
- Mountain Goat – Goat
- Pilsner Urquell (Czech)
- Prancing Pony Indie Kid
- Nomad Brookie Pilsner
- Pale Ales
- Little Creatures
- James Squires 150 Lashes
- Fat Yak
- Stone and Wood Pacific Ale
- Sierra Nevada (USA)
- 4 Pines
- Wicked Elf Kolsch
- Golden Ales
- Jindabyne Brewing Golden Ale
- 2 Birds Sunset Ale
- Four Pines
- Jindabyne Brewing Heffe
- Weihenstephan (Germany)
These styles are not far removed from the large commercial beers that are available in tap at local clubs and pubs. The above list of styles and examples of the beer, are by no means conclusive, they are just a small sample of beers that might be good gateway beers, if you are new to the craft beer scene and want to try something different to your normal draught beer.
Of course the best way to find a beer that you like, is to try lots of different ones until you find one (or more) that you do like. Once you find a style that you like, experiment within the style and try and find more beers in that style to try. When you get sick of that style, try a different style and then so on.
Finally, we also polled the members of our We Love Craft Beer Facebook Group to see what their Gateway Beers where. You can see the results here and of course we invite you to be part of the conversation in the group too.