Beer here: Tampa celebrates artful brewing
Tampa's first official Beer Week starts Saturday. "What's the big deal?" you might be thinking, "Every week is beer week for me." If so, please accept my hearty congratulations on your personal choices. Now, if you would be so kind, please call yourself a cab. In this instance, I'm speaking about uppercase Beer, not lowercase. Craft Beer, to be specific.The fact that Tampa would devote a week -- March 3-10 -- to the celebration of suds with an extravaganza of more than 100 events is important. First, it shows that Tampa is a new beer-lover's destination. Second, it shows that the area food culture is maturing rapidly. Third, it shows that when it comes to adult beverages, we're as thirsty as anyone. To understand this trend, it helps to understand that in the 1980s, beer drinking went from being an extreme sport that tested the integrity of one's liver to something of a semi-precious man-hobby. Instead of imbibing mass-produced lager with an alcohol content that was just this side of club soda, small breweries began producing hand-crafted beers that had lots of unique flavors and more of a donkey-kick to them. As hobbyists are wont to do, craft beer fanatics became a bit full of themselves, partly over a desire to catch up in prestige to the great brews of Europe. They started throwing around terminology to give their frothy leisure activity greater intellectual heft. They began looking down on those who preferred sipping brands with Clydesdales and silver bullets on their labels and lime slices in their bottles. There are so many perfectly wonderful things in this world you can be a snob about. Why would you want to do it with beer? The good news is that every hops head I've met in Tampa – and I mean ever single one of them – has been exceedingly kind and patient as my own rudimentary beer knowledge has grown. But the terminology can still be intimidating. So I, as a layman, will attempt to decipher a handful of jargon I found over at BeerAdvocate.com. (I'm clearly bucking for a public service award.) Feel free to save this helpful guide and keep it in your pocket as you enjoy Tampa's beer bonanza: Alcohol: "Ethyl alcohol or ethanol. An intoxicating by-product of fermentation, which is caused by yeast acting on sugars in the malt. Alcohol content is expressed as a percentage of volume or weight." Translation : This is, more or less, the reason anyone drinks beer. People who tell you they only drink it for flavor probably read Playboy for the articles. Barley: "A cereal grain that is malted for use in the grist that becomes the mash in the brewing of beer." Translation: They use it to make beer. Drink up and don't worry about it. Brewpub: "Pub that makes its own beer and sells at least 50 percent of it on premises." Translation: That place that has a lot of fresh beer with funny names and no horsies on the label. Hefe: "A German word meaning 'yeast' used mostly in conjunction with wheat (weiss) beers to denote that the beer is bottled or kegged with the yeast in suspension (hefe-weiss). These beers are cloudy, frothy and very refreshing." Translation: What's the German word for "Fill up my glass more quickly, please?" Hops: "Herb added to fermenting beer to impart a bitter aroma and flavor." Translation: They use it to make beer. Drink up and don't worry about it. Microbrewery: "Small brewery generally producing less than 15,000 barrels per year." Translation: "From the Greek word mykro, meaning very small, and the English word brewery, which means "place where they make beer." Wort: "The solution of grain sugars strained from the mash tun. At this stage, regarded as 'sweet wort,' later as brewed wort, fermenting wort and finally beer. Translation: They use it to make beer. Drink up and don't worry about it. My message to novice, responsible, very safe beer fans over the age of 21 on the eve of this quasi, partly, not-really-historic-yet-still-significant week is this: Stop thinking. Start drinking.
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