Giving Beer Lovers Freedom of Choice | John Rossheim for MSN Local Edition
Yes, the vast bulk of Americans still drink the schlock of beers, from the big brewers that seem to spend more on marketing than on the corn and rice that fill out their bland product. But the bourgeois beer bohemians among us -- whether 20-something hipsters or middle-aged connoisseurs -- are going strong, restlessly racking up exotic brew experiences from Rochefort Trappistes to Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze, like so many notches on a bedpost.
Taverns that feature dozens and dozens of ales and lagers on tap are a trend that's working up a head. If you live within driving (or, better yet, walking) distance of one of these multi-tap beer palaces, you're lucky. But before you order your first draft, a few pointers.
Make sure your pub is obsessive about beer freshness and the hygiene of the great lengths of tubing that connect taps to kegs. "With this many taps, you have to track what you're doing," says Mike Dickson, bar manager at Great Lost Bear, a 69-tap bar in Portland, Maine. "It's constant maintenance."
If keg beer is handled correctly, it is the best bet. "Our keg beer is always fresh; you don't know how long bottles have been on the shelf," says Dickson. "If someone does question a kegged beer, I'll check the date."
The latest malt megatrends: Belgian and Belgian-style beers and cask-conditioned brews, which are handpumped to the glass without the pressure provided by artificial carbonation. "Cask-conditioned beer has just a little natural carbonation," says Dickson. "A regular keg is pressurized to get the beer to the keg." Some connoisseurs say the carbon dioxide and nitrogen used to pressurize the keg add too many bubbles and may degrade the taste.
Now let's see what's available at beer emporia across the nation.
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