By Jeff Herman
Water, Malt, Yeast, and Hops.
Together, these fabulous four ingredients create beer, the 6000 year old fermented beverage. However, the college world usually sees beer in a different light: a cheap, buy by the bulk, watered down way to get buzzed. Names like Budweiser, Coors, and Natural Ice (aka Natty Ice) are household names when it comes to beer, but they were nowhere to be found at the Spring Craft Beer Expo at Nassau Coliseum.
"I'm very happy larger breweries aren't here," said expo attendee Salvatore LoCascio. "If I wanted the larger breweries I'd go anywhere else. The whole point of coming here is so I can enjoy some of the microbreweries and other breweries. I want to experience something new."
Craft Beer is a growing business in the United States. "I think the big commercial beers get the feeling Craft Beer is sweeping the nation, and a few hundred small breweries have popped up in the past year," said Rick Sobotka, the owner, founder, and brew master of Great South Bay Brewery of Bayshore, NY.
At the Craft Beer Expo at Nassau Coliseum, provided you are over 21 and paid 45 dollars for your ticket, you're given a 4 ounce plastic glass, and free range to sample over 100 beers on the expo floor. Here's a fair sampling of the beers showcased:
Linenkugel Sunset Wheat
Jacob Linenkugel Brewing Company: Chippewa Falls, WI
This Hefeweizen (German for unfiltered wheat beer) has a cloudy, opaque appearance with a pearl white, fluffy head, and a yellow-orange color. The cloudy appearance is norm for wheat beers, along with using coriander to give the beer a crispy spice aroma. When tasting the Sunset Wheat, the spice is moderate with a nice orange zest. At 4.8% alcohol by volume, its light taste with orange hints is a nice introduction for the casual beer drinker.
Innis and Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer
Innis and Gunn Brewing Company: Edinburgh, Scotland
The allure of this Scottish ale is that instead of going straight to the bottle after brewing, they age the beer in whiskey oak barrels. The result is that this beer picks up all the flavors and colors of the barrel: a golden honey color with a woody aroma. The smooth taste has hints of caramel and butterscotch with a strong vanilla and toffee flavor. This beer is like whiskey on the rocks, but instead of the harsh alcoholic bite of 40-50% by volume, it tips in at a smooth 6.6%.
Blue Point Toasted Lager
Blue Point Brewing Company: Patchogue, NY
This amber-colored lager is a staple of restaurants on Long Island. If you are familiar with Yeungling Traditional Lager or Sam Adams Boston Lager, Blue Point is similar in taste. It's easy drinking with a complex hoppy spice to it, but not too bitter. Its 5.5% alcohol by volume is slightly higher than Boston Lager and Yeungling, and because it's a local product, it's cheaper than other craft brews. The next time you head out to eat or drink on Long Island, give it a try.
People, especially college students, should know that beer is much more than finding the cheapest by the dozen. With Craft Beer, it's more about quality than quantity, and variation instead of inebriation. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Yes, that Benjamin Franklin.