Don’t worry, we understand why you did it. Why you drank Folgers this morning and why you’re already looking forward to that Coors Light later today. Sure, other beer and coffee is expensive. Anyway, the only people who like specialty beer and coffee are snobs. They strut into the coffee shop or bar, with their thin moustaches, loafers and stylish scarves, and order something you don’t understand. Maybe you can pronounce it, but you don’t know what’s in it, and you certainly don’t drink it with a smugness only appropriate for English royalty and AKC dog shows. We get it. If you have to look and act like that, it seems better to continue buying the 24 packs of PBR.
Lucky for us, Bozeman’s drinking culture is not populated by snobs. Roasters and brewers come in all lifestyles, from anime punk to ski bum, and everything else in our cultural cosmos. Learning about coffee and beer is an exciting and fun journey for anyone, and there’s no destination. Beginning on that journey is nothing to be ashamed of. For those of you who already trim your moustache and turn up your nose at a Black & Decker drip coffee machine, this column is for you too. Later on, we will cover more in-depth topics. So stick around, but please loosen your scarf — it’s not even October.
One of the first things to know when going into a coffee shop is how a few common drinks are made. Keep in mind, these names are not standard across countries and companies. The base for many coffee drinks is espresso. Espresso is made when nearly boiling water is forced under pressure through finely ground coffee. The result is a thick, dark liquid with a lighter portion on top called crema (krem-ah). Most drinks are made with 3 oz. of espresso, or two shots.
Rather than reading my verbose descriptions of ratios and temperatures, check out the cups in the sidebar to understand a few common drinks. Lastly, just to add to your arsenal of random coffee knowledge, here’s some etymology: Caffe macchiato literally means “espresso stained with milk” and Americano was a drink invented in WWII because American GIs didn’t want pure espresso, so they would pour water over it to approximate drip coffee.
After water and tea, beer is the world’s most widely consumed beverage, so being able to order a good pint can help you accomplish everything from saving time to wooing women. Brewed with water, malted barley, hops and yeast, beer comes in a variety so large it can overwhelm the uninitiated.
One of the most interesting beers to sample is what’s known as a seasonal. Some of these beers reappear every year, while others are simply an experimental batch based on the head brewer’s whims. These beers vary with the temperatures outside, so a summer seasonal might incorporate fruit into a light, crisp body — like the Montana Brewing Company’s Raspberry Wheat in Billings — while a winter seasonal might add oats to a dark, sweet body — like Big Sky Brewing’s Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout from Missoula. Seasonals are often some of the most interesting beers around, and asking a bartender which ones they have on tap from Bozeman Brewing, Missoula’s Big Sky Brewing or any other Montana brewery shows them you enjoy a good beer.