Beer 101

My name is Loren Bunjes, and I love beer. Anyone who has known me for more than an hour knows this about me. I have been refining my palate and knowledge of beer for more than a decade and have a hard time not talking about it. I have had the privilege of living in a hidden gem within the beer world: Albuquerque, N.M.. Living there opened my eyes to truly exceptional beer and beer culture. Both Albuquerque and the state of Colorado have a remarkable number of exceptional breweries and award winning beers; breweries such as La Cumbre (Albuquerque), Great Divide Brewery (Denver) and Ska Brewery in Durango, Colo., to name a few. These were standard bearers in my local beer world providing me with Great American Brew Fest (GABF) medal winners whenever my heart desired. Bozeman, Mont. is my new home and I am excited to share my knowledge and discoveries about beer.

Let me break down our world of Bozeman beer for you. In Bozeman, we have access to three microbreweries: 406 Brewery, Bridger Brewery and Bozeman Brewery. A short drive to Belgrade will lead you to Madison River Brewery and Outlaw Brewing. Beyond those options I urge you to look at the Montana Brewers Associations “trail guide” to find the location of all 28 breweries in Montana.

In Bozeman, we also have several great places to purchase pre-packaged beer like Town and Country Grocery, Heebs Grocery or Rosauers. Additionally, within a few hours of driving we have access to breweries such as the Grand Teton Brewery in Idaho and Thai Me Up in Wyoming. More on those later in the semester.

Time for Beer 101. At its core, beer is relatively simple, consisting of 4 ingredients: water, a malt (sugar), yeast and hops. The next sub category leads us to brewing methods such as Ales or Lagers. Generally an ale is any beer brewed at “room temperature” (60-75 F) and a Lager is a cold-brewed beer (as low as 28 F). There are many types of beer, such as India Pale Ale (IPA), porter, saison, pilsner or stout. The GABF recognises more than 80 styles of beers from year to year. New styles are created and old styles are re-evaluated every year. Throughout the semester I plan on playing show-and-tell with you; I will discuss styles, describe specific beers, give ratings, criticize breweries and offer recommendations.

I would like to finish this introductory column with a few words of advice: All people looking to advance their knowledge of beer need to subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine, or, at the very least, research the beer you are about to drink on their website. BeerAdvocate provides a great national (and sometimes international) perspective on what is going on in the beer world. Learn the names of the local brewers. I have had great conversations with all the brewers in the area — all of them are gracious and excited to share their love for beer with you.

Try something new as often as you can. Expanding your palate makes you a better beer drinker. You may get invited to fewer parties for being an obnoxious beer snob, but I assure you it’s worth it. Finally, in all of my years of exploring the world of beer, I have found that beer is best when shared. Go out of your way to be generous — you will be surprised at what awesome brews may come your way.