Every year a week is dedicated to celebrating American Craft Beers - and that week is upon us. Nearly every season has some very specific beer styles that are associated with it but somehow spring doesn't have a strong leading style. It's too early to haul out the lagers and the pale ales that are so perfect for a hot summer and it's a little too late to be dedicating too much drinking time to a stout. It's a good "in-between" time which makes it even more perfect timing for American Craft Beer Week.

Let's start off with one basic thing - defining what a craft beer is. Locally if you've had any of the beer made at Brown's Brewing Company, Albany Pump Station, or Davidson Brothers, then you've consumed craft beer. Basically it's  beer made in much smaller amounts than widely distributed beers such as Bud or Corona, for example. Craft beer breweries are always local businesses and can provide many jobs locally so having a pint or two or ten from a local brewery helps fuel our local economy.

We have more than three microbreweries in the area but I decided to highly the best beer (according to me) at each place so if you choose to celebrate American Craft Beer week, you'll have an idea of what to order at each location.

Brown's Brewing Company - India Pale Ale

First off I love EVERY beer at Brown's. They are not only hands down the best in our area but one of the best you'll find anyplace. India Pale Ale (IPA) is my very favorite style of beer - it's also one of the more bitter varieties. IPA was "invented" when English ships were sailing around the horn of Africa to India and their beer supply would go bad before they got home. Hopps are a natural preservative so they loaded their pale ale up with hopps on the way to India to preserve it longer and ta-da - IPA! Brown's has an excellent flavor to it and it isn't too floral tasting. If you aren't ready for the bitter (it's enjoyable, I swear!) then try a pint of their Pale Ale to start. Eat this with either something spicy (hops extinguish the burn) or something fishy (hops really bring out the seafood flavor.)

CH Evans Brewing Co (Albany Pump Station)

If you're going to call a beer "kick ass" then it had best be so - and CH Evans (aka Albany Pump Station) got it right with their Kick Ass Brown. This beer has won a gold medal in it's class and it'll win a gold medal from you too. As the name implies, it's a brown ale - Newcastle may in fact be the most famous brand of this style. Brown ales look darker but please don't be afraid of the dark! Just because it's dark doesn't mean it's bitter, or strong. Actually many dark beers are quite light in flavor. Brown ales are sweet and lower in alcohol content than other craft beer - plus they have a delightful flavor of caramel and chocolate. Have this with chicken covered in mushroom gravy because the flavors are a perfect contrast and your mouth will in fact thank you.

Davidson Brothers Irish Red Ale

Irish Red Ales are always a safe bet - they aren't too overwhelming but they pack a mild punch of alcohol content too and yes, the beer has a red tint. This is a beer that can be considered a session beer - meaning you can drink many of them in a row (casually, not pounding) because the alcool content isn't massively high. A word on session beer - our forefathers were consuming beer while framing our Constitution (and the Declaration of Independents before that) because at the time it was considered safer than water. Since it was a beverage for hydration and supporting life (children drank it too) the intention was to not get drunk but instead quite the opposite so thus you could drink the beer while sitting down for a session and not get bombed.  Food pairing with Irish Red Ale is versatile - it goes with nearly everything but I like to mix cultures here and have it with Chinese takeout. Give it a try - you'll see what I mean.