Crafty Crafts, Licences and black markets

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Beer is beer is beer. Or is it? The luxembourgish craft beer scene is developing rapidly, even if proprietary hop varieties or America's lively barter and black markets are probably still a few years away.

Challengingly, the 330ml can of Exploding Rainbows stands between us. It was sold to me as a "beginner-friendly IPA with an intensely fruity taste". For a hefty six euros. But for that it is supposed to be "only the really best of the best", as François, the owner of the craft beer shop Hoppylicious promised me when I told him I wanted to "understand craft beer". Eric, who is calmly holding the glass I just poured for him, is supposed to help me with this endavour. He starts unceremoniously, I follow suit. As a member of the non-profit organisation Schmaacht et?, which which aims to familiarise the uninitiated with craft beer, he is in his element.

The brew in the glass is deep orange and cloudy. Connoisseurs could certainly describe it more poetically. It smells roughly of orange juice. And tastes … lemony? No, mango. Dragon fruit? I read the list of ingredients: Hops, malt, water, no mango, no dragon fruit, not even lemon. Not an "E" in sight, so no food additive. How does it work?

"IPAs, or Indian Pale Ales, are usually quite bitter, says Eric, while I'm still surprised by the unexpected intense sweetness. "But many, like this one, are also very fruity." The fact that they still taste like you're drinking child-unfriendly orange juice is because of the flavouring hops. "They're bred to taste as strongly as possible like a specific fruit. But there are also less unusual beers like lagers that are made in small breweries."

The fact that the beer wasn't swirled in a glass, smelled intensely and the colour described in more floral notes before the first sip is mainly due to the fact that Eric is not a beer sommelier – even though he was introduced to the craft beer world by one: “You can do all kinds of things when drinking beer. Proper tastings are done with a list that you drink your way through, with flavours that you can taste and little hints on what to look for. Some sommeliers also pay attention to how the beer bubbles when you pour it.”

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