Let’s all admit it, beer can be intimidating. Similar to wine and cigars, beer has such a rich history and knowledge base that it can become overwhelming. With that in mind, we have compiled and created this little 101 class to help introduce you to the world of beer. We will cover the types of beer, simple explanations of common conversation topics, how to taste beer for the first time, and nice food/beer pairings. Sit back, relax with your favorite brew and read on. This page has been complied with the help of some information from Life123.
— 1: Know Your Types of Beer
– 2: What Are Microbrews?
– 3: Draft vs. Bottle
– 4: Tasting Beer
– 5: Beer/Food Pairings
– 6: Where Can I Learn More?
Drinking beer is a favorite pastime, not only for the variety of different types of beer you can choose from and the relaxing feeling a good glass of ale can bring, but also for the overall experience of savoring an icy cold mug of your favorite brew. If you’d like to expand your knowledge of beer and experiment with beer and food pairings, it’s important to understand the various types of beer.
All beer is made from four basic ingredients: hops, malted barley, yeast and water. Most beers have other botanicals—spices, fruit or vegetables—added to the basic beer recipe.
Know Your Types of Beer
There are two main types of beer: lager beer and ale beer, referred to as lagers and ales. There is a third rather obscure type of beer, called a Lambic, which is made only in Belgium, and is not as popular as lagers or ales.
Beers are divided into these two categories by the kinds of yeast used during their creation and by the temperatures used to ferment the two different kinds of beer. Lagers use a yeast that best ferments at cool temperatures, and ales use a yeast that best ferments at warmer temperatures.
Types of Lagers
Pale lagers have a light color and are light-bodied. They are highly carbonated and have a light taste. Mainstream examples of pale lager beers are Coors and Budweiser.
A pilsner beer has a pale color like a pale lager, but is more bitter in taste. The flavors of pilsners are more distinctive than pale lagers.
There are two different types of light lager beers. American light lagers use less hops and barley in order to create low calorie beers. European light lagers are lagers that are pale in color and light in taste.
Dark lager beers are made with roasted hops and barley. This means they have much richer flavors and are dark in color. They are full-bodied and flavorful.
Types of Ales
Brown ale beer is red to copper in color and is rather mild in flavor.
Porter beer is darker in color and is full-bodied, with the barley flavors dominating over the mild hop flavors. They are richly flavored. Some porters even taste like chocolate.
Stout beer is very similar to a porter. Stout beer is the darkest and thickest of the beers. The strong barley and hops flavors prevail in this dark beer.
Witbier (or Wheat beer) is a beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat. Wheat beers often also contain a significant proportion of malted barley. Wheat beers are usually top-fermented.The flavour of wheat beers varies considerably, depending upon the specific style.
What Are Microbrews?
Microbrews are beers that are brewed in small, independent breweries. They often have unique properties to the beers because of the use of local ingredients. Microbreweries often brew beer in much smaller batches, using specialty ingredients.
Draft Vs. Bottle
Draft (also known as draught or tap) beer is served in a frosty beer mug with a full head of foam. Bottled beer will not form as full a head of foam as beer straight from the tap. This is why many beer drinkers prefer draft beer to bottled beer, even if the beer offered on tap is not a favorite beer.
The major difference between a draft or bottled beer occurs during the pasteurization process. Draft or keg beer is not normally pasteurized, which means that the keg must be kept cold. Bottled beers go through the pasteurization process and are packaged at higher temperatures, which can affect the taste of the beer.
When tasting beer, take into account the look, color, head of foam, aroma, taste and aftertaste of the beer being sampled. Try pouring yourself four or five mini mugs of beer for a fun sampling experience, and take notes on the flavors and aromas detected in each beer.
Invite a few friends over for a beer tasting and have each friend bring some of his or her favorite beer. Serve peanuts, pretzels, oysters and cheese as palate cleansers and eat a little between each small mug of beer.
How to Pair Beer and Food
In general, it’s good to pair foods of like heaviness and flavor with like beers. This is the process followed by most beer connoisseurs. When you are drinking a beer you like a great deal, take some time to think about what food might complement the flavors naturally occurring in the beer. Take a sip of beer, close your eyes as you roll the beer around in your mouth, swallow and see what types of food come to mind.
Food and Beer Pairings
The following are common beer and food pairings:
Light Beer, Spicy Food
Light ales and lagers go best with spicy foods. Heavy beers will make the meal too oppressive for the taste buds, and complex beers will be lost once your taste buds are met by the spicy food.
Brown Ale, Brown Food
Brown ales go great with mushroom gravies, beef dishes and wild game.
Porter Beer, Heavy Stew
Try a porter with a bowl of beef stew or a bowl of chili.
There’s nothing like shucking a plate of oysters while enjoying a mug of stout.
Sweet Stout/Sweet Dessert
Pair a sweet stout with a rich dessert like chocolate cheesecake or flourless chocolate cake drowning in a raspberry sauce.
A pilsner is great with a plate of fried shrimp or crab cakes.
Bring out the amber beer when you’re serving up a homemade Chicago-style deep dish pizza.
Where can I learn more about beer?
There are many different places to learn a little more about our favorite beverage. Of course there is the internet. Just hop over to Google and type in anything you want to know and chances are, it’ll be there. But there are more enjoyable ways of obtaining information, too. I would highly recommend speaking to your local beer professionals, ie: bartenders, beer distributors, brewpub brewers/owners, and books! I have learned some of my most valued information from the guy serving me the beer. I mean, who would know more about it than him? He’s tasted every one, he works with them 8 hours a day, and he talks to hundreds of people about beer weekly. Now, this comes with a disclaimer. Your big chain bars will often not yield the same knowledge base that a brewpub/craft beer bartender will. They simply don’t have the passion for the beer to dive into like that. However, I have been wrong before and that is, of course, not a rule, just an insight.
I would also very highly recommend you hook up with some good books. I have added quite a few beer books recently, and the best so far is anything by Randy Mosher. This man is a brew genius! check him out and support a legend!
Lastly, I would highly recommend you try your hand at brewing your own beer. It’s very scary sounding at first, but it becomes very easy very quickly. At that point it’s up to you to up the ante. You can make your beer as complex or calm as you like. Go ahead, give it a try and let us know how it turns out!