The popularity and sophistication of beer has gained momentum. The more men I talk with the more interested they are in crafting and tasting beer than they are guzzling it like they used to. The term “Beer Snob” has risen to the top of the glass in the same context as a wine connoisseur. Honestly I am quite happy with this progress. Every dapper gentleman should be a man of progressive knowledge and have a basic understanding of beer. In this Basic Beer Guide you will be equipped with the “need to know” understanding of the basics of beer.
The History of Beer. Without boring you, with a massive amount of meaningless dates, we will give you the short facts on the history of beer. The earliest recordings of beer and brewing have been found in Samaria, or what is known as modern-day Iraq. It dates back to over 4,000 years ago. Many historians believe that even the prehistoric nomads may have been manufacturers of beer by using water and grain. From this point on history records a long line of dates of how society incorporated beer and its multiple uses aside from consumption.
Beer Style. In the world of beer there are so many words and codes. For example the words “beer style.” What is a beer style? A beer style is a description that is given to a beer that describes its entire character. The name of the beer is created through centuries of brewing, marketing, and the acceptance of its patrons. The world of beer is continuously evolving, but that doesn’t mean you can’t understand it.
Understanding Ale. Most people who are going to drink beer will more times than not, focus on the flavor of the beer. Let’s be honest. Who wants to pay for and drink something that doesn’t taste good to them? There is more to beer than just the flavor. Ales are the “fruity” drinks consisting of delicious flavors such as plum, apple, grass, prune, but not limited to these mentions. Ales are fermented at a warmer temperature by top-fermenting yeast. This type of yeast rises to the top of the surface during the fermentation process, creating a very thick and rich yeast head. Top-fermenting yeast enables the beer to be sampled sooner. Brewers use yeast that ferments at what they call the “top” of the fermentation vessel. When this happens the fermentation process speeds up and usually is produced in seven to eight days. Examples of ales are porters and stouts.
New Castle Brown Ale
Understanding Lager. The word lager comes from the German word lager, which means, “to store“. Lagers are brewed in bottom-fermenting yeast. They are fermented at cooler temperatures by “bottom fermenting” yeast. Beers in the lager family need to be conditioned or “lagered.” This means storing in a cool location for a number of weeks before they are ready to be tasted. Yes believe it or not there is top-fermenting yeast and bottom-fermenting yeast. At specific temperatures lager yeasts grow rapidly than ale yeasts, this cause less surface foam so they settle onto the bottom of the fermenter as fermentation nears its completion. This is why it’s called bottom-fermentation. Once the fermenting process is finished the lager is then stored at a cool temperature so it can take on the maturing process. You find that a lot of lager styles are made from bottom-fermenting yeasts such as Pilsners, Bocks, Marzen, and American malt liquors. Either way both ales and lagers can run from light to dark in color and range in alcohol content.
Mastering the Pour. Have you ever wondered if there is a proper way to pour beer into a glass? Well there is. There are two types of pouring, but only one that you need to know for now. First, if you tilt your glass and pour the beer slowly down the side, a smaller head will form at the top. Second, if you hold the glass upright and then pour your beer straight into the glass, a larger head will form. The experts will tell you that a variety of beers will always have a variety of proper pours, but as a gentleman, mastering the basic pour will work just as well and no one will argue with you. If you choose to drink ale then pour it so it has about half of an inch of head. If you choose to sample a lager, then pour so you have a larger head at the top of your glass. Next if you’re drinking a wheat beer, finish it off with a big “pillowy” head. Finally do not pour your beer into a “frosty” cold glass.
Judging the Beer. Over the past twenty years home brewing has become an amazing movement. Men and women from all over are being adventurous and creating new lines of beer that are incredible. In order for those individuals to win, they have to know how to judge their own brew. Where does one start with this process? It all starts with the “aroma.” Once you have poured that sweet nectar take a sniff of the beer. Do this quickly. The aromas that make up that beer’s significant smell will disappear. The next obvious question is what aromas are you actually looking for when sniffing beer? Begin by asking yourself these questions: Is the aroma sour, earthy, sweet, citric, herbal or any other aromas? Next, what is its flavor? Is the flavor one of malt, which is sweet or roast-like? Is the flavor like hops, which is more, earthy, citric, herbal, or flowery? Or is the main flavor of the beer fruity, tart, or sour? Once you have tasted it, does the taste leave or does it have a strong after taste? Thirdly, it’s time to look at the body of the beer. When you take a sip does it seem thin and watery or full? When you look at in the glass does the beer sparkle or is it dull looking?
This simple basic beer guide will help you get started gentlemen. We encourage you to get out there and expand your pallet with sophistication. We’d love to hear from you so tell us what you’ve tried so far and let us know your thoughts.