Tired of listening to all your friends discussing their swank beers and making fun of your Silver Bullet? Get on the beer nerd bandwagon with this beginner’s primer on beer, from popular styles and the glassware you need to enjoy them to explanations of those confusing words your friends use to describe them.
First, the best way to taste a beer:
- Note the beer’s color and head.
- Next, gently swirl it around in your glass.
- Take in the aroma before sipping. Breathe deeply, and take it all in slowly.
- Now sip, and resist the urge to swallow for a moment. Describe the mouthfeel. Try to identify what you’re tasting — sweetness, bitterness, acids, herbs, citrus — be patient, and really enjoy your beer.
As you expand your palate, you’ll want to drink more slowly to really enjoy it — quality beer can be expensive.
There are two main categories of beer:
Ales predate lagers by thousands of years and tend to be far more complex, flavorful and aromatic, which can be subtle — almost to a fault. The crucial distinction is in the yeast and the fermentation process. Ales use a top-fermenting yeast and require higher temperatures over a shorter period of time to ferment.
Lagers tend to be light-bodied and highly carbonated, using a bottom-fermenting yeast that requires lower temperatures and a longer time to “lager” and ferment. The cooler environment inhibits the growth of the complex fermenting byproducts many people find so desirable in ales, giving lagers their distinctively smooth, crisp taste. Additionally, the longer maturation process serves to mellow out an already mellow beer, further enhancing its already squeaky-clean flavor profile.
Now here’s everything you need to know in your crash course on beer: