13 Jan 2014

What Is Beer and How Do I Drink It?

Welcome to my blog.

For my first post I thought I would try a short guide on beer and how to enjoy it. You may think you know already but it really is a very complex subject.

What is beer?

Beer, in the most simple terms, is an alcoholic drink made from Water, Malted Grains (usually barley), Hops and Yeast with an ABV (Alcohol By Volume) of around 4.5% (but the ABV can range from 0.5% to almost 30%).

"I don't drink beer, I drink lager"

If you have ever said this then frankly you are just telling lies. The number of beer styles in the world is in the thousands from refreshing, light, crisp lagers to thick, heavy, warming stouts. Every style goes through the same basic process with differences in the type of ingredient used, for example an IPA (India Pale Ale) would use light coloured malts, lashings of hops to create a beer with fresh citrus/tropical fruit/floral flavours while a Porter would use roasted malts and less hops for rich roasted/coffee/earthy flavours.

"I don't like beer"

Now you are just being silly, that is like saying you don't like food. The amount of different flavours in different beer styles outnumbers any other alcoholic drink in the world, I promise there is a beer you will enjoy out there.

Common styles:

The most common styles of beer you will find in the UK are;

(In order of Colour - Lightest to Darkest)

Lager - (Fosters/Carling/Becks) Crisp, refreshing, light, floral, grassy.

Pale Ale/Blonde/Golden - (Acorn Barnsley Gold/Imperial Blonde) Crisp, dry, floral, citrus.

IPA - (Thornbridge Jaipur/BrewDog Punk IPA) Crisp, dry, bitter, citrus, tropical fruit.

Bitter - (Black Sheep/John Smiths) Smooth, light, easy drinking, nutty, floral, sweet.

Porter - (Kernel London 1890/BrewDog Alice Porter) Smooth, roasted, bittersweet.

Stout - (Guinness/Acorn Gorlovka) Heavy, rich, thick, warming, sweet.

How is beer served?

Beer can be served in many ways and the way a beer is served will even make a difference to the flavour, each style even has it's own type of glass but we won't get into that right now.

Cask - The beer is still 'alive' with active yeast and can be served straight from the cask with a tap or by using a beer machine (known as a handpump/handpull) without the use of Carbon Dioxide. This is known as 'Real Ale'

Keg - The beer is usually filtered and served using Carbon Dioxide (and sometimes a mix of Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen) to force the beer from the keg to your glass.

Bottle - The beer can be filtered or unfiltered and drank from the bottle or poured into a glass.

Can - Filtered and drank from the can or poured into a glass.

Temperature is also important, you wouldn't put red wine in the fridge, would you? Lager/pilsner/wheat beer should be around 4-8°C, Pale ale/blonde/IPA/Bitter around 8-12°C and Porter/Stout/Belgian Tripel/Vintage Ale around 12-16°C

"Can I chug it now?"

No! It might seem daft but beer fans like myself look at a pint the same way a wine taster would.

How to taste beer:

Sniff it - Take a few small sniffs from the glass and say out loud what you can smell.

Look at it - From the golden clarity of lager to the copper hue of bitter through to the dark, brooding, ruby-red edged stouts beer is a beautiful thing to look at and can help you judge the quality of your drink, however cloudiness isn't always a bad thing, many unfiltered beers will pour hazy so don't throw it away! More on quality later..

Now you can taste it - Take a sip, let it roll around your tongue. What do you taste? What about the mouthfeel? What do you like about it?

The Aftertaste - Don't taste anything else straight away, let it linger. How did it make you feel? Would you drink it again?


Taste is amazing. Think of a food you love, putting it in your mouth is enough to change your mood or bring back your childhood but tasting a bad beer is enough to make you never want to touch it again.

A good beer may have the following qualities (depending on the style) for you to enjoy; Ovaltine, Foral, Caramel, Spice, Chocolate, Clean, Bread, Wood, Pine, Earthy, Smoked Meat, Grapefruit, Heather, Mango, Apple, Pear Drop Sweets, Burnt Sugar, Citrus.

A bad beer may have the following qualities and should be poured away or taken back to the bar and replaced (Note: if a barman refuses to replace your pint then ask for his manager. If you still don't get a replacement then the pub doesn't deserve your money, walk out and if owned by a Pub Co like Wetherspoons then contact head office) damp cardboard, burnt rubber, rotten egg, vingar, cheese, butterscotch, baby sick, sweetcorn, tomato, harsh alcohol, chlorine or TCP, cider, sweat, metal.

So now you should know a little more about beer and why I love it so much, go on and buy some, treat yourself after work! But don't forget to check back soon for more on my favourite subject and rants about the seedy side of the beer world.

So my first post turned out to be a fairly long one. I hope you made it all the way through without getting bored, if so then thanks for reading and feel free to leave feedback in the comment section.

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