Master a few basics, and you’ll know more than anyone else at the bar.
Your friends have noticed that you order imported beer at the bar. You always bring a six-pack of something tasty back from vacations. Now, they’re starting to call you “Mr. Beer,” or “Ms Beer” (as the case may be).
They’re kidding you. But they’re also looking to you for leadership. They’ve seen that you take beer seriously, even if the truth is that you are just taking your first steps into the subject, yourself.
Never fear, with this handy crib sheet, you can master the basics, and answer ninety percent of the questions about beer that ever float around the bar. Commit these answers to memory, and you can also qualify for a job answering ninety percent of the questions that come to the staff of All About Beer.
Q: What are pilsners, ales, lagers, etc? What does “bottom fermented” mean? And when you say “lagered,” what exactly does that involve?
A: “Beer” refers to any fermented beverage made from grain. Lagers and ales are the two families of beer, distinguished by the type of yeast and the temperature of fermentation. Lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures by so-called “bottom fermenting” yeast. Beers in the lager family need to be conditioned—or “lagered”—somewhere cool for a number of weeks before they are ready to drink. Ales are fermented at warmer temperature by top-fermenting yeast strains, and are ready to drink sooner.
There are many distinct styles of beer within the lager and ale families: for example, pilsner is one of the most popular lager styles; and porter and stout are examples of ale styles. And in both families, beers can run the gamut from light to dark-colored, and from weak to strong alcohol.
Q: Who invented beer?
A: The earliest records of beer and brewing have been found in Sumeria, which is in modern Iraq. They date back over 4,000 years ago, so there isn’t really a “who.”
Q: Is there a way to turn non-alcoholic beer into alcoholic beer?
A: People who ask about putting the A back in NA beer are generally a) living in the Middle East, b) under age, or c) in prison. I leave it to you to weigh the consequences of breaking whatever law you are up against.
You can add sugar and yeast to NA beer and generate a little alcohol, but it will taste nasty. Homebrewed beer—even bad homebrewed beer—will taste better. Alternatively, our ancestors coped with Prohibition by creating “needle beer”—NA beer with a syringeful of grain alcohol added.
Your best and safest bet is to a) change countries, b) grow up, or c) get released.
Q: How many calories in beer?
A: There are about 150 calories in a 12-ounce serving of standard beer, the same amount as those little pots of fruit yogurt dieters like so much. I know which is my choice: when I want a cold one after work, I don’t mean a cold yogurt. A light beer will contain about 100 calories. Some hefty styles such as barleywines contain about 300 calories. Remember: it’s not the beer, it’s the nachos.
Q: How many carbs are in a beer?
A: Ah, an Atkins dieter. There are about 13 carbs in a standard beer, 5 in a light beer.
Q: I’m allergic to wheat. How can I be sure the beer I drink is safe for me?
A: The basic ingredients of beer are malted barley, hops, water and yeast. Some brewers add wheat, oats, rice, or corn—the last two, in particular, are used by the big brewers to create a lighter flavor and save costs. So, to make sure you don’t get any ingredient you’re sensitive to, look for beers that explicitly say they are made only from malted barley (“malt”), hops, water and yeast. Or look for beers that say they are brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, or the “Bavarian beer purity laws of 1516,” which stipulates the use of the same four ingredients.
Q: What is the proper way to pour a beer?
A: If you pour the beer slowly down the side of a tilted glass, a smaller head is formed, and more CO2 remains dissolved in the beer. If you hold the glass upright and pour straight into the glass, more gas is released, and a larger head will form. Real aficionados will insist that different beers have different ideal pours, but you are a mere expert, not an aficionado. Pour an ale so that it has about half an inch of head, lagers with a larger one, and allow a wheat beer to throw a big, pillowy head.
Q: My girlfriend won’t drink beer. How can I convert her?
A: When she says she won’t drink beer, the kind of beer she won’t drink is probably the standard light lager that dominates the market. There are another seventy some-odd defined styles out there: persuade her to try a wheat beer, or a Belgian ale. If that fails, tell her that until recently, brewing was the province of women: she owes it to her sex to like beer.
Q: May I have a chilled glass, please?
A: No, you may not.
Q: O.K., Mr. Beer, what’s the best beer in the world?
A: (Dodge this one. Experts avoid this question like the plague, lest they offend the next brewer they want to visit). Say! Isn’t that Michael Jackson over there?
—Julie Johnson Bradford
Post time: Aug-26-2019