How to Get into Beer: Beer 101

Let me went to a party and all they had to drink was beer. Your friends seem to like beer, but you just can't seem to get into it! Not to worry, I have some tips of how you can learn to enjoy and appreciate beer. 

Beer is a wonderful thing...if you love wine, I have no doubt you will learn to appreciate beer as well. You just have to (gasp!) start trying different styles to find out what you like! 

You might be thinking...NO! I hate hoppy, bitter beers! 

I get it: that's all that seems to be out there these days. The United States is going through a crazy bitter beer scene right now, which can often be bad for people that are new to beer. But other styles DO exist, and if you go to a local brewery, they should have some newbie-friendly beers for you to try. My recommendation for you if you want to get into beer is to try blonde ales, wheat ales, sour ales, and Belgian ales. 

Blonde Ales are great entry-level beers often with malt sweetness and mild flavors. They are essentially the craft-beer version of well-known lagers. 

Wheat Ales are almost always (I want to say always, but you never know...) low in bitterness and boast citrus and spice notes easily digestible for beer newbies. Try: German Weissbier, Hefeweizen, Belgian Wit. 

Sour Ales are not for everyone, but in my experience, the person that has hated every beer they've tried usually likes sours. Wine drinkers usually like sours as well because they have acidity, just like wine. Try: Flanders Red, Flanders Brown, Lambic, Barrel-Aged Sours. 

Belgian Ales across the board are usually low in bitterness and have complex fruity and spicy aromas and flavors. When I discovered Belgian ales, I was hooked. Try: Belgian Golden Strong, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Tripel, Belgian Dark Strong. 


So I mentioned that the only way you are going to find a style you like is by trying different beers. The best way to do this is to actually visit beer bars and breweries. Many offer samples (if allowed by law) so you can "try before you buy", or you can order flights of beer and try many different styles side by side. And don't be afraid to ask for help when choosing! Many bartenders know what's up and won't steer you in the wrong direction. 

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Finally, remember that beer is subjective. I can't tell you what will be your favorite, I can only provide you with the information to discover what you might like. Above all, have fun with beer--there are so many styles, that there is bound to be something out there that entices your palate. Cheers and happy tasting! 

Fall Seasonal Beers: All About Pumpkin Ale!

A lot of beer styles have great stories, but Pumpkin Ale's story is one of my favorites. 

A True American Beer

Back in the colonial days of America, pumpkins were everywhere. It wasn't uncommon to find fields of wild pumpkins, and for that reason, they weren't exactly a hot commodity (because they were everywhere!). 

If a year's harvest was poor and brewers didn't have access to the amount of grains they needed to brew beer, they would turn to the excess pumpkins laying around as substitute. Pumpkins provide plenty of sugar, and that is all that brewers needed to create beer. Therefore pumpkins were used as a "last resort" in brewing--no one purposely used them in brewing unless it was absolutely necessary. 

Fast forward to the 1980s and Bill Owens of Buffalo BIll's Brewery--Bill read that George Pumpkin used to brew beer with pumpkins, so he decided to resurrect the style. However, simply adding pumpkin to the beer didn't impart much flavor, so BIll added traditional spices you'd find in pumpkin pie to give the beer a little more oomph. Other breweries followed with their own interpretations and before we knew it, pumpkin ale is a style again! 

Pumpkin Ale Profile

There is no specified flavor profile for pumpkin ale, but many brewers will commonly include pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to add "autumn" character to their beer. I've tried ones that are straight up "PUMPKIN!" like Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, and others that are a bit sweeter and dessert-like, like New Holland Brewing's Ichabod Ale (one of my personal favorites this past year!). 

I feel like it has been a recent trend for beer geeks to poo-poo on Pumpkin Ale, but I happen to enjoy them for what they are--a historical beer style resurrected into something completely new. Although most pumpkin ales are released as early as August, I'll hold on to them through September and October and drink to get into the fall spirit. 

Do you like Pumpkin ale or despise it? I want to know! 

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The Beers of Oktoberfest

Fall is my favorite time for beer because this is Oktoberfest season! There are two styles of beer that we associate with Oktoberfest: traditional Marzen and modern-day Festbier. Check out the video above for how these two styles came to be! 

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The Difference Between Ales and Lagers

Beer Friends! Today's lesson comes to you in the video below! Or, feel free to read the accompanying blog post. 

Every beer style in the entire world fits into one of two categories: It’s either an ale or a lager. What determines this?

Yeast, my friends.

Yeast is the whole reason that alcoholic beverages exist:

Yeast eats sugar, and creates alcohol, CO2, and a bunch of other byproducts as a result.

There are many strains of yeast out there but there are two main ones used in brewing...ale yeast and lager yeast.


Let’s run over ale yeast first. This yeast is known as Saccharomyces Cerevisieae (feel free to choose to remember that one only if you’d like). And this was the first yeast used in brewing since the dawn of civilization.

Ale yeast likes to eat up sugars in a warm environment...let’s say 55 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. Its happiest in warm temperatures, so it creates a lot of aromas and flavors, namely things called esters and phenols. Esters make aromas that smell particularly fruity, like:

  • Apple

  • Pineapple

  • Citrus

  • Peach

And then there are phenols, which give spicy characteristics to beer. Think black pepper, clove... whatever is in your spice cabinet.

Fun Fact: Phenols can also provide other aromas to beer, some that are not the best-smelling. If you smell barnyard, horse blanket, barbecue smoke, or band-aid in your beer, you are smelling products of phenols.


Let's move on to lagers, which are a much newer category of beer because of the yeast strain used. Around the 1400s, the Germans discovered that their beer would last longer if they brewed and stored their beer in cold caves. You already know that ale yeast doesn't like cold temperatures, so it wasn't too happy in this environment. So a different strain of yeast had to emerge to ferment the beer, and that yeast strain was called Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis aka Saccharomyces Pastorianus, aka, Lager Yeast.

Side note: lager means to store in German, which comes from the fact that they would store their beer in these cold caves.

The Difference Between Ales and Lagers Libations Academy

Lager yeast ferments at colder temperatures….and I don’t know about you but when I’m cold i’m not moving around a lager yeast works very slowly and therefore does not create all those fruity and spicy aromatics that ale yeast creates.

Therefore the PRIMARY difference between ales and lagers is that ales will have all these fruity, spicy characteristics coming from the yeast strain, and lagers will not. Lagers get all their flavor from the malt and hops and therefore are more “clean” and “straightforward”. It is difficult to make lagers because it costs more money, takes more time, and is difficult to hide any impurities in the when people just start out in brewing, they usually start with ales.

Now that you know the difference between ales and lagers, go out and try them side by side! Seriously, this will help you learn a lot. Taste both together and observe how there’s just a lot more going on in the ale than the lager.


5 Storage Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Beer

Are you storing your beer correctly? These 5 common mistakes that can ruin beer may surprise you |

You spent your hard-earned money on some good beer—it would be a shame to let it spoil just because you stored it incorrectly! Here are 5 mistakes you might be making that is accelerating the decimation of your beer:

Mistake #1: You Left the Beer in Your Car

Its summertime and you just grabbed a case of pilsner to quench your thirst at your friend’s upcoming pool party. But after your stop to the beer shop, you needed to run to Target. Then Home Depot. Then to the movies...While you’re running all these errands, the beer is sitting in high temperatures either in your trunk or your backseat. Treat your newly-purchased beer like a gallon of milk—you wouldn’t leave that in your car in the hot weather, would you? Heat will essentially “cook” the beer and break it down, leaving you with plenty of off flavors. Make the beer shop your last stop when it’s warm outside so you can quickly get it home and out of the heat. (The same goes for wine, too).

Mistake #2: You Are Storing Your Beer in the Garage

Garages are possibly the worst place to store your beer. You might as well just keep it outside, which is also a no-no. Unless your garage is temperature-controlled, your beer is going through many temperature fluctuations—too much heat on the hot days, and near-freezing temperatures on the cold ones. Your precious beer needs to avoid temperature fluctuations whether they be hot or cold, so keeping the beer inside, or better yet—in the fridge, is ideal.

P.S.—once your beer is cold, it should stay cold, so avoid taking beer out of the fridge unless you plan to drink it right away.

Mistake #3: You Are Exposing Your Beer to Light

You probably know that sunlight can “skunk” beer in minutes (make it smell like a skunk..and therefore ruining it), but did you know that artificial light can do the same? Even if you are storing your beer inside your home (yay!), if the bottles are constantly seeing sunlight or the lights from your home, they can still be affected. So store your beer in the darkest, coolest part of your home, like in a basement or a closet.

Side Note: this applies to bottled beer only; cans are the only vessel that blocks 100% of light from the beer. Brown bottles block 95% of the light, but clear, green, or blue bottles offer almost no protection against skunking. This is also why so many beers come packaged in surrounding cardboard—to protect them from the effects of light.

Mistake #4: You Are Waiting Too Long To Drink Your Beer

Beer is not wine, friends, so don’t age it. Some beers can age, yes, but 90% of them out there are meant to be drank fresh.  Many beers contain an expiration date or a date of production; if you don’t see a date, drink that beer within 3 months. If you’ve been keeping it in the refrigerator, it will be good for up to 6 months. After that time frame, the hop aromas will start declining as well as any bitterness, fruit or malt components. In even more time, the beer will develop signs of oxidation and off-flavors. Bottom line, just drink your beer.

Mistake #5: You Are Storing The Beer on Its Side

Again, beer is not wine, so there is no reason to store it on its side. Many people think that beers enclosed with corks need to be stored on their side to keep the cork moist but really, the cork will be fine (unless you are aging your beer for upwards of 15 years, which may be too long even for aged beers). Beers should be stored upright so that any yeast or sediment that develops will settle to the bottom of the bottle—so that when you pour out that beer, you can leave the glop behind. This really only pertains to older, purposely-aged beers and hefeweizens, but now you know that beer needs to be stored upright.

How to Correctly Store Your Beer

So, let’s quickly summarize how you should store your beer based on all of these mistakes I just mentioned:

  •         Store your beer upright in a cool, dark place to avoid contact with heat and light
  •         Drink your beer within 3-6 months of purchasing, depending on how cold your storage conditions are
  •         Avoid temperature fluctuations in your beer by all means (once it’s cold, keep it cold)
  •         Never leave your beer in a hot car/trunk

See, that’s not so hard, right?

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