Beer 101

How to Get into Beer: Beer 101

Let me guess...you 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. 

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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! 

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.

Ales

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.

Lagers

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 lot...so 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 beer...so 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.