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Beer Appreciation

Updated on September 18, 2014
CuAllaidh profile image

Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

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Time to Dipose the King of Beers

Enjoying a beer is more than just grabbing a cold beer out of the fridge, kicking up your feet and chugging a Bud. Any beer who's main selling point is "crisp, cold, and clean" should be ashamed. These are bywords that beer connoisseurs watch for in beers to avoid. A good beer should have a balanced taste, great colour, and great head retention. You can quite often tell a quality beer before it ever reaches your lips.

Now if you just want a bit of a buzz off the alcohol fine and dandy, though to me that's a waste of barley and hops. A good beer, like a good wine, should be savored and enjoyed. Buying the highest alcohol content beer and chugging it as fast as possible is a frat boy's game, if you want to move forward into the world of beer then you have to learn to appreciate a good beer, and it is a learned endevour not an innate ability people are born with.


Your Prefered Type of Beer

Which do you generally lean towards

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Ales and Lagers and Stouts Oh My!

What's what in types of beers

Beer is not a uniform category of beverage, there are many types, and learning these types is important, for instance I love Stouts, but am not usually over fond of Bitters, knowing this going in I can choose my brew accordingly and generally find one that suits my taste easily, but in order to do this you need to know the difference, and why the flavours are so different. All beer generally falls in two categories, Ales and Lagers, but this is by no means the end, Bitters and Stouts and various other subcategories also exist and are sometimes even more dramatic than the difference between ales and lagers.

Ale

An ale is made with top fermenting yeast and ferments at higher temperatures


Barley Wine

An ale that has more grain then you would normally use in an ale providing a deeper colour and higher final ABV (alcohol by volume) ratio.


Bitter

An ale that has more hops then you would normally use in an ale providing a stronger bitter note.


Brown Ale

This one is exactly what it states, a darker than normal ale, not to the point of a stout of course, but darker than your average ale.


Scotch Ale

A Scotch ale is a distant cousin to a Bitter with the main difference that it is maltier and darker than your usual English Bitter.


Pale Ale

This is the polar opposite to the Brown Ales, an innovation in temperature control allowed brewmasters to produce paler and paler ales.


Porter

This is an ale that is a blend of various subcategory ales, an in between or portal to all ales originally it was referred to as "entire" and seen as the ultimate in ales, or so the legend goes.


Stout

Legend has it that Arthur Guiness used every last penny to set up a brewery and buy supplies during the process he accidentally burnt his only supply of grains, with no option other than to proceed the first batch of Guiness Stout was produced. Originally Arthur Guiness sold this stout at the docks for a reduced price in order to buy more, but when he got enough capital for his next batch the brew was so popular he continued producing the stout and Guiness beer is one of the most highly regarded of the big brewing company brews.


Wheat (White) Beer

Like Guiness this ale is instantly identifiable by colour. This is the lightest of all beers in colour owing to the fact that the main ingredient is wheat not barley.


Lager

An lager is made with bottom fermenting yeast and ferments at lower temperatures


Pilsner

Easily the most popular style of beer in the world. Its a light and clean brew, simple to produce, and generally mild flavours.


IPA - The Craft Brew Fad

Right now IPA, or India Pale Ale, is the current favourite for many craft brew brewers and drinkers. Yet you may notice I didn't include it in the types of beers list. This is because IPA is just a subset of Pale Ales, the primary characteristic differences between IPA and Pale Ale being IPA's tend to have more hops and thus more of a bitter flavour. Personally I find most IPA's to be over hoped, but that's me.

Don't Fear the Brew

The first step in becoming a beer aficionado is trying different beers. You can try different beers from the big breweries, but almost all of them are generic over filtered beer, hunt out the nice imports and the local microbreweries. Remember beer is not just restricted to ales and lagers, there are many beers out there that break the mold and do something completely different, some of these are real treats, some are abysmal failures, but try them, you never know what you like. I know people who only drink Labatt's Blue, or Molson's Canadian, or Budwiser, because "their brand" is the only beer they've ever liked, but when you press them further its usually the only beer they've really tried. A true beer aficionado has no brand loyalty, the whole point is trying what's new in the world of beer, and trust me you can never try them all.

The next step is research. After dipping a toe in the beer pool and trying a bunch of different brews you may realize that there is a whole world of beer you never knew existed. Maybe you've even started being able to identify what broad types of beers you like. Now it's time to open your eyes and look. Read some books about beer and some guides, maybe you'll find a world renowned brewery in your backyard that you never knew existed.

Characteristics of a Good Beer

Beer, like wine, has characteristics that vary from type to type and also brewery to brewery. Learning to know what to look for will guide you to being able to better identify a quality beer. When judging if a beer is good and how good it is there are some characteristics to look for.

Visuals

AKA Appearance

This is how the beer looks in the glass, it includes such things as head retention (how long the head stays and how robust the head is), colour and clarity, and sparkle (carbonation level).

Nose

AKA Aroma, Bouquet

Just as it sounds, this refers to the smell of the beer. A huge part of taste is smell, so if a beer is to be enjoyable it has to smell good, next time you drink a beer take a whiff and note the subtle scents you detect.

Mouthfeel

AKA Open

This is simply the first notes you notice, things like carbonation level and strong hops often influence the mouthfeel the most.

Finish

AKA Aftertaste

This is the notes that come in clearer in the aftertaste of the beer, it is here that you'll usually note the more subtle flavours such as fruity undertones or chocolate.

To learn even more about tasting pick up a good book on beer tasting.

© 2012 Jeff Johnston

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    • Geordie T profile image

      Geordie T 3 years ago

      Great lens, I'd like to get something together like this at some point for my process on reviewing. I think you totally nailed it when you said IPA's are a fad at the moment. We'll see how long they last, I feel the Ale is the standard for which all other are compared. Keep up the good work.

    • CuAllaidh profile image
      Author

      Jeff Johnston 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @Redneck Lady Luck: There is nothing like a cold beer on a hot day, but budwiser doesn't cout ;)

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      Sorry to not be too much of a beer connoisseur. I enjoy my Ice cold Budweiser in the evening though and would cry like a little baby if I didn't have access to it. Just kidding but I really do enjoy a cold beer in the summer months.

    • hovirag profile image

      hovirag 4 years ago

      I'm not a beer fan but sometimes I drink it - has loads of Vitamin Bs in it!

    • GrimRascal profile image

      GrimRascal 5 years ago from Overlord's Castle

      I don't really like beer but this is a fine lens.

    • EEWorkouts profile image

      EEWorkouts 5 years ago

      @CuAllaidh: Not sure when they will make it again but here are the details.

      http://nantahalabrewing.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/t...

    • CuAllaidh profile image
      Author

      Jeff Johnston 5 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @EEWorkouts: Nice... never had it but will look. Aging in oak casks is a new trend. Innis and Gunn has a whole line of them as well that are aged in various casks... fantastic stuff :D

    • EEWorkouts profile image

      EEWorkouts 5 years ago

      Great Lens! There is a beer you should try if you haven't already. Earlier this year while in NC I went to the Nantahala Brewing Co. in Bryson City, NC. The beer is called Trail Magic and they only brew it three times per year. It is a Russian Imperial Stout that they let mature in Jack Daniels casks. Obvious whiskey but very smooth and very dark. It was great.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This is a lot more information than I ever knew about beer. Interesting.

    • adragast24 profile image

      adragast24 5 years ago

      I don't know much about beer and wondered quite a lot about beer type. Thanks for the explanation.

    • Squidpress profile image

      Squidpress 5 years ago

      I know I don't know anything about beers at all and that's because when I go out and drink it's usually for the night out and special beers with the distinct flavours don't match up well. They have too much flavour to keep chugging away :)

    • profile image

      motobidia 5 years ago

      Adding corn alcohol to hogwash is not what I call beer either! Unfortunately, cheapening and speeding up the production process seems to be the predominant way to mass-produce just about anything these days. Sam Adams seems to be the only major US brewer to stay stay honest, but we'll see how long that lasts.

      You should check out Dusty2's beer-related lenses, for he is another kindred spirit, toiling to raise awareness of the brew, with plenty of fun facts and history, and a knack for words. Cheers!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Interesting information, you know your beer! Nice article!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      nice tribute to the king beer indeed!

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 5 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Learned to love beer while living ing Germany-good lens!

    • CuAllaidh profile image
      Author

      Jeff Johnston 5 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @flycatcherrr: I do plan on making my way down there one day, I'll have to keep that in mind :D

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      If you're ever in the Wild East, you'll have to sample the Picaroons wares.

    • CuAllaidh profile image
      Author

      Jeff Johnston 5 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @WriterJanis2: Well, even YOU can't be perfect ;).

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I like Bud.

    • CuAllaidh profile image
      Author

      Jeff Johnston 5 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @limited279: I didn't forget India Pale Ale, I just felt as a subclass of Pale Ale it would be going a little further than necessary for the purposes of this lens. IPA is generally above and beyond a standard Pale ale, I do think that its a little over rated by some though ;).

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Very nice work!

    • limited279 profile image

      limited279 5 years ago

      You forgot about the best beer ever (and most popular with craft beer drinkers currently!) IPA. I see you put ales but most craft beer geeks would agree that an average ale taste nothing like a real IPA. Great entry explanations for those fools still drinking that corporate sludge called beer. Love your beard btw!