As I was brainstorming an intro line for this article, I Googled ‘most popular beverages’ and the very first entry that appeared was a link to Wikipedia about Beer. ‘Beer is the world’s most widely consumed and probably oldest of alcoholic beverages; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea…’ And there you have it!
The delicacy of wine tasting while dear to my heart seems to have gracefully stepped aside as beer drinkers and brewers are developing their own standards and culture. Across the board, it seems beer communities are laid back and preach a respect for beer no matter your opinions. No one likes a beer snob and behind every beer is a person who had an idea, a formula and worked hard bottle it up and get it into your hands.
It’s likely you’ve been a beer drinker for a while and you’ve already established some of your favorites. But do you really KNOW your beer? Or if you’re still dating around really give the beer a solid chance before not calling her back the next day.
The first think you’ll want to know is the two categories ale, and lager. The main technical difference is with ales, fermenting the yeast floats to the top, and with lager it sinks to the bottom. Known as top/bottom-fermenting. Top-fermenting (ales) works best at warmer temperatures and can tolerate higher alcohol concentrations and are usually fruiter, or sweeter. Bottom-fermenting (lagers) is a longer process due to cool temperatures, fermenting more sugars leaving a crisp clean taste.
Here are some other things to consider as your tasting beer:
Appearance – Note color, carbonation, clarity. Also, unlike wine, don’t automatically assume a darker color will result in a more complex flavor profile.
Smell – Really get in the there and give it a good whiff. You can also gently hold your hand over the glass to trap some carbonation and then release for a good strong aroma.
Taste – Everyone’s favorite part! Really let the beer wash over your taste buds and see if you can detect any of the same flavors you were smelling. Also while you taste, get a sense of how the beer feels in your mouth. Is it heavy, smooth, airy?
Order – If you’ve arranged for a little beer tasting, save all of the higher alcohol content and hoppy beers for the end. Also, save all the fruity sweet beers for the end. The idea is to work your palate up to the stronger flavors.
Glassware – This can be a little complicated but in general, you should always drink your beer from a glass. Some bars are equipped with the proper glassware that was intended specifically for that beer from the brewer. But in general, drinking from a glass allows the beer to release the carbonation that makes you feel full.
Temperature – While nothing beats an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day, it is likely that much of the flavor will be harder to detect. I’m not promoting warm beer, but if you are in for some serious tasting take the beer out of the cooler for a minute before consuming.
Light exposure – This is beer’s biggest enemy and the often cause of ‘skunked’ beer. Consider the tinting on the bottle before you purchase and even better yet (and lighter to carry) try to find some good canned beer.
Draft verses bottle – When considering ordering from the tap or a bottle, take a look around the bar and see what everyone else is drinking. This will be a good indication of which is better. Also, watch the bartenders as they pour from the tap. If you notice a constant flow of foam through the course of your stay, it is likely something is wrong with the line or the tap.
So remember, don’t be a beer snob and pass along some knowledge. Get to know and respect your beer whether it’s your old friend or a new fling.
Here are some recommendations for the summer:
Wheat Beers – perfect for light summer foods like salads, lobster bake, clams and other seafood
Amber Lager – great with burgers and barbecue
Pilsners – good for a serious grilled piece of meat
IPA – great for spicy food, in a way, it scrubs the palate with carbonation in anticipation of the next bite, also great for grilling.
These are some of my current favorites:
Blue Point Toasted Lager, Blue Point, NY
Lindeman’s Kreik, Lambic, Belgium
Sixpoint Craft Ale, Brooklyn, NY
And there are some recco’s from my culinary school friend Stephen who is my go-to-guy for all things beer!
Southhampton Double White
Great Divide Titan IPA
Kolsch style beers
Bluepoint Toasted Lager
Blue Point Rastafa Rye
Cigar City Jai Alai IPA