The exciting thing about beer is that there is so much to enjoy beyond the sensory pleasure of drinking it. Of course, it all starts and ends with flavor, but beer lovers have extended their interests to include the packaging and labeling of beer, the people who make it, brewing history, festivals devoted to beer, and crafts and collections based on beer. We study the stuff, celebrate its traditions, collect its artwork, debate its merits, and categorize its styles.
Here is a manual to build your beer knowledge—practical insights and personal passions that can augment what we already know: beer tastes great.
How To Sound Like A Beer Expert
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.