Beer - the Five Minute Beer Expert
BEER – The five minute expert
Become a beer expert in five minutes. Really!
Despite beer being an ancient and complex drink, by the time you're done with this article you'll know what beer's made of, where the flavours and aroma come from and have three beer styles you'll want to try. We're already fifteen seconds in; so let's get started.
Know beer's primary ingredients
3. Other stuff.
Barley is beer's primary ingredient. It's from barley that all the fermentable sugars are created. The process of fermentation breaks down these sugars to produce alcohol. No barley or other fermentable grains, no beer.
Hops are green, resinous herbs. Female plants produce sticky buds that have been added to beer for hundreds of years. Why? For their soporific effect, their aromatic qualities, the pleasant bitterness they impart and because hop oils contain a natural preservative that keep beer from spoiling.
Other stuff in beer? Yes, there's plenty but the really important ingredients are barley and hops There's plenty of water, of course. Yeasts to ferment those sugars. Maybe other grains like rye or wheat that add a different flavour and feel, . There could even be cherries, coriander, ginger, chocolate... just about anything you can think of — besides what? Right. barley and hops.
Mass market beers tend not to contain any significant or pleasant hop and malt aromas and flavours. If you find you love hops, you'll need to seek out the right craft/artisan brewed beers
Know Typical Beer Flavours
1. From the barley – biscuit, caramel, chocolate, coffee.
Barley produces different flavours depending on how its been roasted. Lightly toasted barley produces cereal or biscuit flavours. Deeper roasts produce coffee or chocolate flavours.
2. From the hops – herbs, citrus, spruce, spice
Hops add a wide variety of aroma and flavour to a beer. If you find fresh herbs, grapefruit or pine needles in your beer's nose, those are the hops talking to you! Hops also add bitterness so beers with a lot of hop character tend also to be more bitter. Contrary to what you may expect, quality bitterness is not hard to appreciate.
3. From the sugars – fruit sweetness, candy, brown sugar/molasses
Not all the sugars from the barley are consumed by fermentation, so just as sugars from grapes sweeten wines, those from the barley provide a beer with sweetness. These sugar flavours can combine with to suggest brown sugar, molasses, candy or fruits like apples or raisins.
Know Your Favourite Beer
As a beer expert, people are going to ask you the question, "What's your favorite beer?"
It's okay not to have a direct answer.
Try to think more about beer styles rather than brands and their supposed country of origin.
Most commercial beers represent only a very narrow range of available beer styles. If you think Heineken, Budweiser , Corona and Becks all taste the same then, congratulations — you're absolutely right. They are all pale lagers with similar flavour profiles. If light lagers are the only beers you've tried, the beer world has much in store for you!
As for "national beers": the likes of Fosters (Australia), Becks (Germany) and Heineken (Netherlands) don't represent anything like the variety and sophistication of those countries' beer markets.
Also forget about any dark beer versus light beer preferences you think you might have. It's a big beer world out there and you'll probably have favorites of every color.
Let's set you up with a new favorite style or three. Read through these descriptions of flavour, aroma and mouthfeel and select the three that most appeal to you:
insert simple examples here. Stress the flavour, aroma and feel. Avoid use of the word beer
Ready? Now find your favorite beer styles...
Belgian strong ale
India Pale Ale (IPA)
Biere de Garde
Write these down and carry them with you. These will be your first steps; there are many, many more beer styles out there to explore, increasingly complex and true expressions of the brewers art.
You're now a bona-fide beer expert. You're on your way to even greater discoveries and enjoyment of a fantastically varied form of drink that's great to share with friends.
Your Next Step!
Try our "Just Starting" case, specially designed to help you find your way into this wonderful world of craft and artisan beer.
Read 'The Brewmaster's Table' by Garret Oliver, an excellent reference for better understanding of beer and its place at your dinner table
Visit the websites Rate beer and BeerAdvocate; rating beer is a simple and fun way to learn more about beer.