Feel like you can’t talk beer with the boys? Well, we have high hops—er, hopes—for you. Increase your brew IQ with this quick and easy guide.
Hops: An herb that gives beer flavor—specifically bitter flavor and aroma, so don’t order a “hoppy” beer unless you’re ready for some bitterness. Hops are also a natural preservative.
Malt: The foundation ingredient of beer, malt is germinated grain, usually barley. At the beginning of the beer brewing process, the grains are soaked in water, allowing them to germinate, and then dried in a kiln to stop the germination process. Darker malts produce darker beers. The balance between malt and hops determines a beer’s flavor.
Water: H2O, the source of life—and beer! Beer is mostly made up of water.
Yeast: A family of fungi that turn sugars into alcohol and CO2. This happens toward the end of the brewing process.
Types of Beer
Ales are darker, heavier beers made with top-fermenting strains of yeast. They tend to have fruity or flowery aromas. Types include:
Brown: An amber-colored ale.
Hefeweizen: A traditional German wheat beer that’s cloudy and refreshing.
Porter: A heavy, very dark ale made with malt browned by drying at a high temperature.
Stout: Similar to a Porter but with a higher percentage of hops.
Pale Ale: A style of beer made with mostly light malts. India Pale Ales (IPAs) are particularly hoppy. Sierra Nevada is an American pale ale. Extra Special Bitter (ESB) is another, less hoppy type of pale ale.
Lagers are made with bottom-fermenting strains of yeast and are known for their crisp, clean tastes. Bud, Coors, Miller and Amstel are all examples of lagers. Types include:
Amber/Red: These lagers are known for their low bitterness and abundance of malt flavor.
Bock: A German lager that’s stronger than most. It’s lightly hopped, with strong malt flavor.
Pale: Yellow and fizzy lagers with a broad depth of malt flavor.
Pilsner: Light, golden lager with strong hop flavor. Served in a tall, thin, footed glass by the same name.
To learn more about the vast world of beer, we recommend visiting Beer Advocate magazine’s Web site.