If you are reading this article, you are probably one of the many aspiring beer snobs out there looking for a new excuse (other than Friday night) to drink. If you are anything like me, you may also be looking for the perfect beer to go with your favorite burger and fries, because it is no secret that we all crave some carbs while enjoying a good brewsky. This article will give you an idea of the basic sensory elements that give each beer its distinct taste.
The four most important elements in evaluating beer are aroma, appearance, taste and mouthfeel. You can oftentimes smell the aroma of the flavors used in the beer before you put the drink to your lips. The appearance includes the opacity, color, thickness, and lacing or foam on the glass. The mouthfeel is the weight or fullness of the body of the beer on your palate.
When describing beer taste, there are four general categories of sensory elements: sensation, taste elements, intensity, and flavor elements. Sensation includes temperatures, textures, body, carbonation, residual sugar, acidity, and heat. Taste elements include sweet, salt, sour, bitter, umami, and alcohol. Intensity includes balance between sweet and bitter, roast, acidity, and carbonation. Flavor elements include any of the limitless flavor combinations. Some typical flavors are coffee, nutty, earthy, hops and yeast.
By discovering your favorite sensory combinations, you can branch out and find other beers to go with that juicy burger or even drink by itself. Everyone has their own preferences, so we will start with some tips on expanding your palate, take a look at a few of the most popular beers, and find what you might enjoy based off your preferences.
Try a few different styles: There are numerous beer styles out there, and if you have an understanding of these styles you can easily find beers you will enjoy. So whether you are a newbie beer connoisseur or just new to drinking altogether, it is important to try more than one style of beer to get a feel for the variety of flavors that beer can have. Not everyone likes beer after their first try, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find one that they will like.
Lagers: Lagers are the most popular style of beer. Nine out of ten beers consumed is a lager, so it is certainly a style of beer any newbie should try. The most popular lager on the market is Bud Light, which while criticized by many beer enthusiasts for being too light, is certainly worth a taste. It can’t be too bad, it is the most popular lager in the world.
Lager types include bock, oktoberfest/maerzen, and pilsner. Lagers are known to have a crisp clean taste and a grainy aroma. They can have a variety of flavors and body. They are also called bottom-fermenting beers because the yeast generally ferments on the bottom of the beer. Lagers ferment at cool temperatures and take longer to ferment. Here are some popular lagers:
Negra Modelo: Negra Modelo started in Mexico in 1926, and it has become one of the most popular dark beers in America. Compared to Budweiser and Bud Light, this beer is much darker in color and richer in overall flavor. Modelo is also a much heavier beer. If Bud just doesn’t have enough flavor for you, Negra Modelo may be a better choice of lager.
Shiner Bock: This Bock is a German beer that started in 1909 and is now one of the most popular bocks in America. Shiner is known to have a light malty flavor and a golden hue. Some say that this beer lacks the overall flavor distinction of other lagers, but it still remains a highly popular brew.
Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager: The Sierra Nevada Summerfest Pilsner is distinctly different from other lagers in that it has a hint of spicy, tangy flavor. Pilsner is a traditional Czech beer with a light golden hue, and Sierra Nevada makes one of the more popular commercial pilsners.
Samuel Adams Oktoberfest: Sam Adams Oktoberfest is a popular take on the German brew that started in 1810. This particular Oktoberfest has a toffee-flavored undertone and a caramel color.
Ales: Ales tend to have fruity or coffee-like undertones. There are pale ales, India pale ales, stouts, porters, and wheat beers. Unlike lagers, ales are brewed using a top-fermenting yeast, and they ferment at higher temperatures. Ales can have a variety of tastes, from bitter to sweet. Here are some popular ale beers:
Newcastle Brown Ale: Newcastle has one of the more popular brown ales on the market. It was first brewed in 1927 in England. This ale has a nutty, malty flavor but is known for being a smooth ale that goes down well with any meal. Its flavor is also lighter than most ales.
Guinness Extra Stout: This beer is an Irish porter within the ale family. Extra stout has a dry acidic taste. Some say this beer has a burnt flavor because of the roasted barley used in its brewing, but this characteristic is typical of a porter. This beer also has a darker color than most beers.
Bass Pale Ale: A popular beer from the Anheuser-Busch brewing company, Bass was introduced in 1777 as a European-style pale ale. This beer is known for its bitter nutty and malty flavors. The name itself denotes it has a lighter hue than most other ales. Pale ales are noted for the water used in brewing the beer. Brewers of pale ales try to get the hardest water possible for brewing.
Paulaner Hefeweizen: Hefeweizen is a traditionally German beer, hefe meaning “yeast” and weizen meaning “wheat.” This particular ale has a bitter fruity flavor and a distinct golden orange color. Wheat beers are known for being filling because they are unfiltered. This beer is naturally cloudy because of the yeast suspended in the beer after brewing.
Although many beer enthusiasts knock drinking the commercial beers like those listed in this article, everyone has to start somewhere. After you find the right brew for your tastes, you will branch out with ease.
Lagers and ales are the two most distinct types of beer, distinguished by whether they are a top-fermenting or a bottom-fermenting brew. However, brewers continue to experiment with yeast to make some brews that do not distinctly fit either beer family. Within and outside these two families there are many subcategories with even more variation, so the beer tasting experience never ends.