Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’ve had a beer or two in your lifetime. There are very few “beer virgins” left in the world of legal-age drinkers, and this is a good thing—the world of beer is much too large to let pass by entirely. But while you’re no stranger to beer, you’ve probably also looked down at your lager a time or two and wondered if you’re really getting all that you can out of your drink. “Is this all there is?” you’ve wondered, “Or is there life outside this red Solo cup?” If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, then this article is for you. This, my friend, is how to drink beer.
The first step in the path to enlightenment is realizing that not all beers are created equal. Selecting the appropriate beer is on par with selecting the appropriate friend for social occasions—you’d never ask your unemployed brother from the ol’ college frat to join you at your parents’ vow renewal ceremony, you wouldn’t bring a seminarian along on a bachelor party, just like you wouldn’t try to quench your thirst with a stout when you really should have reached for a lager. Knowing your beers is vital, so take time to familiarize yourself with what you like and don’t like. As you sample, you’ll gradually piece together the five basic types of beer:
Ales – This broad category can swing to either the sweet end of the scale or the bitter end of the scale. These are the hoppy, fruity varieties—your pale ales, IPA’s, and barley wines. But don’t be fooled by the lighter color—ales are known to ferment quickly, and wow, can they pack a punch.
Lagers – Lagers rest in the epicenter of the beer palate. This is where you’ll find your crisper, more refreshing beers, your light beers, and your general football day / casual party selection. Pilsners, bocks, and ambers hang out here, and if you’re still trying to find your signature taste, lagers aren’t a bad place to start.
Stouts – If you spot a beer with “creamy”, “chocolate”, “coffee”, or “dark” in the description, you’re probably looking at a stout. These carry some fairly strong flavors and undertones, and many are either an acquired taste or reserved for specific situations or food pairings. If you’re a Guinness drinker, this is your family.
Bitters – As hinted by the name, bitters aren’t always the most popular of choices, but when you love them, you love These are usually spotted by their bronze color, and you’ll find that there are a surprising number of variations on “bitter”—well, surprising to those who have never gone through a divorce, anyway.
Wheat Beer – Wheat beers include a whole gambit of potential flavors. They initially look cloudy in nature, and if you order them at a bar, don’t be surprised when they come with a lemon or orange wedge. Prepare yourself for some strong fruit flavors when you grab one of these.
Each of these selections has an optimal glass—whether a mug, pilsner, goblet, or pint—so do your research before the big pour. And when you pour, don’t just dump your beer inside the glass—use a little finesse. Caress the golden liquid as it tumbles from the mouth of your bottle at a 45 degree angle; catch it gently with the side of the glass, letting it trickle down to the bottom for a moment before tilting the glass upright and going for home. Just the right amount of head should begin to form and yes… YES… YES!
(Editor’s Note: We’ve asked our writer to take a cold shower before continuing this article. Our apologies for the delay.)
Finally, it’s time to drink, and by drink, we mean don’t you dare drink yet. To fully appreciate the first sip, take a moment to study the color and lighting of your beer. Give it a swirl in the glass and note how the smell begins to waft. Take a moment to get to know the scent of your beer—drawing in the air through your nose, then through your mouth.
Okay, now take that first sip. Let the beer sit in your mouth for a moment, and take a breath (including the exhale) through your nose to note how the flavor and aftertaste change. Swallow. Repeat. Then repeat again. Then again. Because no matter what beer you’ve chosen, all beer becomes uninviting if it sits for too long.
Beer is more than a drink, it’s an experience. Just like songs become firmly rooted in your emotional memory based on when you first heard them play, or the first kiss of a dating relationship, your choice of beer establishes itself in your mind based on that first experience, that first taste. So make it a good one, my friends. You could be starting a lifelong relationship.