Beer 101

(The following comes from a great Beer website:


Let’s all admit it, beer can be intim­i­dat­ing. Sim­i­lar to wine and cig­ars, beer has such a rich his­tory and knowl­edge base that it can become over­whelm­ing. With that in mind, we have com­piled and cre­ated this lit­tle 101 class to help intro­duce you to the world of beer. We will cover the types of beer, sim­ple expla­na­tions of com­mon con­ver­sa­tion top­ics, how to taste beer for the first time, and nice food/beer pair­ings. Sit back, relax with your favorite brew and read on. This page has been com­plied with the help of some infor­ma­tion from Life123.


— 1: Know Your Types of Beer

– 2: What Are Micro­brews?

– 3: Draft vs. Bot­tle

– 4: Tast­ing Beer

– 5: Beer/Food Pair­ings

– 6: Where Can I Learn More?


Drink­ing beer is a favorite pas­time, not only for the vari­ety of dif­fer­ent types of beer you can choose from and the relax­ing feel­ing a good glass of ale can bring, but also for the over­all expe­ri­ence of savor­ing an icy cold mug of your favorite brew. If you’d like to expand your knowl­edge of beer and exper­i­ment with beer and food pair­ings, it’s impor­tant to under­stand the var­i­ous types of beer.


All beer is made from four basic ingre­di­ents: hops, malted bar­ley, yeast and water. Most beers have other botanicals—spices, fruit or vegetables—added to the basic beer recipe.

Know Your Types of Beer

There are two main types of beer: lager beer and ale beer, referred to as lagers and ales. There is a third rather obscure type of beer, called a Lam­bic, which is made only in Bel­gium, and is not as pop­u­lar as lagers or ales.

Beers are divided into these two cat­e­gories by the kinds of yeast used dur­ing their cre­ation and by the tem­per­a­tures used to fer­ment the two dif­fer­ent kinds of beer. Lagers use a yeast that best fer­ments at cool tem­per­a­tures, and ales use a yeast that best fer­ments at warmer temperatures.

Types of Lagers

Pale Lager: Pale lagers have a light color and are light-bodied. They are highly car­bon­ated and have a light taste. Main­stream exam­ples of pale lager beers are Coors and Budweiser.
Pil­sner: A pil­sner beer has a pale color like a pale lager, but is more bit­ter in taste. The fla­vors of pil­sners are more dis­tinc­tive than pale lagers.
Light Lager: There are two dif­fer­ent types of light lager beers. Amer­i­can light lagers use less hops and bar­ley in order to cre­ate low calo­rie beers. Euro­pean light lagers are lagers that are pale in color and light in taste.
Dark Lager: Dark lager beers are made with roasted hops and bar­ley. This means they have much richer fla­vors and are dark in color. They are full-bodied and flavorful.


Types of Ales

Brown Ale: Brown ale beer is red to cop­per in color and is rather mild in flavor.
Porter: Porter beer is darker in color and is full-bodied, with the bar­ley fla­vors dom­i­nat­ing over the mild hop fla­vors. They are richly fla­vored. Some porters even taste like chocolate.
Stout: Stout beer is very sim­i­lar to a porter. Stout beer is the dark­est and thick­est of the beers. The strong bar­ley and hops fla­vors pre­vail in this dark beer.
Wit­bier: Wit­bier (or Wheat beer) is a beer that is brewed with a large pro­por­tion of wheat. Wheat beers often also con­tain a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of malted bar­ley. Wheat beers are usu­ally top-fermented.The flavour of wheat beers varies con­sid­er­ably, depend­ing upon the spe­cific style.

What Are Microbrews?

Micro­brews are beers that are brewed in small, inde­pen­dent brew­eries. They often have unique prop­er­ties to the beers because of the use of local ingre­di­ents. Micro­brew­eries often brew beer in much smaller batches, using spe­cialty ingredients.

Draft Vs. Bottle

Draft (also known as draught or tap) beer is served in a frosty beer mug with a full head of foam. Bot­tled beer will not form as full a head of foam as beer straight from the tap. This is why many beer drinkers pre­fer draft beer to bot­tled beer, even if the beer offered on tap is not a favorite beer.

The major dif­fer­ence between a draft or bot­tled beer occurs dur­ing the pas­teur­iza­tion process. Draft or keg beer is not nor­mally pas­teur­ized, which means that the keg must be kept cold. Bot­tled beers go through the pas­teur­iza­tion process and are pack­aged at higher tem­per­a­tures, which can affect the taste of the beer.

Tast­ing Beer

When tast­ing beer, take into account the look, color, head of foam, aroma, taste and after­taste of the beer being sam­pled. Try pour­ing your­self four or five mini mugs of beer for a fun sam­pling expe­ri­ence, and take notes on the fla­vors and aro­mas detected in each beer.

Invite a few friends over for a beer tast­ing and have each friend bring some of his or her favorite beer. Serve peanuts, pret­zels, oys­ters and cheese as palate cleansers and eat a lit­tle between each small mug of beer.

How to Pair Beer and Food

In gen­eral, it’s good to pair foods of like heav­i­ness and fla­vor with like beers. This is the process fol­lowed by most beer con­nois­seurs. When you are drink­ing a beer you like a great deal, take some time to think about what food might com­ple­ment the fla­vors nat­u­rally occur­ring in the beer. Take a sip of beer, close your eyes as you roll the beer around in your mouth, swal­low and see what types of food come to mind.

Food and Beer Pairings

The fol­low­ing are com­mon beer and food pairings:

Light Beer, Spicy Food Light ales and lagers go best with spicy foods. Heavy beers will make the meal too oppres­sive for the taste buds, and com­plex beers will be lost once your taste buds are met by the spicy food.

Brown Ale, Brown Food Brown ales go great with mush­room gravies, beef dishes and wild game.

Porter Beer, Heavy Stew Try a porter with a bowl of beef stew or a bowl of chili.

Dry Stout/Oysters There’s noth­ing like shuck­ing a plate of oys­ters while enjoy­ing a mug of stout.

Sweet Stout/Sweet Dessert Pair a sweet stout with a rich dessert like choco­late cheese­cake or flour­less choco­late cake drown­ing in a rasp­berry sauce.

Pilsner/Seafood A pil­sner is great with a plate of fried shrimp or crab cakes.

Amber Beer/Pizza Bring out the amber beer when you’re serv­ing up a home­made Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

Where can I learn more about beer?

There are many dif­fer­ent places to learn a lit­tle more about our favorite bev­er­age. Of course there is the inter­net. Just hop over to Google and type in any­thing you want to know and chances are, it’ll be there. But there are more enjoy­able ways of obtain­ing infor­ma­tion, too. I would highly rec­om­mend speak­ing to your local beer pro­fes­sion­als, ie: bar­tenders, beer dis­trib­u­tors, brew­pub brewers/owners, and books! I have learned some of my most val­ued infor­ma­tion from the guy serv­ing me the beer. I mean, who would know more about it than him? He’s tasted every one, he works with them 8 hours a day, and he talks to hun­dreds of peo­ple about beer weekly. Now, this comes with a dis­claimer. Your big chain bars will often not yield the same knowl­edge base that a brewpub/craft beer bar­tender will. They sim­ply don’t have the pas­sion for the beer to dive into like that. How­ever, I have been wrong before and that is, of course, not a rule, just an insight.

I would also very highly rec­om­mend you hook up with some good books. I have added quite a few beer books recently, and the best so far is any­thing by Randy Mosher. This man is a brew genius! check him out and sup­port a legend!

Lastly, I would highly rec­om­mend you try your hand at brew­ing your own beer. It’s very scary sound­ing at first, but it becomes very easy very quickly. At that point it’s up to you to up the ante. You can make your beer as com­plex or calm as you like. Go ahead, give it a try and let us know how it turns out!

The best thing about beer, is there is always more to learn and try!