Drinking beer doesn’t really seem all that complicated, right? It doesn’t exactly have the same veneer of refinement of wine or the versatility of liquor. The fact that beers like Natural Light and Milwaukee’s Best are less than tasty is a universal truth. Thanks to the craft beer movement, however, the complexities of “brewksi” have taken center stage. Beer is no longer just a frat party favorite or a throwaway beverage used for keg stands. Increasing your knowledge about beer can be just as impressive as knowing about wine minerality or cocktail mixology.
There are countless kinds of beer out there. More often than not, you’ll encounter one of these four styles: IPAs, Amber Ale, Wheat Beer, and Amber Lager.
Guide to IPAs
Let’s start here. Arguably, one of the most popular kinds of beer on the market is the IPA. It’s the hipster drink of choice and a favorite of knowledgeable drinkers. The acronym stands for India Pale Ale and refers to an ale that’s brewed from pale malt. IPAs brewed on the East Coast have a stronger presence of malt while the West Coast variety has a stronger presence of hops. Double IPAs have an even stronger presence of hops with almost twice the alcohol content of their regular counterparts.
Perhaps one reason why IPAs are so popular is their easy pairing with just about every food. They help balance out acidity in foods with cheese as a main ingredient. They also work well with substantial dishes like chicken, seafood, and pasta because they don’t overpower the flavor of the foods. Also, lighter beers like IPAs cut through spicy foods for quick relief thanks to the presence of natural spice in the hops. IPAs even work with dessert as a nice contrast to sweet flavors.
Guide To Amber Ale
Amber ale is an IPA subset. It’s a pale ale that’s brewed with portions of amber malt and crystal malt. The combination gives it an amber color. Like other IPAs, the same food pairings apply.
Guide to Wheat Beer
Wheat beer is top-fermented and brewed mainly with wheat. There are two main types named Weissbier and Witbier.
Weissbier originated in Germany and is considerably paler than the country’s mostly brown beer. The name translates to “white beer”. There are two versions of Weissbier: one that’s traditional and unfiltered (Hefeweizen) and one that’s filtered to remove wheat proteins and yeast (Kristallweizen).
Witbeir is brewed in Belgium and the Netherlands. It has more of a hazy look when poured since wheat proteins and yeast have been removed.
Guide to Amber Lager
Like amber ale, amber lager has been named for its amber appearance. However, lager goes through a different production process. Lager is created through conditioning at low temperatures. Typically, it’s created in cold storage and involves the use of bottom-fermenting yeast.
Some lagers are further enhanced by the use of adjuncts. An adjunct is a natural agent like rice or maize that thins out the body of the beer. Adjuncts also introduce more sugar into the beer and increase the alcohol by volume.
Lagers and wheat beers pack in richer flavor than IPAs. So the food pairings are considerably different. They pair well with fried foods. Unlike IPAs, they won’t wash away the salty goodness. Both beer styles also pair well with beef and roasted meat dishes. Their strong flavors can stand up to the richness of flavor in foods like burgers and steaks.
Choosing the right kinds of beer involves a lot more information and education than the industry receives credit for. Even if your menu for the night consists of nothing more than hot wings and French fries, the beer you use can have a huge impact on how you enjoy your meal. The next time you’re at a pub to watch the big game, think twice before you place your order and show off your beer skills.