The number of beers you can find in grocery stores is almost endless. From Bud Light, Pabst to microbrews—the bottles stretch out in every direction. So, how do you know which one to choose? Whether you’re just starting out in the world of beer or looking to refine your pallet and find beers you truly savor, here are some tips on how to choose the right beer for you.
Beer is the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the world. One step to finding a better, tastier beer is understanding where beer comes from. There are two basic types of beer: lagers and ales.
The term “lager” relates largely to the method of fermentation. Lagers are lighter in color and taste and are the most common type of beer. Lagers are stored for a minimum of three weeks before being served.
The fermenting temperature and type of yeast used define the characteristics of ale variations. Ales are darker and more robust with a stronger taste. Ales gained popularity in medieval times as part of the normal diet, along with a variety of breads.
Beer is made with four basic ingredients: barley, hops, yeast, and water. The other ingredients like spices, fruit or wheat may be added. These ingredients are what give each beer its unique flavor.
The Taste Test
When tasting a new beer, you can apply similar principles as used to taste new wines. Look at the color of the beer. Great beers can range from amber to deeper red, brown or even almost black. By smelling it, you’ll be able to pick out things like fruitiness or malt. Take a sip and hold it in your mouth for a moment. Does it seem light or full? And of course, the most important thing: really taste it to determine whether it is the right beer for you.
Good beer is complex and will provide a range of flavors. The advantage to taking the time to really consider new beers is that you’ll be able to store away the appearance and aroma of the beers you like best. In the future you can pick out a beer you’ll know is delicious by remembering your preferences.
Many restaurants will allow you to sample a beer before ordering a full glass. Microbrewery restaurants often have a sampler that allows you to compare different types and brews before ordering to find your favorite. Ask your server or bartender for assistance when needed. Let them know what you like about certain brews so they can make recommendations.
Of course, if you’re buying beer at the local grocery, you won’t be able to taste before buying. You can still take simple steps to assure you’re getting the best beer possible. Try not to buy any beer that has been on the shelf longer than 8 weeks. Beer will keep longer when it is cold, and many people prefer the taste of bottled beer over canned.
Many consumers have started to focus on fair trade, sustainable, and organic food. If this is important to you, you may want to seek out a great organic beer to enjoy. With a simple online search, you can find many organic options. Organic beer means that the crops used to brew were not sprayed with chemicals or pesticides, and the farmers don’t use genetically modified seeds.
Pairing Beer with Food
Also consider what the beer is for. Again, as with wine, you can buy beer to pair with food to compliment your meal. In general, heavy beers go great with heavy foods and light beers go well with light foods. For example, a lighter lager goes well with white fish or shellfish, and a darker beer can compliment a meat dish with gravy perfectly. You never want your beer to overpower your meal.
Of course, in the end, what really matters is your taste. Finding a beer you like is all about pleasing your taste buds and enjoying the taste you like best. Whether it’s a local microbrew, and import, or even one of your old standbys, the perfect beer is out there just waiting for you to drink it.