Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Bartenders Guide to Beer

Beer may be the most popular form of alcohol being served in America today. The average beer drinker is very saavy and knows a great deal about beer, the various brands and types and the quality of each. And every beer drinker has their favorites. Some will drink only American beers while others only drink imported brands. There are upscale drinkers who opt for Samuel Adams or Heineken and then there are the "blue collar" boys who love Bud. Sports and brew is a traditional combination and nobody can imagine watching a great football game without a beer or two.

There are many types of beer and many brands, both domestic and imported. They vary in content, quality and calories. What your drinkers choose will vary widely and is an individual choice. As a general rule, women are concerned about both their weights and how much they drink, so they often prefer light beers. Men, on the other hand, are often looking for something hearty and full bodied. As a bartender, you should have a full knowledge of all beers, what they are made of, what type of beer they are, where they are brewed and how they are used in drinkmaking. This is what this post is all about.

Types of Beer

There are a lot of different types of beer and it is in the bartenders interest to know what they are. When someone says "I prefer lagers", then you might be able to suggest one. There is a big difference between a porter, a bitter and an ale. Here they are, for quick reference:


This is a brew made of top fermenting yeast, has a distinctive fruitiness, and is sharper and stronger than lager. Ale has a distinctive hearty flavor that is rich and thick in the mouth. It is often dark, pulled on draft and has a lot of head. There are, however, pale ales available that are the same amber color of regular pilsners. People who drink ale often dislike regular beer and light beer drinkers would find most ales too heavy and spirited for taste.


This is a well hopped Ale. This is usually served on tap and is typically acidic with a very rich, dark color. The color may vary from bronze to a deep copper. It is quite like cider in texture and taste. Drinkers who like bitter may also enjoy ale and cider. Consider suggesting this if bitter is unavailable. Cider is a sort of wine made in England that is used as a mixer.


This is a very strong beer. It is a German term, which is used to describe heavier beers that are higher in alcohol content. They are usually dark in color.


This is a beer that is not pasteurized like most canned and bottled beers. This gives the bottled beer a fresh taste similar to draft beer. These beers and usually lively, golden in color and foamy.


This is a type of beer modeled after the famous Munich beers. It is a dark brew with a heavy, deep flavor. It is similar to ale.


This is the same as cold filtered except that it is also dry brewed. This gives the beer a fresh flavor with no aftertaste. People who drink cold filtered are likely to enjoy dry beers and vice versa.


This is beer made from bottom fermentation. In England, these are often golden colored beers. In Europe, though, they are traditionally dark. In Germany and the Netherlands, these are considered ordinary, every day beers.


These are beers that are lower in calories, alcohol content or both.


Just as it sounds. Beer without the buzz.


This is a golden colored, dry, bottom fermented beer, similar in flavor to lagers and dry beers. In truth, a combination of both. This beer has a flower aroma and a dry finish. No aftertaste.


This is often thought of as a wine but it is actually a beer. It is a refermented rice brew that is made much the same way our beers are. Sake has a high alcohol content so serve wisely.


This is an ale with a rich, heavy top foam and large head. Porter has a sweeter taste than ale and might be enjoyed by women or people with a sweet tooth. Dry beer drinkers won't like it.


This is a special type of beer developed by the company that makes Anchor Steam. This beer has elements of both lager and ale. It tastes a little like both.


This is an extra dark, top fermenting brew. It has a very strong taste that often has a sweetness to it. It is mostly served on tap with a large, foamy head. It is dark as pitch and is rarely lighter in color. It is typically an Irish drink.

When you are serving your beer drinking patrons, you have many varieties to offer and knowing which is what helps a lot. You don't want to give certain people heavy beers with lots of alcohol as there are even moral factors involved in such a decision. Other folks will say they like a certain beer that you do not have and just knowing what others taste like it will help you guide them in choices. You don't want people leaving because you don't have a pilsner. Direct them to another golden colored dry beer and make them happy patrons who will stay on the stool awhile. If they are seeking draft beer and you just don't have a keg and spigot, then move them into a cold filtered beer instead.


There are a lot of imported beers and I simply do not know them all. There is even a number of specialty beers such as Samiclaussen, which is imported from Germany just for Christmas and sells for $30 a six. It is high in alcohol content. Domestically, there are also a large number of microbreweries today each with their own small labels and large variety of brands. There are flavored beers and beers that come with a lime. There are also a lot of people brewing their own home beers and serving them at parties. So I cannot even begin to imagine how many brands and types of beers are imported here every year. However, there are a number of high profile, popular beers that you should know the names of. You should also know what kind of beer they are and, from that knowledge, have a sketch of what they might taste like. Here is the list of the ones I know:

Fosters Lager from Australia- LAGER
Gosser Export from Austria- LAGER
Triple Abbey from Belgium- ALE
St. Sixtus from Belgium - ALE
Carling Black Horse from Canada - ALE
Labatts 50 from Canada - ALE
Labatts Crystal from Canada - LAGER
Labatts Blue from Canada - Pilsner
Molsons from Canada - ALE
Moosehead from Canada - PALE LAGER
Tsing Tao from China - PILSNER
Urquell from Czech Republic- PILSNER
Carlsberg Elephant from Denmark - LAGER
Kronenbourg 1664 from France- LAGER
33 Export Brew from France- LAGER
Becks from Germany - PALE LAGER
Becks Dark from Germany- DARK LAGER
Lowenbrau from Germany - LAGER
St. Pauli Girl from Germany - LAGER
Bass Pale Ale from Britain- PALE ALE
Newcastle Brown from Britain- ALE
Watney's Red Barrel from Britain- LAGER
Heineken from Holland - LAGER
Grolsch Natural from Holland - LAGER
Guiness Extra from Ireland- STOUT
Guiness Gold from Ireland- LAGER
Harp Lager from Ireland- LAGER
Red Stripe from Jamaica- LAGER
Kirin from Japan- LAGER
Sapporo from Japan - LAGER
Dos Equis XX from Mexico- AMBER LAGER
Corona from Mexico- PALE LAGER
Tecate Cerveza from Mexico- LAGER
Modelo Especial from Mexico - PILSNER
Sol Cerveza from Mexico - LAGER
Chihuahua from Mexico- PALE LAGER
Aas Bok from Norway - BOCK
Rignes Special from Norway - LAGER
Cardinal Beer from Switzerland- LAGER


Haacke Best
Wartech Brew

Beer Drinking and Serving Tips

Once you have decided which beer you wish to include in your home bar, you should give some thought to storage. Beer should always be stored upright in a refrigerator and away from light. Do not store it laying down on the top shelf just under the bulb! And never rechill it after removing it from the cooler. Once it warms up again it isn't any good anymore.

Beers should be served cold but not so cold that they are slushy. Beers should never be frozen. They are best at about 42 degrees F. Imported beers can be kept a little warmer, up to about 50 degrees F. Ales can be kept the warmest over time, up to about 55 degrees F.

Beer can be served in various glassware but traditional items include mugs, goblets and pilsner glasses. You can frost the glass before use by leaving them in the freezer overnight. I love a draft in a frozen mug any day of the week. Always pour a beer slowly into the glass and hold the glass at a slight tilt to keep the head from foaming over. Beer is best served with less than an inch of head.

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