Beer is an ever-changing beast! Sure, there is time honoured brewing traditions, fail-safe techniques and best practices, but when it comes to learning about it – there’s no such thing as stupid questions. With that in mind – here is the most Frequently Asked Questions About Beer :
Is All Craft Beer Cloudy?
The current trend in beer is “cloudy goodness” but is haze just a phase? IPA will always be the pinnacle of craft beer stylings. It can present as both cloudy and clear, but how does this affect the taste?
Is all craft beer cloudy ? The answer is NO! Many brewers are currently enjoying the trend of hazy IPA’s which originated on the East Coast of America. As a result the style is now defined as “hazy” or “clear”.
Hazy beers tend to be from smaller batch breweries and are largely unfiltered giving it a less than clear appearance. This can also be the case when beers contain wheat. Filtering can remove a lot of the flavour.
The haze is sediment in the brew, for the most part – yeast and protein left over from the process. It is also a sign of freshness in certain styles. If you get a hazy Hefeweissen or Belgian Strong Ale that is hazy this may be a bad batch or pour. Generally with Ales the clarity is a sign that the brew is ready to be tasted.
If the sediment is white and flaky this is usually a sign of bad beer and is probably not safe to consume.
Why Is Beer Foam Important?
Beer foam (or head) is the result of the carbon dioxide bubbles rising to the top of the glass, and bringing with it the wort, hops and yeast residue from the brew.
The importance of this action is that the taste and smell are enhanced and it facilitates the aroma of the beer to rise with it.
Generally the density of the brew informs the thickness and longevity of the foam. This is assuming you have a clean drinking vessel of course. Dirty glassware can produce no foam or (if there are foreign bodies stuck to the inside of it) too much foam. Contamination is no joke, folks.
Apart from looking aesthetically pleasing there are many benefits for having a head on your beverage but opinion on exactly how much foam changes country to country and style to style. In places like Japan and the Philippines it’s customery to give a good bit of foam whereas in the UK we feel like we’re getting shortchanged some of our pint. Australia currently holds the record for “DON’T YOU BLOODY DARE” when it comes to headless beers.
How Much Beer Is In A Keg?
“In recent times, a keg is often constructed of stainless steel. It is commonly used to store, transport, and serve beer. Other alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, carbonated or non-carbonated, may be housed in a keg as well. Carbonated drinks are generally kept under pressure in order to maintain carbon dioxide in solution, preventing the beverage from becoming flat.”Wikipedia
Let’s not get all philosophical about this one, but it all depends on the size of the keg. Kegs (much like people) come in many shapes and sizes but for the most-part there are recognized industry standards of dimensions.
How much beer is in a keg ? 88 pints (from a 50 Litre / 11 Gallon keg )
These are American measurements obviously but the long and short answer (for folks on this side of the pond) is around 88 pints from a 50 Litre / 11 Gallon keg. This is traditionally the size in most bars. That’s not counting “spillage” or as we like to call it – “pints for the band”.
Is the keg half empty or half full? That’s the real question…
What Is Cask Beer?
If you ever hear anyone talk about cask ale (or cask-conditioned beer) and wondered what language they are speaking then this is for you :
Cask ale is an ale that has been conditioned but not filtered or pasteurised. It is fermented twice and served from the cask without additional carbon dioxide. The result is a matured flavour and also makes up part of the brewing process. This is commonly referred to as “real ale”.
The second fermentation of casked beer occurs when it is transferred to the cask itself. This is the only real difference with keg beer. Dry hops are added to give the brew a more floral taste. Keg beer is filtered before it enters the keg and is ready to drink.
Cask beer is essentially a living beer which is why it has such a short lifespan. Cask ale should ideally be consumed within 3 days of initially tapping – this ensures that the ale hasn’t deteriorated past its best before window. How a real ale tastes is as much the responsibility of the brewer as it is the landlord. Ensuring the correct transporting, storage and tapping of the beer is crucial to the serving. Cask beer tends to be less fizzy and tends to be served at a cooler temperature than regular pump beers.
It is typically local as it has such a short shelf life. It is considered the most natural way to brew and taste a beer as the flavour tends to be more full and unique and tends to pair better with food than keg beer.
How to Talk About Beer Without Sounding Like A Tool
Admittedly this is a lot tougher to do than initially imagined. It has always been my ethos to talk about brews in “real terms with no pretentious waffle”, but occasionally even I venture into the realms of snobbery to borrow phrases for my own nefarious purposes.
With that in mind I’ve put together a simple guide for dummies like me :
Dark / Light : This is not exclusively used for discussing the colour but predominantly. You’ll see it in mostly red ales, stouts, porters and the like. Or occasionally a wicked dirty beer. Opacity is definitely a factor.
Heavy / Medium / Light : Again this is not exclusively used for taste or “mouthfeel” but predominantly so. It all depends on the context. It is useful for describing the fullness of flavour.
Malty: Refers to the malted barley (or malt taste), much like with coffee beans it can describe the roast taste ranging from light to dark.
Hoppy: Hops dictates the “mustiness” of a beer. As in – how musty it is, not I MUST have one of those…. It’s a very distinct flavour and can be described as citrusy, floral and grassy.
Bitter: This is probably one of the simplest descriptions. Is it bitter? Think Lemons, Limes, super sour Haribo.
Fruity: Again, lets not get too bogged down with this one. Does it taste like fruit? (Also see : Hops)
Spicy: Is there a distinct flavour of cloves? Tobasco? Cinnamon? (I don’t know what you’re drinking)
Acidity : Does it taste like vinegar?
Aggressive / Overpowering / Harsh : This is when the flavour is intense and liable to start a fight.
Smooth : Texture and flavour.
Rich : How much money the brew has. A good way to measure the fullness of the flavour.
Crisp : The bite of the brew.
Refreshing : Sometimes accompanied by Crisp and refers to the thirst-quenching nature of the brew.