ome people think beer is beer. Though tautologically true, those in the know—regular readers of this column—understand there are many styles of beer available other than mass-marketed macrobrews. These everyday aficionados have asked that I write about how beer is served, about the gas and the glass.
Can I get some to go? Why does a weiss beer come in a tall glass with a lemon? Why is it so bubbly? What’s with the goblet?
Every month I try to suggest how each brew might be presented. Now it’s time I put it all in one place.
Some beer is infused with carbon dioxide or nitrogen as it is tapped, bottled or canned, thus its effervescence.
Excess yeasts in bottle-conditioned beers gobble extra sugars, which produce the carbon dioxide that dissolves into solution. Once opened and poured, the bubbles burble forth in an attempt to equalize the ambient atmospheric pressure.
A beer engine draws draft from a keg by a pump as opposed to being propelled.
Certain styles are enhanced with extra body and mouthfeel when nitrogen is infused instead of carbon dioxide.
Cask-conditioned numbers are served semi-still.
Ales are often served at room temperature in pint glasses, their higher alcohol content to be savored. Special treatment should be given to Belgians and other aromatics—a snifter or goblet will capture their essential esters.
Lagers are fermented cold, so serve them that way. Drink a lager lustily from a thin-walled glass to enjoy its crisp flavors and lighter color and body.
Fruit flavors find their way into beer sometimes. Many drinkers falsely assume scents and tastes ascend from fruit itself as opposed to coming from cagey combinations of hops, malts and yeasts.
Get a glassful of fresh local brew, then pack some out by the six—or by the growler. Bottles kept cold will be good for weeks; brown ones will keep your beer’s hops from being skunked by damaging light-spectra. Drink an unopened growler within a few days. And believe me, the last thing you want to do is take it in the can.
Beer is the best alternative recipe ingredient … ever. Use an ale instead of water or wine to start a soup or a sauce; it’s great to deglaze a sauté, too. Lagers make a miracle marinade for brats and create a base for celebrated chili. Stouts, porters and fruit beers are astounding in cheesecakes and other desserts.
Arrange a session with your favorite local brewmaster for a brewery tour and a taste of the same style served different ways. Or get a growler and some bottles and try them side-by-side. Compile tasting notes to capture some of the complexities and nuances.