How to: drink beer

Pretty much every time I go out for beers with my friend Sarah, I go, “Wait, what are hops? Are those the ones I like? Do I like lager? What’s an ale?” I don’t know why. She has never claimed to know very much about beer.

The original idea for this post was: It’s hot out this week and I don’t feel like cooking. I should do a “How to: drink beer” post and it will be like, open a beer and put it in your mouth. But then I realized that was dumb and not funny.

I spent a while today reading pretty much every single beer article on The Kitchn, and now I am a beer expert. (I also read this extraordinarily awesome Men’s Health slideshow.) I know things like:

-Hops are the flowers of the hop plant (related to hemp); they make things bitter. (Dear self, for future reference, you really like hops.)
-Lager is like normal beer—Budweiser, Miller, etc. (There are good lagers out there, though!) They are made with bottom-fermenting yeast, and they ferment at colder temperatures. Lagers are described as crisp, clean, etc.
-In contrast, ales are made with top-fermenting yeast and are “robust” and “complex.” (They are better than lagers. But NO JUDGMENT.)
-IPAs (India Pale Ale) are hoppy ales. I like them. A lot. They are hoppy because hops are a preservative, and they were brewed to withstand the trip from England to India (by boat, back in the day). Pale ales in general are made with paler malt—less roasted. I can’t even get into malt right now. OK, fine:
-Malt is actually malted barley. That is pretty much all I comprehend about malt. I don’t even know if it’s the same stuff as in bagels. Hold on. OK. Malt is “the term used for maltose sugar extracted from sprouted barley,” according to Epicurious (trustworthy). So it seems like it is probably the same thing. (Update: It’s the next day and I am still ridiculously confused by this. Help.)

I have totally lost the thread of this post. Right now I’m drinking Tenacious Traveler, from the House of Shandy Beer Co. It tastes like ginger and lemon (it tastes more like a shandy—beer+lemonade—than it does like beer); it’s really, really weird. You can’t really taste anything other than the ginger and lemon. I am mostly just mystified by the fact that they had it in my utterly sketchy East Harlem bodega. I’ve never heard of it before. But the label has a guy with a mustache, so that’s nice.

I have a very minor obsession with seasonal beer, so I may start commenting on them here. (The minor obsession just means that I usually get the seasonal beer when it’s on tap. But I think everyone does this. Also, this is more true in the fall, when I am on the ever-important quest for pumpkin beer.) Good night.

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5 thoughts on “How to: drink beer

  1. My favorite pumpkin beer ever is Dogfish Head’s “Punkin’ Ale.” So, look for that one next fall?

    Also, COOL FACT: Ballast Point makes an “IPL” by starting with IPA ingredients and proportions, but fermenting them with lager-like yeast and at lager-like temperatures. The result is something with the mouthfeel and crispness of a lager but most of the flavors of an IPA. I bring this up because I think it splits the difference between yours and Sarah’s beer aesthetics, and because drinking it is a sweet way to conceptualize the lager/ale distinction since you get to see what’s contributed by the yeast/temperature and what’s contributed by the variety/amount of hops.

    • Yesss, I will! I still have not found a good pumpkin beer. Only lots of pretty bad ones.

      That is really cool! It would also be ideal if Sarah and I ever needed to split a six-pack. I am very curious about this now.

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