Learning about beer doesn’t have to be hard, in fact it can actually be pretty fun. It’s with this idea in mind that today we’re starting a new weekly series on beer knowledge. In this “lesson” and the ones to follow, you’ll learn everything from the basic idea of what beer is to the specifics behind pouring the perfect pint and even picking out off flavors and aromas. If you follow along with the post series you should finish it with a better understanding about what beer is and how it works as well as a more well-rounded knowledge base to expand your learning.
In this, the first part in our series we’ll look at the basics of beer including what beer is, what beer is made from, and why beer tastes the way it does. We’re definitely starting out with the basics, so don’t be surprised if you know some or most of what’s below.
If, however, you’re looking for the lowest level to start learning about beer on, then this is the place for you. Either way, we’ll kick things off short and simple and get you on board with what exactly beer is.
What is Beer?
In its most simple form, beer is an alcoholic drink made from fermented malt and flavored with hops. To be considered a beer in the legal sense today, the beverage needs to have these four ingredients:
These ingredients, when combined correctly, make the drink we all love, and together become far more than the sum of their parts. While many beer will have more ingredients than these basic four, these are what every beer out there has to start with.
Beer is the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, and is the third most popular drink in the world overall. In short, beer is pretty popular.
Beer can best be described as two opposing forces looking for a some level of balance. On one side you have malt, which is generally malted barley, that adds sugars for fermentation and overall body and sweetness to the beer and on the other side you have hops, which add bitterness to beer. While this is definitely a simplification of the process, it’s a great place to start. Sweeter beers tend to be referred to as “malty” while more bitter beers tend to be called “hoppy.” Are these the correct terms for what’s being tasted? Not always, but again, it’s a great place to start.
Later on we’ll get to some more specifics of both the ingredients and properly tasting and describing beer, but for now, knowing this is a great start.
Generally speaking, beer is a carbonated, fermented beverage that can range in alcohol content from as low as 1-3% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) to 15-20% ABV and beyond. While these are both extremes, you’ll find most craft beers fall in the 4.5% to 10% ABV range with an average around 6.5% ABV.
There’s obviously far more to beer than this, and we’ll get to all of those specifics in future posts. For now though, if someone asks you what beer is, you’ll have a pretty good and well-educated answer.
In the next lesson we’ll look at the basics of brewing to better understand the finished product.