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18 Things Every Beer Drinker Needs To Know

Netflix and (don't over-) chill.

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Rebecca Hendin / Brendan Macneill / BuzzFeed

1. Get to know what you're drinking.

Brendan MacNeill
Brendan MacNeill

"We're often asked the difference between the various types of beer we produce," says Dougal Sharp, master brewer and founder of Edinburgh-based craft beer company Innis & Gunn. “Lager tends to be pale, light, and fizzy, while ale tends to be a heavier, darker, not always fizzy. India pale ale refers to a lightly hopped, pale beer. Porter is a dark beer made using roasted malt or barley, hops, water, and yeast."

By learning the various terms, you're more likely to discover a variety you truly love.

2. Try to get the serving temperature right.

Dougal explains: "Generally lager, craft beer, and draft stouts tend to be served at about 6 degrees. You’ll get that effect by just sticking it in the fridge at home. Real ales in the bottle and on draft tend to be about 10 degrees, but the best thing to do is experiment and find what your preferred temperature is."
Brendan MacNeill

Dougal explains: "Generally lager, craft beer, and draft stouts tend to be served at about 6 degrees. You’ll get that effect by just sticking it in the fridge at home. Real ales in the bottle and on draft tend to be about 10 degrees, but the best thing to do is experiment and find what your preferred temperature is."

3. You should never put ice in your beer.

Ice might be refreshing in cider, but don't put it in beer. "If you want your beer to stay cold while you're drinking it, put it in a thin-walled glass so it doesn’t absorb as much heat," says Dougal. "If you're not able to wait 15 minutes for a beer to cool down in a freezer, pop it in an ice bucket instead as that works more quickly."
Brendan MacNeill

Ice might be refreshing in cider, but don't put it in beer. "If you want your beer to stay cold while you're drinking it, put it in a thin-walled glass so it doesn’t absorb as much heat," says Dougal. "If you're not able to wait 15 minutes for a beer to cool down in a freezer, pop it in an ice bucket instead as that works more quickly."

4. Beer won't necessarily give you a "beer belly".

Dougal explains: "It's a myth that beer is far more calorific than other drinks. Millilitre for millilitre an average beer has fewer calories than semi-skimmed milk, red wine, or orange juice. But of course you wouldn’t drink 10 glasses of orange juice, which is where the notion of a "beer belly" comes from. If you drink 10 pints of beer you’re going to end up pretty bloated, but the same goes for other alcoholic drinks." The general rule of thumb is the stronger the beer, the more calories you're consuming. You can reduce this by choosing lighter beers in the 3-3.5% range, though these do tend to be less flavourful than stronger beers and stouts.
Brendan MacNeill

Dougal explains: "It's a myth that beer is far more calorific than other drinks. Millilitre for millilitre an average beer has fewer calories than semi-skimmed milk, red wine, or orange juice. But of course you wouldn’t drink 10 glasses of orange juice, which is where the notion of a "beer belly" comes from. If you drink 10 pints of beer you’re going to end up pretty bloated, but the same goes for other alcoholic drinks."

The general rule of thumb is the stronger the beer, the more calories you're consuming. You can reduce this by choosing lighter beers in the 3-3.5% range, though these do tend to be less flavourful than stronger beers and stouts.

5. If you've tended to stick to lager in the past, try to experiment.

Brendan MacNeill
Brendan MacNeill

"For a long time, beer has dominated with one style which is cold, fizzy, and refreshing," says Dougal, who has over 30 years' experience in the brewing industry and started working in his father's brewery at the age of 14.

"If you've only had supermarket lager in the past, it's like saying 'I only like white wine' without having tried red wine. You're missing out on a lot of flavour and variety if you don't try other varieties of beer like porters, real ales, and craft brews. It's like the difference between instant and freshly ground coffee."

6. Flavoured beers are a great alternative to cider.

Innis & Gunn
Linda Hughes / Getty

Even if you're not a fan of traditional beer varieties, you might find you enjoy unusual brews that have been flavoured with various fruits, spices, or even chocolate. There are a lot of options out there.

"We flavour our beer by maturing it in bourbon casks. It's a similar process to the way whisky is aged and it gives it a lovely toffee, caramel, and vanilla richness," says Dougal. "For our white oak wheat beer, we peeled 3,000 bergamot oranges and added them to the beer, then finished it with a bit of blood orange juice."

7. Or, if you're feeling bold, you can use beer in a cocktail.

Teenage experiments with lager and lime aside, it's perfectly acceptable to mix beer and other ingredients. "It's certainly not a faux pas to use beer as a mixer," says Dougal. "In fact we sell a range of beer cocktails in our Edinburgh Beer Kitchen, as well as boilermakers: shots that compliment the flavour of individual beers. Adding flavours and ingredients to your beer can be massively successful." Read on for some beer cocktail recipes.
Innis & Gunn

Teenage experiments with lager and lime aside, it's perfectly acceptable to mix beer and other ingredients. "It's certainly not a faux pas to use beer as a mixer," says Dougal. "In fact we sell a range of beer cocktails in our Edinburgh Beer Kitchen, as well as boilermakers: shots that compliment the flavour of individual beers. Adding flavours and ingredients to your beer can be massively successful."

Read on for some beer cocktail recipes.

8. Don't hang on to beer too long as it can go off.

Innis & Gunn
Brendan MacNeill

The freshness period for a lager is around four months, and around five for stronger craft beers, so it's best to drink beer when its at its freshest; don't store bottled beer like wine. "We actually bring in our very freshest lager immediately from the brewery as soon as it's ready and store it in supercooled tanks here in our Beer Kitchen to make sure it's in peak condition," says Dougal.

9. Strong beers can be delicious, but don't go crazy.

Brendan MacNeill
Brendan MacNeill

Some craft beers and ales are as strong as wine, or even stronger. Dougal says: "In general the more alcohol content there is, the more flavourful the beer, so a lot of people in the craft beer movement are increasing alcohol. All of our beers tend to be in the 5.5-7% range, but we serve them in smaller bottles and a nice glass so you can savour and enjoy it, much as you would a glass of 13% wine."

In short, don't be afraid to try strong beers, but treat them with respect and drink them in moderation for the flavour as much as the alcohol content.

10. Beer goes well with food, but pick the right variety for the meal you're eating.

Brendan MacNeill
Brendan MacNeill

"Beer goes with pizza, it's great with curry, in fact it goes with practically anything as it's so varied and versatile," says Dougal. "However, if you’re going to match beer and food, match the intensity of flavour. If you’ve got a strongly flavoured beer, match it with a strongly flavoured food. If you have a lightly flavoured food, like fish, match it with a pale ale, wheat, or light beer.

"For example, our rum finish beer goes really well with cheese, and a porter or stout is great with rich, spicy, hearty meals like treacle tart, or a sausage cassoulet."

11. So here's how to pour a perfect craft beer. Start by picking a tulip-shaped or tapered glass.

"The ideal shape of glass for craft beer is tapered or tulip-shaped, says Dougal. "But if you haven't got one then pick a nice big wine glass instead. The shape will concentrate the tastes and aromas far better than a straight-sided glass. You should also make sure it's clean, cold, and dry: not straight out of the dishwasher."
Brendan MacNeill

"The ideal shape of glass for craft beer is tapered or tulip-shaped, says Dougal. "But if you haven't got one then pick a nice big wine glass instead. The shape will concentrate the tastes and aromas far better than a straight-sided glass. You should also make sure it's clean, cold, and dry: not straight out of the dishwasher."

12. But don't freeze your glass.

Brendan MacNeill
Victor Burnside / Getty

Freezing your glass shouldn't be necessary if your beer has been in the fridge. Also, frosted glasses can cause beer to foam, which can make them go flat more quickly and also reduce the range of flavours and aromas.

13. Don't tip your glass when pouring.

You've probably had it drilled into you that you have to tip your glass when pouring beer, but that isn't always the case. Dougal explains: "If you pour craft beer or ale directly down into the glass you get a great gas rise, all the bubbles come out, go through the beer and lift up this lovely blanket of flavour. The difference is massive, as you’ll taste the individual flavours so much more."
Brendan Mac Neill

You've probably had it drilled into you that you have to tip your glass when pouring beer, but that isn't always the case. Dougal explains: "If you pour craft beer or ale directly down into the glass you get a great gas rise, all the bubbles come out, go through the beer and lift up this lovely blanket of flavour. The difference is massive, as you’ll taste the individual flavours so much more."

14. Give the beer a bit of a swirl before tasting.

"Craft beer and ale makers spend ages perfecting the flavours and aromas in our beer. There’s a time and a place for chugging beer, but when you have a more interesting beer, take the time to enjoy it, treat yourself to a good experience. Swirl the glass, stick your nose in, and smell the beer before tasting; you’ll be amazed by how much more flavour you’d pick up."
Brendan MacNeill

"Craft beer and ale makers spend ages perfecting the flavours and aromas in our beer. There’s a time and a place for chugging beer, but when you have a more interesting beer, take the time to enjoy it, treat yourself to a good experience. Swirl the glass, stick your nose in, and smell the beer before tasting; you’ll be amazed by how much more flavour you’d pick up."

15. Don't down it: Try to savour the flavour.

"A particularly nice way to taste beer is to shut your mouth after the first sip and breathe out through your nose, and even chew slightly. You look a bit strange doing this but it really brings out the various flavors of the beer right at the back of your palate. You can pick up a huge number of delicious individual elements that you wouldn’t be able to taste otherwise."
Brendan MacNeill

"A particularly nice way to taste beer is to shut your mouth after the first sip and breathe out through your nose, and even chew slightly. You look a bit strange doing this but it really brings out the various flavors of the beer right at the back of your palate. You can pick up a huge number of delicious individual elements that you wouldn’t be able to taste otherwise."

16. Or if you fancy something a bit different, try a gin, pink grapefruit, and beer cocktail.

You will need: ice, 25ml of gin (Innis & Gunn recommends Pickering's), Earl Grey tea syrup, 50ml pink grapefruit juice, wheat beer, and a wedge of pink grapefruit.Directions:1. Pour 25ml of gin over ice into a tall glass. 2. Add 50ml pink grapefruit juice.3. Add a dash of sugar syrup infused with Earl Grey tea (recipe here).4. Top with Innis & Gunn White Oak Wheat Beer if available, or another variety of wheat beer (such as Blue Moon) if not.5. Stir gently to mix.6. Finish with a wedge of pink grapefruit.
Brendan MacNeill

You will need: ice, 25ml of gin (Innis & Gunn recommends Pickering's), Earl Grey tea syrup, 50ml pink grapefruit juice, wheat beer, and a wedge of pink grapefruit.

Directions:

1. Pour 25ml of gin over ice into a tall glass.

2. Add 50ml pink grapefruit juice.

3. Add a dash of sugar syrup infused with Earl Grey tea (recipe here).

4. Top with Innis & Gunn White Oak Wheat Beer if available, or another variety of wheat beer (such as Blue Moon) if not.

5. Stir gently to mix.

6. Finish with a wedge of pink grapefruit.

17. Or a bourbon, black cherry, and beer cocktail.

You will need: ice, 25 ml of bourbon (Innis & Gunn recommends Maker's Mark), the juice of half a lemon, two teaspoons of sugar, some Innis & Gunn original, and some black cherry jam.Directions:1. Pour 25ml of bourbon into a cocktail shaker.2. Add the juice of half a lemon and about two teaspoons of sugar or sugar syrup.3. Add a spoonful of black cherry jam.4. Shake with ice for 30 seconds.6. Strain over ice and top with Innis & Gunn Original or similar ale.7. Garnish with a strip of lemon zest.
Brendan MacNeill

You will need: ice, 25 ml of bourbon (Innis & Gunn recommends Maker's Mark), the juice of half a lemon, two teaspoons of sugar, some Innis & Gunn original, and some black cherry jam.

Directions:

1. Pour 25ml of bourbon into a cocktail shaker.

2. Add the juice of half a lemon and about two teaspoons of sugar or sugar syrup.

3. Add a spoonful of black cherry jam.

4. Shake with ice for 30 seconds.

6. Strain over ice and top with Innis & Gunn Original or similar ale.

7. Garnish with a strip of lemon zest.

18. Or even a vodka, apple, and beer cocktail.

You will need: Fresh ginger, 25ml of Stolichnaya vodka, 50ml of cloudy apple juice, Innis & Gunn Original.Directions:1. Lightly crush 3 thin slices of fresh ginger at the bottom of a tall glass.2. Add this to 25ml of vodka. 3. Muddle in the apple juice.4. Lengthen with Innis & Gunn Original or similar.5. Stir gently and top garnish with a further slice of ginger.
Brendan MacNeill

You will need: Fresh ginger, 25ml of Stolichnaya vodka, 50ml of cloudy apple juice, Innis & Gunn Original.

Directions:

1. Lightly crush 3 thin slices of fresh ginger at the bottom of a tall glass.

2. Add this to 25ml of vodka.

3. Muddle in the apple juice.

4. Lengthen with Innis & Gunn Original or similar.

5. Stir gently and top garnish with a further slice of ginger.

H/t Innis & Gunn, The Beer Kitchen, and Dougal Sharp.

Also Anna Daniels, BDA spokesperson and Freelance Dietitian (Twitter: @thedietitian) for additional support and information.