is a member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers and a two time
winner of their Quil &
Tankard writing award.
Vince's column is now a
regular feature of
|Ever notice how some things that sound true really aren’t while other things that seem ridiculously false are actually
legit? Even the wondrous world of beer is not immune from misconceptions, falsehoods, and fake facts. Don’t
believe me? Try these on for size:
Some beers are bad. FALSE
Beer and bad may both start with the same letter but my many years of study has shown me that those two words
should not appear next to each other. It’s not that some beers are bad it’s just that some aren’t as good as others.
Think about it – is Budweiser really bad? Just because there are thousands of beers with more flavor doesn’t mean
that anyone, including beer judges, Cicerones, and geeks, who haven’t had a sip of water since losing their canteen
ten days earlier while crossing the Sahara desert on foot, with several dozen vultures flying over their head would
turn down a pint of golden liquid made by the King of Beer because it was bad beer.
Books about beer are always interesting. FALSE
If the book has a title like “The Breweries of (pick any state, country, or region)” or “The Great Beers of Wherever”
then get ready for a snooze fest. Double that if it’s a coffee table sized tome. These books usually just list the
name of a brewery, highlight a few beers they no longer make, stick in a few words about the history of the place
supplied by the brewery’s owner, and then wrap the section up with a few nice pictures from National Geographic,
copyright be dammed. Having read a few too many of them I can categorically say that their plot and character
development are less than scintillating.
Some people simply don’t like beer and never will. TRUE and FALSE
The fact is that there are a substantial number of people who don’t like beer and even more if you include Coors
Light drinkers. That however doesn’t mean they never will. Think of them as lost souls wandering around in search
of the one true brew of their life. Beer has so many styles and variations with variations that there is one somewhere
that even the most ardent beer foe will embrace. For example if someone enjoys a full-bodied red wine they should
try a Flanders Red Ale or Lambic. It has the acidity and dark fruit flavors of a red wine. If a person prefers knocking
down the bubbly then give them a glass of a Wild Ale or a tart Berliner Weisse. Just say Happy New Year, throw a
few streamers in the air, and they won’t know it’s not a 1961 vintage Dom Perignon For bourbon drinkers almost any
bourbon barrel aged beer will hit the spot and for those who simply don’t drink alcohol, well, let them buy you a beer
so they don’t have to drink it.
Beer should not be served warm. TRUE
Warm is not the same as chilled or cellar temperature. Warm is best for milk before bed and soup you don’t want to
burn your mouth on. Beer is best served chilled which would be 45-50 degrees for most styles. Warm beer however
is rarely a problem, instead the opposite is true – the beer is too cold. It’s a fact that most bars in the US serve beer
around 38 degrees. Even savvy bar experts often buy into that temperature. In one episode of the TV show Bar
Rescue (highly recommended) the renowned host Jon Taffer boasts how his newly installed tap system pours beer
“properly cold at 34 degrees”. In Mr. Tapper’s defense, the bars he works with usually feature macro lagers where
the taste bud numbing effects of the near frozen liquid are not a problem since there’s nothing to taste in the beer.
Bonus Tip – when you get a beer that’s too cold (and you will) cup both hands around it in what some beer folks call
the “Katz Cradle”. It might take a few minutes but it’s worth the frostbite.
Better Bonus Tip- order two of the beers and let one sit to warm while you drink the other.
Draft beer is better than in the bottle. FALSE
Wait, I mean TRUE but not always. If something is only partly true it must be false, right? Too much philosophy for
me; you decide. To me draft beer is better than beer in the bottle since it is fresher BUT the draft system pumping
that fresh beer into your glass is not a sterile situation. All sorts of bacteria with disgusting names that are impossible
to spell or pronounce can be lingering in the lines waiting to change your beer into movie theater popcorn butter with
a vinegar topping. And even if the lines themselves are clean more unluscious flavors with equally unpronounceable
names can come from dirty tap faucets. When is that last time you saw a bartender cleaning those?
The basic lesson here is that if you don’t trust the bar – meaning it’s dirty and the beer lines are likely too – then
order a bottle or can. You don’t need all that extra bacteria; remember that’s what killed the Martins in War of the
Beers from Belgium monasteries are brewed by monks. FALSE
I was a big fan of the Monk TV show which has nothing to do with this. Still, I always wondered if he stopped being a
detective and became a real monk would he be addressed at Monk Monk? Enough hilarity, back to business. The
great majority of beers often called “Monastery Beers” or “Abbey Ales” are not brewed by monks. They’re usually
made by large corporations, even including highly regarded brews from Leffe and Grimbergen and their like. To
separate the wanna be clerics from the real monks there is now a law in Belgium that true “Trappist” beers must be
produced within monasteries walls with active participation of actual monks. Only then will the brewery be allowed to
display the official Trappist seal on their products. There is one caveat to even the legitimate Trappist beers – the
monks are not obliged to personally brew the beer on their own. In fact it is very common that Trappist breweries
(there are six in Belgium) employ regular workers. That fact explains why if you splash a Trappist beer on a vampire
he will not burn away into a pile of dust. Stick with the Trappist Holy Water (zero IBUs and zero ABV) for ultimate
If you buy beer warm store it warm, only chill it when ready for use. FALSE
Does anyone still believe this yarn? Well just in case, be aware that the less time beer spends warm the better.
Every beer will lose (or change) flavor over time; keeping it cold slows that process down. Unfortunately that remedy
doesn’t work with people or we’d all move to Siberia.
That begs the question, why can you walk into any retailer in the country and find bottle after bottle, six pack after six
pack, case after case of beer stored on shelves, floors and in the back rooms waiting for you to buy? The answer is
simple – they don’t have the space to keep it all cold.
Obviously you often have no choice but to buy warm beer. Not to worry as long as its date shows it is fresh (no more
than a month or so for an IPA); just get it into a fridge and you’ll be fine. If the can/bottle has no date then you’re
rolling the dice on quality. I’m always amazed that brewers and distributors think we craft consumers don’t care about
dates. Beer can get stale just like anything else, which explains why only some beers benefit from aging. I used to
carry around a sheet explaining the obscure dating codes some breweries put on their products. I now use a simpler
process. If it doesn’t have a date, has one that isn’t in normal form, or is smudged beyond recognition (intentionally
says my conspiratorial mind) I don’t buy it. It makes things so much easier and has saved me a few dollars since
pouring a stale beer out is literally pouring money down the drain.
Warm Beer Corollary - It’s okay to re-re-refrigerate beer. TRUE
You put beer in the fridge and then for some silly reason like having to put vital foodstuffs there, you take it out.
When room appears you put the beer back in only to find later you have to take it out again before eventually putting
it back in. Clearly your big mistake was not drinking it in the first place but things happen so don’t worry. Craft beer,
even the unpasteurized ones, will not be harmed by doing this dance. Beer can handle the change in temperature
far better than most things including humans who inevitably get sick with every minor shift in the weather. The
reason is that beer is as stable as almost any other nonperishable food item. Of course none of this is true if you re-
refrigerate the beer several hundred times over the course of moving back and forth from Death Valley to Fairbanks,
Alaska. Relatively minor changes like 40 to 75 degrees are not big deals.
Be aware however that if the beer is made in Colorado, is brewed cold, cold filtered, transported cold in a Slver Bullet
train you should probably keep it cold. The best way to do that is to leave it in the store cooler and buy something
made by your local craft brewer.
BONUS SECTION –
Buying a large bottle of craft beer is cost effective compared to six or four pack. FALSE
This was once true: as the package got larger the price got cheaper. Today, almost across the board, you’ll pay a
cheaper price per ounce when buying a six-pack than when purchasing a bomber or growler. But tell the truth, which
is more impressive to give as a gift, bring to a party, or to drink on the subway – a six pack or a big bottle? Cost isn’t
everything you know.
Beer is the perfect complement to pizza so -
One 18 inch pizza is more pizza than two 12 inch pizzas. TRUE
If a pizza has a diameter of 18 inches that means it has an area of 254.47 square inches (I’m guessing).
If a pizza has a diameter of 12 inches then it has an area of 113.1 square inches. If you get two of them you’re at
226.2 square inches which is less than the one 18 inch pizza.
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