Don't know a pilsner from a lager? Here's a primer:
- Among the many choices of beer are lager beer, pilsner or light lager beer, light beer, premium beer, dark lager or Munich-type beer, bock beer, keg beer, nonalcoholic beer, and alcohol-free beer.
- Most beers produced in the United States are lager beers. They usually range between 3.2 and 4.0 percent alcohol. Pilsner or light lager beers are lighter in color than regular lager beer.
- Don't confuse the term light lager beer with light beer, which usually has about half the calories of regular beer (brands will vary in their alcoholic content). Premium beer often simply refers to a particular brewer's best beer.
- Imported beers are often more bitter than American beers. Dark lager or Munich-type beers are heavy and rich-tasting. They're chocolate brown in color. Bock beer is a special brew of heavy beer, somewhat darker and sweeter than regular beer. It's made in the winter, especially for the six-week-long bock beer season that beer lovers date as the beginning of spring. The alcohol content may be more than double that of lager beers.
- Although the term nonalcoholic beer suggests that it is completely free of alcohol, it isn't necessarily so. By law, nonalcoholic beer must contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol. Don't look for the word beer on the label. These types of beer are called malt beverages, cereal beverages, or near beer.
- Only malt beverages with no alcohol whatsoever may display the term alcohol-free beer. Typically made without fermentation, this product gets its beer taste from natural flavorings.
You can buy both domestic and imported beers in either cans or bottles. Some kinds of beers also come in kegs. Keg beer offers a fresher flavor than bottle or can beer since the keg beer hasn't been pasteurized to kill the yeast.
Storing beer properly is important because it's perishable. Keep bottled beer in a dark, cool place, out of direct sunlight. Canned beer also needs cool surroundings, but is unaffected by light. Keg beer must be kept constantly at about 45 degrees so the yeast won't start working again.
- Most beers are a good companion to just about any food except dessert; they're especially good with spicy foods. Dark lager beer, however, should be limited to strong-flavored, hearty foods.
- Beer is best served at about 45 degrees for the lighter varieties and about 50 degrees for the heavier varieties.
- For quick chilling, place the beer containers in a deep tub of ice.
There's a certain technique to pouring beer. Some people like a high foamy head; others, however, prefer a short one. By varying the distance between the can or bottle and the glass as well as the angle of the glass, you can vary the height of the head. Pouring too fast may cause overfoaming. To keep the head, use a glass with a narrower bottom than top. And use a sparkling clean glass; a smudge of grease on a glass will ruin even the frothiest head.
For a change of pace from plain beer, serve a cocktail made from beer. Starting with a chilled tall glass of chilled beer, add one of the following: 3 tablespoons rye whiskey, 3 tablespoons gin or vodka, or 1 tablespoon lime juice. Or, half-fill a chilled tall glass with chilled beer and add one of the following: chilled regular or hot-style tomato juice, chilled orange juice, or chilled ginger ale.