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Craft Beer Cheat Sheet – What to Consider When Evaluating a Beer

craft beer

Craft beers have significantly increased in popularity in recent years, particularly in the United States. In fact, the U.S. has raised craft brewing to an art form. Connoisseurs and novices alike spend a considerable amount of time tasting and evaluating the wide variety of craft beers looking for distinguishing characteristics. If you are one of them, the team at Cheers All has created a “cheat sheet” to use when evaluating a craft beer.

Alcohol Content

  • Alcohol content can be sensed in the aroma, palate and flavor of a beer.
  • Ranges: not detectable, mild, noticeable, harsh
  • Alcohol ranges for beer vary from less than 3.2% to greater than 14% ABV (Alcohol by Volume -- A measurement of the alcohol content in terms of the percentage volume of alcohol per volume of beer.)

Brewing and Conditioning Process

Some of the variables you might encounter in the brewing and conditioning process include:

  • variable mashing
  • steeping
  • unique fermentation temperatures
  • multiple yeast additions
  • barrel aging and blending
  • dry hopping
  • bottle conditioned

Carbonation (CO2)

  • Carbonation is a primary ingredient in beer and is responsible for how heavy a beer feels on your tongue as well as temperature and texture.
  • Carbonation also creates the foam commonly found in beer.
  • Fermented yeast can cause natural carbonation or it can be added to beer under pressure. Nitrogen can even be added in place of CO2 to provide a different feel.
  • Ranges: none, slow, medium, fast rising bubbles

Clarity

  • Clarity refers to the degree to which solids (such as unfermented sugar, proteins, or yeast) in suspension – referred to as “turbidity” -- are absent in beer.
  • Ranges: brilliant, clear, slight haze, hazy, opaque

Color 

  • Standard Reference Method (SRM) provides a numerical range representing the color of a beer.
  • The common range of SRM is 2-50. The higher the SRM, the darker the beer. 
  • Examples: Very Light (1-1.5), Straw (2-3 SRM), Pale (4), Gold (5-6), Light Amber (7), Amber (8), Medium Amber (9), Copper/Garnet (10-12), Light Brown (13-15), Brown/Reddish Brown/Chestnut Brown (16-17), Dark Brown (18-24), Very Dark (25-39), Black (40+)

Glassware 

The type of glassware from which you drink a craft beer can impact the experience and enjoyment. Common glassware styles include:

  • Tulip – as the name implies, this glass is shaped like a tulip with stem at the bottom and a bulb shape that flares out at the top. 
  • Pilsner – this glass is tall and slender, widening slightly from the bottom to the top. 
  • Chalice – shaped much like its ancient pewter counterpart, the chalice has a round bowl on top supported by a thick stem on the bottom. 
  • British Imperial Pint – also referred to as a “nonic(k)” or “tumbler” this is the glass you will likely be drinking from if you order a pint of beer in a British pub. 
  • Weizen – this is a tall glass with thin walls. The glass flares slightly at the bottom and gradually widens toward the top. 

Hop Ingredients

  • The type of hops used will influence the aroma, flavor, bitterness, sweetness, and foam.
  • Flavor and aroma ranges: citrus, tropical, fruity, floral, herbal, onion-garlic, sweaty, spicy, woody, green, pine, spruce, resinous
  • Bitterness ranges: restrained, moderate, aggressive, harsh

Malt Ingredients

  • Malt is the primary fermentable ingredient in beer, providing the sugars that yeast use to create alcohol and carbonation.
  • Malt is converted barley or other grains that have been steeped, germinated, heated, kilned (or roasted in a drum), cooled, dried and then rested.
  • Flavor and aroma ranges:  bread flour, grainy, biscuit, bready, toast, caramel, prune-like, roast, chocolate, coffee, smoky, acrid

Palate

  • Palate refers to the non-taste sensations felt on the mouth and tongue when tasting a beer. 

Serving Temperature

  • A beer will typically provide an increase in perceived aromas and flavors if served warmer than a beer that is served at a cooler temperature.
  • Storage of draught beer should remain at 38° F to retain the level of carbonation created during fermentation.
  • Ales should usually be served at a warmer temperature (45-55° F) than their lager counterparts (40-45° F).

Yeast, Microorganisms and Fermentation Byproducts

  • Yeast eats sugars from malted barley and other fermentables, producing carbonation, alcohol and aromatic compounds. 
  • The flavor of yeast differs based on yeast strain, temperature, time exposed to the beer, oxygen and other variables.

Visit Our Website

If you are a craft beer drinker, visit the Cheers All website to purchase glassware and other merchandise geared toward beer lovers. 



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