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What Bartenders Should Know about Beer

Every bartender will inevitably come into contact with beer. Beer is an exceptionally popular alcoholic drink. Following are the different types of beer and some tips on how they should be served.

Types of beer

You've probably seen some of the following terms on beer labels, or maybe you've heard them in beer commercials:

  • Ale is top-fermented beer. It's a little bitter, usually tastes hoppy, and generally has a higher alcohol content than lagers.

  • Bitter beer is a strong ale — usually English — with, as the name implies, a bittersweet taste.

  • Bock beer is a dark, strong, slightly sweet lager brewed from caramelized malt.

  • Ice beer is brewed at colder-than-normal temperatures and then chilled to below freezing, forming crystals. The crystals are filtered out, leaving a smoother-tasting beer with a slightly higher alcohol content.

  • Lager is a bottom-fermented beer stored at very low (cold) temperatures for a long period of time (several months). The word lager is German for “to store.”

  • Lambic beer is brewed in Belgium. Ingredients such as peaches, raspberries, cherries, and wheat are added during the brewing process.

  • Light beer has fewer calories and less alcohol.

  • Low-calorie beer has even fewer calories than light beer (and some would say even less flavor). These beers generally have 55 to 65 calories per serving.

  • Malt liquor is fermented at a higher temperature than other beers, which results in a higher alcohol content.

  • Pilsner is a light, hoppy, dry lager.

  • Sake is beer brewed and processed from rice. (Some consider sake a wine.) Sake is served warm or at room temperature.

  • Stout is an ale produced from heavily roasted barley. It's darker in color and has a slightly bitter flavor.

  • Trappist beer is brewed in Belgium or the Netherlands by Trappist monks. It contains high levels of alcohol and is usually dark in color.

  • Wheat beer is made, as you may expect, with wheat. It's usually garnished with a lemon and sometimes raspberry syrup.

Storing and serving suggestions

In the United States, beer is served cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit). Lower temperatures tend to dull the taste, so consider 40 degrees the lower limit. Store beer away from sunlight, or you get skunked beer, which is never pleasant. Most beers now have labels that say when they were brewed or when to remove them from the shelf.

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