Beginners Guide to Beer

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Beginners Guide to Beer

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Beer

Do you want to work in a bar? Sure, you can pour a neat lager – but do you know anything about it? If you can’t tell the difference between ale and cider, it’s time to take a step back and educate yourself about this much-loved beverage – beer. Here are some basic beer facts to help you get that coveted bartending job.

What is Beer, Exactly?

It’s an umbrella term for all drinks that come from malted barley and hops. These include ales, lagers and hybrid beers. All are dependent on different fermentation and storage styles. In fact, beer is a constantly-evolving product that has undergone many a makeover. These days, you can find a whole host of craft beers from micro-breweries that include gluten-free, Kosher and “extreme” beers. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s look at the two main beer varieties – ale and lager.


This is heavier than lagers and is the first form of beer to have been produced. In fact, it was regarded as an important form of nutrition in the Middle Ages and was safer to drink than water at the time! Ale is naturally sweet, full-bodied and slightly fruity. It is made in a top-down fermentation process that involves Brewer’s Yeast in a warm environment. Because Brewer’s Yeast is so effective in the fermentation of ale, the whole process is relatively fast.

Types of Ale

There are many different types of ale. Most ales are heavier in alcohol than lager, and are sweeter on the palate. Brown Ale, for instance, can range from a 3 to 5.5% in alcohol. Mann’s Brown Ale is a popular brand. Pale Ale and Golden Ale are a little drier than their darker counterparts. Scotch Ale is a malty, amber-coloured variation that has rich, hearty flavours. One of the most popular ales in the world is Stout Ale, a black, deeply satisfying beverage that is noted for its roasted flavours of dark chocolate and coffee. Belgian Ales are also popular, in particular their Trappist and Abbey Ales, brewed by monks in monasteries.


This is the most widely consumed type of beer in the world. Lagers are drier than ales, and are made in a cold fermentation process with a bottom-fermenting hybrid form of yeast. The cold environment lengthens the brewing process, giving rise to pale lagers like Bock, Pilsner and Marzen. Dark lagers include Dunkel and Schwartzbier.

Pale Lager

This varietal is relatively young on the scene, having first arrived in the mid-19th century in Germany. It is made up of water, Pilsner malt and noble hops. The taste is dry, lean and clean on the palate. It is a crisp, refreshing beer that makes includes US Budweiser and Pilsner Urquell.

Dark Lager

This can vary from amber to reddish-brown beer. It is slightly heavier and sweeter than then pale lager, but is not as sweet as ale. Common dark lagers are Vienna, Schwartzbier and Baltic Porter.

Specialty Beers

These hybrid forms flout the rules and turn the whole fermentation process upside-down. Often, brewers cross over the ale and lager-making guidelines. They may ferment Brewer’s Yeast at a low temperature, or use lager yeast in a process commonly used for lagers. The results are unusual, exciting and perfect for people who appreciate craft beers.

A solid knowledge of beer will impress at an interview and help you snatch up a great bartending job. Also, patrons are more likely to tip bartenders who know their stuff – so get studying!