“I learned… how educated and informed the consumer is about beer.” – Larry Sidor // Crux Fermentation Project
I love beer, and arguably, more importantly (for this site at least!), I love learning about beer.
I’ve written about how my interest in beer developed here, but I’d like to discuss how I learned about beer, some of my favorite resources, and, of course, ask you about yours.
My beer education started the way most of our education starts these days when we want to learn anything new – with Wikipedia.
For those really new to beer, the Wikipedia entry on beer is a good place to start. From there, you’ll find loads and loads of links to keep you clicking down the Internet rabbit hole. (What does beer have to do with the goddess Ninkasi? What the heck is Reinheitsgebot? Who is the largest brewer in the world?)
If you’re so inclined, check out Wikipedia’s articles on ale yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), lager yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) and alternative yeast strain, Brettanomyces. With my background in microbiology, I’ve always been fascinated by the microbes hard at work in the brewing process, and these articles are a great introduction. Go on, geek out a little!
If hands-on learning is more your style, visit your favorite brewery and go on a tour. Your tour guide there (who may even be a brewer, depending on the size of the brewery you’re visiting), will be able to guide you through the four main ingredients in beer (water, malt, hops and yeast) and the basic brewing process. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy some beer at the end!
Ready to get your hands dirty? Give homebrewing a try. You can start with a kit or with extract brewing, then upgrade to all grain. I homebrewed a few times with friends, Evan and Marissa, who started 29er Brews, and it’s a wonderful way to see the process through yourself – allowing you to understand what your ingredients are, when they’re used in the brew, the importance of sanitation, and the time that brewing takes. (With all-grain, you’ve got an eight hour brew day, followed by two weeks of fermentation, and at least a week of bottle conditioning. Yes, patience is a virtue!)
When I was just getting into homebrewing, my close friends and long-time homebrewers, Ellen and Dave, sent me one of their favorite resources, John Palmer’s How to Brew. This book talks you through the homebrewing process, explores the role of each ingredient, and has lots and lots of brewing science, if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty.
To better understand beer styles, the syllabus and study links for the Certified Beer Server exam are a great place to start. For the most in depth information on beer styles, refer to the Beer Judge Certification Program’s (BJCP) Style Guidelines, but be warned, it’s quite technical!
Lucky for you all, for my first piece of beer writing work, I drafted consumer-friendly explanations of all of the BJCP styles for the Brewbot app. 🙂 It’s not in the App Store just yet, but when it is, I’ll update this post so you can get your fill of beer education on while on-the-go!
Next up on my beer reading list:
The Brewer’s Tale by William Bostwick
Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher
What are your go-to beer reads? Leave me a note in the comments!
Quote source: Steve Hindy // The Craft Beer Revolution