Getting To Know Craft Beer

If you’ve ever wanted to enter the world of craft beer but don’t know how or where to begin then you’re in the right place. First off, you should know there are two types of beers, ales and lagers. All beers fall under these two types, except for a very minute amount.

One difference between ales and lagers are that ales normally ferment on top while lagers ferment on the bottom. Fermentation is the chemical process that turns sugar, yeast and other ingredients into delicious alcohol.

Fermentation, the process in which alcohol is created in beer. (Photo credit:

Fermentation, the process in which alcohol is created in beer. (Photo credit:

Another difference between lagers and ales are that lagers need to be brewed and fermented in a cooler location than compared with ales. This may be the reason lagers were originally more popular in Europe as they generally have lower temperatures than in America. Nowadays with refrigeration ales are by far the more popular style of beer.

Ales go through the fermentation process much faster than lagers, meaning ales are quicker to produce than lagers. In German, the word lager has several definitions, one of which means warehouse or stockroom. Because lagers take longer to ferment they needed to be stored somewhere cool, like a warehouse or stockroom.

Rum barrels that will age M.I.A. Brewing's Imperial Stout. (Photo credit: M.I.A. Brewing Co. Facebook)

Rum barrels that will age M.I.A. Brewing’s Imperial Stout. (Photo credit: M.I.A. Brewing Co. Facebook)

Have you ever perused a beer list to see abbreviations but were too shy to ask what they meant? Being the good guy that I am I’ve included five of the most popular abbreviations for you to commit to memory.

ABV, Alcohol By Volume. The amount of alcohol in the beer.

IPA, India Pale Ale. A popular ale that is bitter due to the amount of hops that was used during production.

IBU, International Bitterness Units. This is the measurement of how bitter the beer is. The higher the number the more bitter it is.

BA, Barrel Aged. After production these beers are aged in barrels to add extra flavor. Usually whiskey barrels (bourbon or scotch) are used but it can be any kind, even coffee! These beers also tend to have a higher ABV.

SRM, Standard Reference Method. This is process used to measure the color of beer. The bigger the number the darker the beer is.

An example of a couple abbreviations, IBU & SRM. (Photo credit:

An example of a couple abbreviations, IBU & SRM. (Photo credit:

The final few things to know are that both ales and lagers can come either dark or light. It’s also important to note that all dark beers are not heavy and not all light beers are weak. And finally, when you’re ordering a “light” or “lite” beer, those are just diet beers. They don’t necessarily have less alcohol but they do have fewer amounts of carbohydrates than regular a beer.

Now that you know some of the differences between a lager and an ale you should know some of their most popular styles. For ales these include: pale ales, india pale ales (IPA), stouts, porters, pumpkin ales and kölsches. Many popular lagers include: pale lagers, pilsners, Oktoberfest (Märzen) and even your favorite malt liquor.

The most popular style of beer here in America by sales is the American Pale Lager. Some of these beers include Budweiser, Miller Highlife, Miller Genuine Draft (MGD), Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR), Fosters, Busch, Rolling Rock, Tecate, Landshark, Dos Equis and Red Stripe. Hooray for beer? Not these. This style is mild in every sense of the word: mild carbonation, mild flavor and mild amount of ingredients used.

One of the easiest ways to get into craft beer is to try a craft version of something you already know. For instance, if you like any of those beers I just mentioned instead try a pale ale. A very easy one to find and a favorite of mine is Magic Hat #9.

Magic Hat #9 (Photo credit:

Magic Hat #9 (Photo credit:

Heineken is the beer that I’ll drink if there is no craft beer on a menu. But if you want to try something different give Harp a try. It’s Irish, so you can’t really go wrong.

If you’re like me then you’ve probably gone through a Corona phase. However, if you have to put fruit in your beer for it to taste good then you can probably do better. Instead of drinking a Corona try a Negra Modelo. They’re different styles of lager but the later is a much better beer and is still from Mexico.

And finally, instead of picking up a six-pack of Newcastle try a six-pack of Cgiar City’s Maduro Brown Ale or Abita Turbodog.

Remember drink responsibly and in no time you’ll be a beer connoisseur.



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Creator and host of the podcast Beer, Bros & BS, teller of stories, drinker of beers, reader of (comic) books, watcher of sports, devourer of food, mostly entertaining. From Miami. Follow me on Twitter & Instagram @thebiglibrarian.

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