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When it comes to beer, some brews are made for indiscriminate quaffing, while others call for thoughtful and epicurean appreciation. Like exceptional wine or whisky, well-crafted beer deserves to be treated with respect. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when sampling brews.
Brush up on the varieties available
Beers typically fall into one of two categories: lagers and ales. Lagers, which are brewed at cooler temperatures with yeast that quickly settles at the bottom, offer smooth and crisp flavours. Ales have sweeter, richer and often more complex flavours due to higher brewing temperatures and yeast that floats on the surface before settling. Popular sub-categories are pale ales, porters, stouts and amber ales.
Respect the ideal serving temperature
Each type of beer has its own ideal serving temperature. Consult the label before putting your beer in the fridge. In general, lagers should be served cold (4-7 °C), while ales should be served cool (8-12 °C) or at cellar temperature (12-14 °C) depending on the type. Ratebeer.com provides a useful guide.
Pick appropriate glasses
Glasses that are tall, thin and slightly wider at the top are ideal for pilsners and other lagers. For stronger, more flavourful beers such as IPAs and Belgian ales, consider a snifter. This stemmed glass, which balloons at the centre and becomes smaller at the top, captures volatile aromas and concentrates them right under your nose. Goblets, which have a similar shape but do not taper inward at the opening, are also appropriate for Belgian ales. Pint glasses are a safe bet for most beers. Finally, thick glass beer mugs are a good way to ensure that the beverage stays at its ideal temperature, as the handle keeps the hand from warming the contents.
Keep the glass at the right temperature
Placing beer mugs in the freezer may seem like a good idea on a hot day, but a frozen glass is likely to make the beer inside too cold to taste, particularly with richly flavourful ales. But when serving lagers, chilling glasses in the refrigerator for a few hours can help ensure the beverage is served at just the right temperature.