Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a brewmaster?
A: In the United States, the term brewmaster is used to describe someone in charge of brewery operations, and the title is often given without any accreditation, according to Paul Gatza, director of the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association. In Germany a brewmaster must train at the Weihenstephan brewing school. Top brewing schools in the United States include the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and the American Brewers Guild in Vermont, which are among schools listed by the Brewers Association.
Q: What's the difference between ale and lager?
A: The two major categories of beer are:
Ale: Robust and complex. Styles of beer under this category include India pale ale, brown ale, amber ale, American pale ale, wheat beer and porters.
Lager: Smooth and hoppy. Styles of beer under this category include pilsner, bock and dunkel.
Q: What are the ingredients in beer?
A: The four primary ingredients are:
Water: More than 90 percent of beer is water
Malted barley: The process of malting is allowing barley to take in water to let it germinate, then chilling it to let it dry. Roasting starts to convert the starches to sugar. There are specialty and base malts.
Hops: Hops play a threefold part in flavoring the beer; they add bitterness, taste and aroma. Hops, part of the hemp family, can be added in pellet form in the kettle boil so they break apart for an even disbursement in the kettle, or as buds, where the oil is stripped off. Dry hopping is when hops are added after the wort, or sweet liquid before fermentation, has cooled.
Yeast: Yeast, or a variety of fungus, ferments sugars into alcohol. Yeast can be pulled off the bottom of the fermenter and used for up to 15 "generations," or batches of beer.
Q: What's the difference between a microbrewery and a brewpub?
A: A craft brewery is defined by the Brewers Association as having annual production of less than 2 million barrels with less than a quarter of ownership by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not a craft brewer.
Microbrewery: Produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer each year.
Brewpub: A restaurant-brewery that sells a quarter or more of its beer on site, primarily in the restaurant and bar.
Regional craft brewery: An independent brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 2 million barrels.
Q: What is an off/skunked/spoiled Beer?
A: The enjoyment of beer is a highly subjective and personal experience. However, in the real world, various people/groups develop their favorites while denouncing all other Beers. Quite typical exaggerated by "The best/worst beer in the world is...." type threads in popular Beer forums.
However, if Beer is not correctly stored or handled it can become 'Bad Beer'. Bad beer can be easily identified, the two most common occurrences are:
Skunking: When beer has been exposed to strong light, either natural or artificial, certain components in hops alter and produce acrid flavors, commonly know as being lightstruck. This is why beer should be bottled in brown bottles and stored in dark areas/rooms. Clear bottles (eg: Corona) offer no light protection and green is only slightly better. For an explanation of why, we need to look at the science of light and its various wavelengths. Technically, light of wavelengths from 550 nm and below can cause photochemical reactions in hop resins, resulting in a sulfury mercaptan which has a pronounced skunky character. 550 nm is roughly blue-green. Bottled beer can become lightstruck in less than one minute in bright sun, after a few hours in diffuse daylight, and in a few days under normal fluorescent lighting.
Spoiled: Also referred to as going "off". This is a more vague term and often refers to beer that has not been properly stored or handled allowing oxidation (a cardboard taste) or other off-flavors resulting from contamination, overheating, etc. As with any fermented beverage, alcohol can also turn to vinegar, imparting a strong sour taste to beer. Whilst it will cause you no harm, it will not be pleasant to drink.
Q: Must one always drink white wine with fish?
A: Not at all. Though it is quite interesting to match wine with food, it is not essential to be bound by traditional wine and food pairings. A richly flavorful fish such as salmon or mackerel can easily match with some of the less forceful fruity reds such as pinot noir and Beaujolais.
Q: What could you have with Asian foods?
A: Asian cuisine often has citrus notes: lemon grass, ginger, lime and tamarind. These flavors really match well with typical German white varieties, Riesling, Schurebe or Gewurztraminer and Alsatian Pinot Gris.
Q: What about cheese? Is it all right to sip white wine with cheese?
A: Many cheeses favor the bright, mineral acidity of white wines as apposite to the earthy, game-friendly red wines people often associate them with. Piquant and buttery cheeses, such as aged Gouda and French triple crèmes, match nicely with un-oaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc based whites.
Q: So, what does one do with acidic reds?
A: Some gnarly northern Italian reds, such as Dolcetto, Barbera and Valpolicella, match well with turbocharged tomato-based meals like pizza and red-sauced pasta. Try pairing these incredible value wines with orange or root vegetables like Pumpkin, Celery root, winter Squash and Carrots.
Q: And desserts - can the rules be broken? Must sweet wines be paired with sweet foods?
A: This is a bit trickier. Since once your palate has adjusted to the sweetness of dessert, wines that are not sweet tend to taste bitter or sour in the company of dessert. This does not rule out certain pairings such as Vintage Porto and Stilton blue or oysters and Sauternes. Try a sparkling demi-sec with strawberries.
Q: How far does one fill a wine goblet?
A: A big part of the wine experience is in the perfume of the wine. Sensing a wine's Bouquet has a lot to do with how wine tastes. You should fill a glass no more than half way and, if you are using large goblets, a third or a fourth of the way is more appropriate. You've noticed that a wine glass curves inward. This shape helps to focus and retain the wines perfume. Therefore, it is less than optimal to drink wine in a windy environment.
Q: How you determine how long a wine should breath before serving it?
A: It all depends on how well the wine is structured and how tough some of the aromatic qualities of the wine are. Exposing wine to the air can, in a way, simulate aging a wine. So you can apply some of your sense of how to cellar a wine towards breathing a wine. Generally big, fat, red wines like to breathe for several hours. (Italians tend to decant such wines into large bell-shaped vessels to maximize exposure to air.) White wines, such as white Burgundies, will benefit by breathing for about an hour.
Q: At what temperature should I serve a wine?
A: This depends what type of wine is being served. As a rule, whites are chilled and reds are not. A white should be served at around 55 degrees and reds should be served at room temperature. If a wine is too cold, the flavor remains restrained. Sometimes reds are lightly chilled in the summertime. This works better with berry-fruit flavored wines such as pinot noir.
Q: How do you tell how long to age a wine?
A: It really depends. Some wines are best drunk young. Fruit forward Beaujolais, plump pinot noirs, low acid white wines and delicate gris (pinks) are best enjoyed in their first or second year, before the bloom is off the rose, so to speak. Others, such as northern Italian reds wines and various French and Spanish reds, can last decades, but drink nicely early. Often the more expensive the wine, the longer it can, or should, be cellared. Aging tends to favor reds, but there are exceptions. Highly botrytisized Sauternes, and wines with both high acid and high fruit levels, such as premium Chardonnays, Champagnes and others, will go for decades. Generally, the more expensive the wine, the longer it can be cellared.
Q: At what the temperatures can wines endure?
A: Wines typically like to be stored between 50 to 60 degrees F. They can survive temperatures down to 33 and as high as 75 degrees without incurring major damage, especially when this type of temperature oscillation is gradual.
Q: Besides temperature, what other factors are important to consider?
A: Two important factors are humidity and light. If wine is stored in an insufficiently humid place the cork make dry out and cause the wine to oxidize unfavorably. Sunlight can cause mercaptains to form in wine and beer, which adds an unpleasant skunkiness to the beverage. Exposure to constant vibrations can damage a wine too.
Q: After opening a wine, how long will it remain good?
A: It all depends. Some wines are quite fragile and should be consumed entirely after opening them. Others are quite hardy, or even intentionally pre-oxidized, and can endure the air for weeks, such as Madeiras, Sherries and Ports. Some big-flavored red wines need several hours to breathe and will do fine for a day or two. If you contain the bubbles Sparkling can hold up for.
Q: What is good for an anniversary?
A: Well, anniversaries, Valentine's days and weddings, which all connote romance, seem to have a monopoly on Champagne. But one can get creative. Sweet wines can make an excellent complement to chocolate fanciers - a food steeped in romantic association too.
Q: What would you give to mark the birth of a child?
A: This is a perfect time to give wine whose vintage is the same as the birth year of child. If the intention is to drink this wine with the same child when grown, then take care to choose a wine that could age for a couple of decades. Vintage Porto, classified growth Bordeaux, or a large format wine whose origin is geographically close to location of conception/birth, all have staying power and are imbued with nostalgia.