Barrel Brass Tacks

We're keeping things light here - this is just enough information for anyone to have fun learning about beer before getting back to enjoying another glass!

The Craft Revolution is another inspiring example of what passion and vision from a determined group of people can do to change the world. With old-world brewing knowledge and traditions nearly disappearing across the American landscape in the late 1970s, craft beer had all but vanished. Still, a stalwart group of home-brewers persevered and worked to continue sharing the amazing experience of authentic beer with others.

Eventually, some of these individuals went on to launch their own breweries, fanning the embers of the craft beer revolution into a small, but enduring flame. The 1980s were tough, but these pioneers established a foothold and spread craft beer drink-by-drink to an increasing number of Americans.

This is a story of conviction and belief, which has led more people to join the movement these beer artisans brought to life. With more than 3,500 independent and local breweries across the country, Craft Beer is here to stay.

We at Barrel Backers aim to do our part to tap more Americans into the pulse of this exciting revolution.

Illo revolution
Barry styles

Generally beers fall into either “Ale” or “Lager” categories. This is a function of the type of yeast utilized, where it ferments the beer, the temperature, and the duration of the process.

Ales:
  • Yeast ferments at the top of the barrel
  • Generally at temperatures ranging from 60-75 Degrees (F)
  • Fermentation can yield fruit-like aromas and tastes
  • Process can be as short as 7-8 days
  • Ales you might recognize: Pale Ale, IPA, Porter, Stout, Wheat, Brown
Lagers:
  • Yeast ferments at the bottom of the barrel
  • Generally at cooler temperatures hovering around 40 Degrees (F)
  • Beers are often described as “clean” and “crisp”
  • Process can be weeks or months for development of the beer
  • Lagers you might recognize: Bock, Pilsner, Oktoberfest, Helles Lager
Barry og

Often confused with Ice-T's Original Gangsta album from 1991 (we know because we've had the same problem), O.G. stands for Original Gravity and measures the density of the wort (the beer liquid before fermentation). The short of it -- brewers need to know the O.G. in order to calculate “Alcohol By Volume” (ABV explained below) which in turn impacts the flavor and character of the beer.

Unfortunately, we Americans had to break down and go with some international standard (or something like that). Thus, IBU is a measurement of the amount of Hops in a beer on a scale of 1-120. Although the scale goes to 120, it's generally very difficult to taste the difference of bitterness for any beer above 70+.

A beer with MAD HOPS, north of 40, will likely be very bitter but this high level of hops also drives a lot of the complexity, character and flavor for the beer.

A beer with WEAK HOPS, let's say sub 20, won't have the bite of a beer with a higher IBU. Depending on the ingredients and approach to brewing, other aspects of the beer can shine through.

You know you've been looking at this on labels ever since you snuck your first beer--so here we go:


Less than 4%: Light and easy like driving a Vespa, a ton of fun until your friends find out

4-6%: Ratcheting it up a notch, these beers bring out the smiles and there's a lot of ‘em

6-8%: This is the workhorse of the craft beer world, basically the pickup truck of beers

8-10% We liken these to muscle cars--a lot of power under the hood

10%+: Serious hitters--pick up one of these and make a toast to Iron-Mike

Barry abv

Love sees no color...

The American Standard Reference Method or SRM is a system modern brewers use to specify beer color. They figure it out by taking measurements of light with a spectrophotometer (if you see a guy pull one out at a bar--he means business).

To roughly calibrate your own eyeballs - you need to know that:
  • Lovely Light colored beers range from 1-6
  • Appetizing Amber colored beer comes in around an 7-12
  • A Bodacious Brown sets in on the light side around 13 and on the darker side at 24
  • Delicious Darkness arrives on the charts at 25 - 40+
Beer chart
Barry standardreferencemethod
Barry servingtemp

Maybe Al Gore was on to something? Either way, make sure you drink your beers at the temperatures where they perform best.

In general, the temperature to serve a beer should correlate with the strength of the beer. Usually, the higher the level of alcohol, the warmer the serving temperature. Stronger beers often are sipped slowly and enjoyed for their complexity while weaker beers are often consumed for cool refreshment. This isn't to say that lower alcohol level beers can't be complex-- it's just the temperature range where they normally perform best.

Barry cansvsbottles

As we all know, old habits die-hard and if you can't tolerate the thought of drinking a beer from a can, stick with what you love. That being said, you should consider that there are three things that can ruin packaged beer: heat, oxygen, and light. Cans and bottles are equally effective in eliminating the problems caused by heat and oxygen, but light is where they differ. If you've tasted a skunked beer (also known as light struck), you understand the problem. Light destroys the organic compounds in beer that make it so amazing and sadly even colored glass still lets light through.

As for the beer “tastes metallic” argument, try drinking it out of a glass so that your lips and tongue never touch the can. Just like a draught beer served from a metal keg, you'll be none the wiser.

Bonus – Cans are a little more versatile for river floats, beach bumming, mountain hikes and general outdoor activities. They also cause less trouble if accidentally dropped.

The right glass matched with the right beer will bring it's full potential to life. It's an investment worth making as some glasses are designed to promote the development of head that traps elements of the beer that embody its signature taste. Others do a great job showcasing color, providing a more all-around experience, while other kinds have the goal of preventing carbonation from dissipating too quickly.

When offered a chilled glass, it may be best to politely decline. Why, you ask? When the beer connects with the frosted glass condensation transpires which dilutes the beer and changes the serving temperature.

And if you find yourself drinking out of a boot surrounded by loud cheering companions, be sure to point the toe to the right so you don't end up on the wrong end of a beer shower.