Beer 101 - The basics of beer, learn to bartend series

Beer dates back thousands of years to the Egyptian civilizations. Although its exact origin is unknown, there is archeological evidence found on 4000 year old tablets that suggest that beer making was already a highly respected profession. It actually came to the Americas on the Mayflower. Some have even suggested that beer had a part in the decision to land at Plymouth Rock instead of heading further south as planned. An entry from a journal written by a passenger of the Mayflower, stated, “we could not take the time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer…”

Today, there are over a thousand breweries in America. The first brewery in America was in New York City in 1613, as many patriots owned their own breweries. Thomas Jefferson brewed beer at Monticello and George Washington had a brew house on the grounds of Mount Vernon. For more in depth information on the history of fermentation and alcohol, visit for detailed online courses on the subject.

When simplified, beer is made with corn grits, malted barley, and pure water. The corn grits and malt are cooked to create a mash. Then, a sugary liquid called the “wort” is extracted and the remaining residue is sold as feed. The wort is then transferred to the brew kettles where it is boiled and added to the hops. After the wort has been cooled, the yeast will be added and will act as the catalyst in converting the sugar to alcohol. Finally, the wort is moved into the fermentation tanks in accordance with the recipe.

There are two types of yeast that can be added:

 Lagers – this type of beer is produced from bottom yeast.

Ales – this type of beer is produced from top yeast.

After the sugar conversion process is complete, the top yeast rises to the top of the tank and the bottom yeast falls to the bottom. Beer is grouped into several categories. The two major categories are based on the fermentation and the rest of the beers are Lagers or Ales.

2 major categories of beer:

Lagers – Bottom-fermented beers; fermented under refrigeration; usually resulting in a clearer brew.

Ales – Top-fermented beers that are fermented at room temperature; a little bitter with a taste of hops; moderate to high alcohol rates.

The following are some of the sub-categories of beer:

Bitter – Strong bittersweet ale with higher alcohol contents.

Bock – Dark strong lager brewed from caramelized malt.

Ice – Beer that is brewed at colder temperatures and forms ice crystals that are removed, which results in a stronger alcohol content.

Lambic – Spontaneous brewing process used by monks which uses natural yeasts for fermentation.

Malt Liquor – Beer that is fermented at a higher temperature resulting in a higher alcohol content.

Pilsner – Lager that is light, dry, and hoppy.

Sake – A beer that is brewed with rice as a main ingredient; some may even consider it a wine.

Light beers - Wheat, Lager, and Pilsner beers are all in this category. They are usually light in color and easy to drink.

Bock Beers - From Einbeck, Germany, this type of beer is dark and malty with no sweetness.

Porters - Dark beer with a full bodied taste.

Stouts - Very dark with strong flavor; an example is Guinness.

Pale Ales - These are also full bodied, but their color may vary slightly, usually lighter than a stout. They are known for their distinct bitterness.

Brown Ales - Dark beer, with a sweet taste.

Pouring Beer

To initiate the pour, hold the glass at a 45 degree angle. Next, tilt the glass upright as the beer fills the glass. If there is too much foam coming from the tap, it may need to be cleaned. You may also want to check to make sure the keg is properly tapped and that all CO2 gauges are registering in their proper position. Also, be sure to rotate all beer and kegs behind the bar. Bottled beer has a 110 day shelf life and a keg beer has a 40 day shelf life.

*Ninja Tip – Pull the tap from the bottom because they will sometimes snap off if pulled from the top. Foam is a result when the tap is partially open, so make sure to open it fully.

*Ninja Tip – Be careful about spillage. If you get foam in a pour and have the time, give the beer time to settle, then resume your pour. It may be that you just need to tweak how you’re opening the tap or holding the glass, so try to make an adjustment.

Serving Guinness

Always serve Guinness in a beer glass that is room temperature.

To initiate the pour, hold the glass at a 45 degree angle. Fill the glass until it is ¾ of the way full, allowing the Guinness to fully settle.

Next, top off the beer by pushing the tap head forward – this will create the legendary Guinness head.

According to Guinness, it should take 119 seconds to pour the perfect pint. Most customers understand that Guinness takes longer to serve and should be patient and appreciate your professionalism. Please see our online classes for more in depth studies of beer, brewing, and the history behind one of the world’s greatest beverages.