Understanding Beer: How (Not) To Ruin Your Brew

Categories: Hops to It!

Photo by Peter Andersen
Because beer should be too good to waste

Not all craft beer is created equal. Sure, it's great to see so many new brew houses and bars opening up, but that also means you have to hone your standards. These are the things that will ruin your beer-drinking experience, so be smart and start raising your bars.

Taps Lines and Bottle Colors

There is a common misconception that a bar with an endless number of taps is a pretty cool place. Now, while selection might be pretty good, I'm going to tell you why too many taps is no bueno.

First off, beer expires. The keg is not an immortality chamber. If the beer isn't being drunk, it's going to go bad. What does "bad beer" taste like?

Well, if you get a buttery taste, that beer is old.

Take the average IPA. If a batch of IPA has passed its prime, that crisp, hoppy notes you expect will become overwhelmed by this funky, rancid buttery flavor you never want to taste. It's important to keep in mind, however, that some beers like stouts and porters can hang out a little longer and be just fine.

While spoiled swill should be the best -- and enough of a -- reason to avoid tap-happy bars, there's more. Tap happy venues also waste a lot of beer when it's time to clean. There is a line that needs to be cleaned every two weeks that runs from the tap to the keg. Typically, whoever is cleaning the lines will do so whenever the keg clears, because with regular business, it shouldn't take more than two weeks to finish a keg.

But, if you have countless beers to choose from, there will always be a beer (or several) the bartender hardly serves. So, not only will that lonely beer eventually expire but, when it comes time to clean the line, a lot of beer will get thrown out.

On that note, don't assume that draft will always be the best version of your beer. Stouts, porters and sours are often stored (properly) for months or years at a time and can get better with age.

Note: Make sure those bottles are opaque. Avoid any and all clear or green glass. The sun is a powerful beast, and its rays will skunk your beer.

If your beer comes in a can, always get the cans and keep in mind to check the canning or bottling date for whichever beer you choose to buy. You wouldn't buy old milk, so don't buy old beer.

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