Ah the ageless classic beverage known the world over; that bubbly, foamy golden gift of the gods that is beer. While it is still a staple of the working man, in recent years we have seen a renaissance of sorts with small-batch craft-brewers and exotic recipes abounding to the point that it is finally becoming acceptable for those of a higher-distinction to indulge in a pint or two of brew.
While it has done wonders for the variety and selection of available brews, the craft brewing revolution has also brought about the rise of an most unseemly class of pretender; the Beer Snob. Beer Snobs can be easily spotted at the downtown brew-pub, or whatever other places the hipsters are currently Ubering to, because they saw it on UnTappd…barely distinguishable, yet for the men tend to favour beards, both sexes are generally studiously unkempt. You can find them with foam on the ends of their upturned noses, after sticking them into their specialized glassware, and debating the bouquet. In my experience beer usually smells like some combination of bread(grain and yeast) and chemicals(alcohols), it isn’t often worth savouring. I don’t advise that you go to those lengths, but at least a cursory understanding of beer is certainly warranted for when you do find yourself confronted at the pub by the infamous Beer Snob.
Beer is a ferment of cereal grain, most commonly barley with hops for flavouring, though you can make beer out of essentially any grain. Despite what the traditions of Moses say, beer was made in ancient Egypt and paid to the local citizen builders of the great pyramids, as a working man’s ration. Sacred grain and hops were unearthed in mummy’s tombs, beer for the afterlife. Beer is currently brewed on every continent except Antarctica, though it’s hard to imagine any serious chance of success at polar expedition without a barrel or two in the hold of the vessel.
There are broad regional traditions, like Eastern and Western European, North American, Asian, there are also differing broad recipes, like Lager, Ale, Porter, or Lambic, they are also each further sub-divided by nationality and specific recipe. It can get to be terribly confusing for beginners, but like all great things in life, diligence and experimentation are necessary to achieve a solid understanding of your own personal tastes. Grab a selection of differing singles instead of a large-case, start local to determine whether you prefer Pilsener to India Pale Ale, or Ice Lager to Malt Liquor. Later branch out a selection of beers from a single nationality. One day it is beers of Belgium, and the next Germans, Canadian, followed by Denmark or Japan. There is a world of beer to be discovered, and experience is the best teacher.
The gods know that I’ve had more than my fair share of forties of Old English and St. Ides up in tha hood in the 6ix back in the day, and perhaps that is reason why I currently favour a high-end malt beer; I mean who actually likes hops, they have literally no other culinary use, and I like my beer strong, though I’m also known to engage in a spiced wheat beer, even the odd dark-ale, for the health-benefits. It’s up to you to get out there and figure out what you think the best beer is.