Art of Beer Pt 2 – Drinking Beer

With a nod to the structure of the ancient text “The Art of War” and its author, the strategist Sun Tzu, we continue with the drinking aspect of the Art of Beer.

Me in my youth while serving in what was then West Germany
  1. Beer has been consumed for thousands of years and has been generally considered a drink of the common folk.
  2. Because drinking water quality has always been questionable from one place to another until the rise of public water systems in the last two centuries, drinking local beers has always been preferable for weary travelers. Since water is boiled to make beer, the water quality is usually much better in the beer than in the water itself. And the adding of ingredients, like hops, can help mask any unpleasant tastes the water may bring.


  1. It was not uncommon for beers to be served with most foods at inns and taverns along travel ways. These could have been served in tankards, mugs, goblets or even flagons.
  2. During the industrial revolution it was not uncommon for companies to serve beer in their lunchrooms instead of water for their workers to wash their lunches down with. The cooler temperatures of a beer would have been preferred over a wine for folks working hot factories not to mention that beer being more inexpensive to produce would be able to be stretched over a larger work force much easier.


  1. Beer can be enjoyed in private but is usually enjoyed more in the company of others. The others can be family and friends, or even perfect strangers.
    1. In Germany, it is common in Bavaria for perfect strangers to sit at large tables in Gasthauses and enjoy food and beer with each other.
    2. Public Drinking Houses (or Pubs) are common in Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Denmark. These businesses are often community focal points and often feature their own brewings of beer.
    3. Bars, Taverns, Cafes, Saloons are all variations of different types of drinking establishments. Some will be strictly beverages, some will serve snacks and some will have full menus for food available.
    4. Craft Beer Tap Rooms in America are a recent phenomenon which consists of a large and ever changing variety of draft and bottled beers from Craft Breweries. Tap Rooms are also being featured at Craft Breweries featuring the brewer’s own creations as well as guest taps for other craft breweries.


  1. Since it is considered a common (or even a lowly beverage by some) there has been no formal declaration of beer drinking etiquette. Yet, an informal etiquette has arisen all of its own volition.
  2. Toasting is one of the most common denominators among the various cultures today. Though the minor details will vary the general practice is still carried on from ancient times. There are different theories and folk-tales about where toasting originated from. The most likely source is that it was derived from ancient times when a goblet of a prepared drink was held up ceremoniously as an offering to the Gods. It then morphed into a salute or honor for a visitor or guest. The raising of the glass is usually accompanied by a word or phrase meaning “to life” or “to your good health”.
    1. Toasting is also used to honor those who are no longer with us and honor their memory.
Young people at bistro having beer
Young people at bistro having beer
  1. If a friend or stranger offers to buy you a beverage it is considered gracious to accept, then later return the favor.


  1. Sipping, supping, gulping, guzzling and throwing-it-back are all terms that can be associated with drinking beer. They are various forms of consuming the beverage.
    1. Gulping, guzzling and throwing-it-back are all related to drinking large quantities in a short time frame. This is done mostly by younger adults who are of college age or serving in the military. This is normally the result of playing beer drinking games, losing bets, accepting dares or simply just trying to prove “you’re a real man”. It is best done with cheaper mass produced beers where the taste matches the price. There is no sense is paying for good craft beer to play these games as some of it will be wasted by spilling, some by people getting too drunk to finish, and by others getting so drunk they can no longer contain the beer in their bodies. This is the most infantile form of beer drinking.
    2. Sipping and supping are basically a spelling variation of the same method. This is meant for slow drinking, enjoying the flavors and aromas of the beer. More mature beer drinkers know that good beer doesn’t need to be rushed and like many things in life is better savored slowly.


  1. Drinking Craft Beer is very similar to drinking wine in more than a few aspects. In fact, many craft Beer aficionados also are wine drinkers.
    1. Begin by looking at the glass and studying the color of the brew. Is it the style you ordered? Does the color look right? If you ordered a Pale Ale and the beer in front of you is Amber in color then check with bartender to make sure you got the correct glass. Unless it is a special variant or style then the color should be pretty much the same from one brewer to the next within the same style.
    2. Next, look at the head. There should always be a head of foam at the top of the glass. It will settle as the beer sits but if there isn’t one when you first get your glass then either the beer is flat or the glass has been sitting way too long.
    3. Also look at the effervescent bubbles of the beer. If the beer is a nitrogen-infused beer then you will see a lot of activity for quite a while and the head of foam will be larger. But if it is not nitrogen infused and you are seeing a lot of activity then chances are that the brewer added too much sugar in the bottling process. This will probably mean the beer will taste sweeter than it should. But it may still taste good enough to drink.
    4. Now you should bring the glass up to your nose to smell the aromas being released by the effervescence of the beer. Depending on the style and ingredients you should be able to pick notes of citrus or other fruits, pine, chocolate, coffee, nuts, wheat or other flavors. Smelling the aromas of the beer helps your palate to prepare for the flavor. The same is true of drinking wine or eating some foods. Odors can be very important in the tasty process. This is why when you have a stuffy nose that some foods just don’t taste right.
    5. Next, just after you have taken a good smell of the odors, move the glass to your lips, open them and slowly pour the beer into your mouth or sip it, both are acceptable. Pouring a little into your mouth for a taste lets the beer slowly cover all the taste buds of your tongue so that all of your flavor centers are equally activated. Sipping the beer also bring in a little bit of air with the liquid usually odors of the beer that are sitting on the surface. This is also  activating your taste buds. In the end you will still want to try to distribute all of the liquid throughout your mouth so that all of the tastes buds are activated. Once you have done so then slowly swallow the beer.
    6. After you have swallowed then you will want to take in some air through your mouth. This will allow the air too react with the liquid still on your taste buds to give you the aftertaste. This can result in a smooth or creamy texture to a bitter sharp sting or anywhere in between.
    7. If you are planning on sampling different beers throughout the evening then you may want to start with lighter tasting beers and work your way toward the heavier ones.
    8. Don’t mistake the color of the beer for the heaviness of it. Some Stouts (which are usually the darkest of beers) can be very light and have a creamy texture to them while all pale ales are definitely lighter in color than a stout but a few may have so much hop flavor to them that the bitterness can change the flavors of any beers sampled after them.
Flight of beers arranged from lighter to darker
  1. Everyone has different types of taste buds and while they can be trained over time, even people of equal tasting skills can taste different notes and flavors in the same beer. In the end, only you can decide if you like the flavor or not. If someone tells you that this is one of the most excellent examples of this style of beer and you find that you don’t like it, there is nothing wrong with that. Not everyone will like the same style of beer.
  2. A noted wine sommelier and wine tasting teacher, George Sternfels, often told the classes he would teach, “If you like the wine, drink the wine.” Meaning that it doesn’t matter what others think of the liquid you’re imbibing. If you enjoy it then what others may think about it doesn’t matter. Enjoy it. The same is true of beer.
  3. However, enjoying too much is a burden that all of have had to bear at one time or another. When we are young the goal when enjoying an evening almost seems to be to drink until we are too sick to drink anymore. And in truth, that is probably the learning process we all go through to find out our own limitations. Not the best way to go about it, perhaps, but a definite tried and true method.
  4. The importance is in knowing when enough is enough. And what is expected of you in the near future. Are you expected to get up early or go to work the next day? Do you have lower alcohol tolerances than others? Are you a designated driver? Are you bar hopping or staying in one spot? Is it a party where you have others you can help you get home or where you can stay as long as you need? Are you ill? All of these can factor into your evening.
  5. Whatever your decision, take care to make sure you make good decisions for the evening or that you are with people who can help you do that. Enjoy drinking the beer but don’t set yourself up for a bad experience.



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