Ask a Beer Geek

Three quick but helpful questions to steer your summer beer ingestion.

By Christian DeBenedetti and Emma Hall August 20, 2012 Published in the July 2010 issue of Portland Monthly

If I’m sampling a lot of beers, is there a certain order I should try them in?

Lisa Morrison aka "The Beer Goddess"

Similar to wine tasting, start with ones that are lighter in flavor, such as golden ales, witbiers. Next, move into more unusual flavors, like hefeweizens. Then move to richer—yet still sweet—beers, like ambers and reds. Finally, try really hoppy stuff, porters, and imperial stouts. Don’t just move from light to dark, because you can get something like a light-colored Belgian Tripel that is light in color, yet super complex. A better rule of thumb is to sniff your beer. The more complex it is in your nose, the more complex the taste will generally be. As told to Emma Hall

How does alcohol content affect beer’s taste?

John Harris (brewmaster at Full Sail Brewing Co)

You can compare it to hard alcohol. For example, a 151 rum is going to taste different than a regular rum, even to the uninitiated drinker. Alcohol is one of the threads that carries the flavor and character of beers. Stronger beers, such as winter ales or imperial IPAs, are almost numbing on your tongue; they can be described as tasting “boozy.” Stronger alcohol content leads to a certain hardiness—richer and bigger flavors. And on the other end of the spectrum, nonalcoholic beers don’t taste very good because the malts and hop flavors can’t ride on the proverbial “alcohol train,” so they taste grainy and watery. As told to Emma Hall

Which beers pair best with summer cookouts?

Jason Button (beer sommelier at Higgins)

With grilled, savory meat, you want something to offset the saltiness of the meat—something a little sweet and a little sour. Duchesse de Bourgogne, a Belgian, Flanders red beer, is delicious. It hits all the corners of the mouth, and yet it’s not overpowering. Also Ace of Spades from Hopworks, an imperial IPA, is surprisingly well-balanced, and has good hops quality. This would be great with grilled sausages on the barbecue, because the hoppiness cuts through the fat. And come summer, with sweet corn and peppers coming in, we like to steam clams in kölsch. Double Mountain in Hood River makes a nice one. So steamed clams, sweet corn, peppers, and a kölsch for yourself. Always hits the spot. As told to Christian DeBenedetti

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