Beer newbies guide to tasting craft brew, exploring its many features

CINCINNATI - Many beer drinkers will be happy to settle for any beer with the name “lite” attached to it, with no knowledge of any taste difference other than "this one tastes less like water than that one."

But with a resurgence of craft beer onto the alcohol scene, tasters (or non-tasters) everywhere were left questioning what is so special about these finely-developed brews.

A deeper look into the bubbles of craft beer reveals several things to look for. Craft beer rookies (and even veterans) should first, and most importantly, know how to drink it.

Four important steps Beer Advocate suggests : Look, agitate, smell and taste.

First, you want to pour the beer into a glass and gaze at the intentionally-developed hue. Take note of the color (we will get to why later) and if any sediment is apparent.

The second step involves swirling your beer gently in a glass (you thought that was only for wine, right?). Beer Advocate says this will enhance aromas, slight nuances, and loosen and stimulate carbonation (and make you look super hip).

Get your nostrils ready for step three! Sense of smell is crucial for tasting, and in this stage you’ll need that important sense to fully evaluate your beer. Breathe through your nose with two quick lungs-full, then once with your mouth open, then once through your mouth only. Sounds like a lot of work, but well worth it for, finally, the good part part: Drink up.

Try your hardest to reverse popular college belief that beer needs to be chugged or ingested in any timely fashion whatsoever; take a sip, but don’t swallow! Let the beer take over your taste buds.

Beer Advocate suggests noting the feel of the liquid, or "mouth-feel", the consistency of the beer and to breathe out during the process of tasting it, called “retro-olfacton.” Try to detect specific tastes like general bitterness, acids, sweetness or salty flavors.

Now that you know what to look for in taste, go ahead and put down the rest of your beer for a briefing of some popular types of brew you should know about before engaging in any craft beer talk, so you know what you're talking about, and what you're drinking.

WCPO-TV spoke with J. "Peanut" Kahles, also known as the ambassador of great brew, who will soon take the position of craft beer bar manager at the Party Source in Newport, Ky. He knows his drinks.

“One of my avocations in life is to educate people to the finer nuisances of the kingdom of beer,” Kahles said.

The ambassador enlightened us with specifics on many types of craft brew:

American lite lager: The beer is a little bit grainy in consistency, has a very light hop presence and it should be a pale yellow color like straw. It should be light bodied and should be fairly clean and crisp on the finish, according to Kahles.

American pedestrian lager would be like a Pabst Blue Ribbon, with a little bit more malt presence and a little heavier body. It should have good carbonation and should be refreshing, but it should have a little more linger to the finish. The hop presence should be a little more profound than American lite lagers.

Brown Ale: Kahles says brown ales should have a slight nuttiness to the flavor and should be a medium brown in color. It should be medium to lite-medium in feel and should have a good caramel presence to the flavor. It may have a little dark fruit taste in the flavor, like raisin or fig, and it should be more malty than hoppy.

Amber Ale: This type of beer should be a medium amber to light coppery color and should have a medium body. There should be a little bit of a toastiness to the flavor and it should be moderate bodied with a little bit of graininess to it. It should also have a little bit of hop linger on the finish but not a biting hop.

Irish Red: These beers should be malty in taste and reddish-copper in color to copper with cherry highlights to an almost ruby color. It should be clear and have a heavier mouth-feel. It shouldn’t be so heavy that it makes it hard to drink and should go down real easy. It should feel more filling than an amber ale, according to Kahles.

Pale Ale: It should have anywhere from a moderate to a strong hop aroma, depending on the hops used it might seem almost all hoppy on the nose. It shouldn’t be so hoppy that it completely hides the malt profile, and it should be like a pale golden color (hence the name pale). With the American pale ales it should always have either a citrusy or a piney odor/flavor from the American hops that are used in it, according to Kahles.

Stouts: It should be by definition, stout. There are different types of stout: Irish dry stout, sweet stouts, imperial Russian stout (old Rasputin), American stout, oatmeal stout, barrel aged stout.

Stouts should always be very dark, says Kahles, anywhere from a very dark, dark brown to opaque black or inky black; you won’t be able to see through them at all. It could be light-medium body to full-bodied. Some (stouts) are slick or silky on the tongue.

Porters: These beers should be dark brown to blackish in color with a clear consistency. It can be a little bit on the darker side to where you can’t quite see through it. There are lighter porters and heavier porters, like a standard porter and a Baltic porter. The standard would be a little lighter in color and clearer and easier to see through.

IPA: Kahles says the IPA should be anywhere from a medium amber color to a deep amber color and it should have a very pronounced hop nose. Flavor-wise, it should be very much on the hoppy side.

English example: The hops would be floral and earthy or grassy.

The IPA should have a decent balance to it, and should be copper to dark copper in color. It should have good bitterness to it with a medium body. Basically a ramped up version of a pale ale. American pale ale is mostly the same as English version but they use American hops.

When we asked Kahles what he would say to a new beer drinker, he simply said, “Experiment.”