Just like many of us, craft beer can be high-maintenance. And just like high-maintenance people, craft beer needs to be coddled, respected, and treated right. It certainly isn’t rocket surgery, but there are right ways, and by logical contrast, wrong ways to properly care for properly-made beer. What follows are a handful of tips and tricks that we’ve collected over many a pint, that we freely pass on to you to help you take better care of that delicious beer.

Where should I store my beer?

There are two environmental factors that lead to premature beer death: the first is heat. Many craft beers are not pasteurized, helping them to taste fresh and more full-flavored. However, it also means that extended exposure to warm temperatures may cause them to lose their freshness (particularly if they are unfiltered). This isn’t to say that they have to be stored in a refrigerated place (like a refrigerator), but somewhere that is at room temperature or below is ideal.

The other craft beer killer is light—sunlight to be exact. Over exposure to sunlight can lead to skunky smelling beer. Brown glass bottles help mitigate this threat to a degree, but a dark place like a cellar or pantry is best for prolonging your beer’s life.

How do I age my beer?

There is something to be said for maturing (or aging) a strong craft beer—ales of elevated alcohol content are best suited for this kind of thing. Be sure to store your aging beer in a cellar or cellar-like place that is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, rather than in a cold refrigerator. Corked bottles should be kept on their side; crown-capped bottles should be stored upright. There is no specified minimum time requirement for aging, and if you have a beer that is truly meant to be aged, there is no limit to how long you can let it age for either.

Is there a right way to serve?

Believe it or not, as important as storage is to ensuring the deliciousness of your brew, the temperature and pouring method are instrumental in contributing towards the beer’s integrity. It truly is a lost art.

Most “standard” beers taste “fresher” if served as soon as possible after purchase. (This seems obvious, but we’re all guilty of letting bottles lurk around the back of the fridge for six months).

When dispensing a keg with an air-pump, relatively quick consumption is best—at least for beer quality—to prevent any remaining beer from oxidizing and tasting “stale” or going flat.

When pouring a bottle, there are two ways to go: either dump the beer down the center of the glass, blowing out excess carbonation (making it taste more draught-like) and releasing its aroma; or “sneak” it down the side of the glass, preventing over-foaming and preserving the bottle’s extra fizz. We all grew up being told that you want to limit the “head” that forms when you pour a beer too fast. That is not necessarily true, as exploding bubbles in the beer’s “head” release aromas, adding to the overall experience of drinking the beer.

The most important element of serving a beer, however, is temperature. Ales should be served at a cool 55 degrees F—what the English call “cellar temperature”—and lagers should be served around 48 degrees F. The logic here is simple: the colder the temperature, the less you taste (this holds true for all foods, not just beer). And before you ask, this is exactly the reason why certain big beers market their beer with their “drink ice cold” nonsense. Remember, the colder the beer, the less you taste. Let’s just say it might not be in certain brewers’ interest for their customers to actually taste their product.

By contrast, the more flavor a beer has, the better it will taste at warmer temperatures. Cleaner, lighter ales (such as cream ales) can work well closer to “lager” temperatures. Darker, stronger lagers (bocks, doppelbocks) can benefit from approaching “ale” temperatures. But only the richest ales (stouts, strong ales, barley wines) should be served near room temperature.

I hear beer nerds talk about tasting—am I doing it right?

Okay, your beer’s been properly stored and served. Now, to help it taste its best, follow these easy steps.

1) Use a clean, clear glass. Brewers carefully blend special malts to create just the right color and appearance in their beer, so choose a glass that is totally clean. Dishwasher detergents and hand-washing soap can leave residue that, although imperceptible to the taster, will ruin a beer’s foamy head, causing the delicious brew to look less delicious. We recommend washing your glass thoroughly with hot water alone, or at least rinsing it repeatedly after a standard washing.

2) Your nose knows—we won’t be pretentious and say beer has a “bouquet” like wine, but it clearly has an aroma… one which the brewer has worked diligently to impart. Both malts and hops affect a beer’s aroma, with the latter frequently being chosen solely for their aromatic qualities. A beer can smell “malty,” sweet—in a grainy kind of way—or, more specifically, “toasty,” “chocolaty,” or even “burnt” (with roasted malts). Hops can impart floral, spicy, or “citrus” aromas (American varieties are famous for their lemony-grapefruity character). After a while, you can become familiar with the aromas of specific hop types. Overall, it pays to take time to appreciate a beer’s aroma. Leave enough room at the top of your glass so you can gently swirl the brew to release its smells.

3) Don’t waste taste buds. Instead of just gulping down a beer, consider how it tastes in your mouth. How it feels on your tongue. It may be sweet at first, then bitter and dry as you swallow. Or perhaps it is mouth-coatingly rich, with flavors that remind you of toffee and “fresh-baked bread.” Wheat beers may be refreshingly crisp and clean, while a stout – with all its licorice, coffee, and chocolate notes— can only be described as “complex.” The key to all craft-brewed beer is flavor, so always try to think about the way your chosen brew tastes. Your tongue will thank you.

4) Think about the beer’s finish (not just finishing the beer). After each swallow, examine the brew’s lasting flavors and qualities. Does a hoppy India Pale Ale linger longer than a clean, soft wheat beer? Does a malty brown ale seem sweeter going down than a dry stout? “Aftertaste” is something to be desired in a good beer. It provides a final impression of the brew’s qualities and, possibly, its overall quality.

So, now you have a few tips and tricks intended to help you enhance your beer drinking experience. This list of advice is by no means all-inclusive, and as we continue to travel the craft beer universe, we will no doubt learn some more useful tips and tricks that we can then pass on to you through useful blog posts like this one, or maybe over a pint at the Brew Republic world headquarters.

To the Republic (if you can keep it)… Cheers!

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