As craft beer continues to gain market share locally, nationally and internationally, beer drinkers are increasingly becoming more and more educated. This is a great thing because it raises the bar across the industry. But for some reason, some beer myths just won’t die. So let’s dispel some of them.
DARK BEERS ARE STRONG, BITTER, HEAVY, THICK, etc.
A beer’s color comes from the types of malted grains that were used to make the beer. Color alone tells you nothing about a beer’s strength, body or bitterness level. Some inky-black beers, for example, have surprisingly low amounts of alcohol (such as Guinness draught, which only has 4.2% ABV / 3.3% ABW), are relatively light bodied (e.g., schwarzbier), and have low bitterness levels (e.g., dunkel). On the other hand, some pale-hued beers can be very bitter (e.g., imperial IPA), high in alcohol (e.g., malt liquor or Belgian tripel) or surprisingly big bodied (e.g., some maibocks, Bohemian pilseners, Belgian blondes, strong golden ales, etc.). Recently, Stone Brewing Co. even brewed an Imperial “Golden Stout.”
STOUTS ARE HIGHLY CALORIC
Sure, some stouts are beefy, but many have less calories than you might expect. Guinness Draught, for example, only has about 125 calories per 12-ounce serving. Compare that to Budweiser, which has 145. The number of calories in a beer has more to do with its alcohol content than its style. Generally speaking, the higher the alcohol, the more calories.
FRESH BEER IS THE BEST BEER
This really depends on the style of beer. It’s true that hop-forward beers, such as India Pale Ales (IPAs), should be consumed as soon as possible because their delicate hop aromatics will quickly fade as time passes. But some beers actually improve with age, such as many imperial stouts, barleywines, Belgian-style quads, some sour ales and more.
“HOPPY” BEERS ARE BITTER BEERS
“Hoppy” is just a vague term used to describe a beer made with lots of hops. Depending on the types of hops used, how much are used and when they’re introduced into the boiling wort (or after the boil), hops can imbue beer with drastically different levels of flavor, aroma and bitterness. “Hoppy” can sometimes equate to “bitter,” but some beers can be aromatically “hoppy” yet have low bitterness levels. Hop bursting is one technique brewers employ to create a very aromatically hoppy beer, but with very little bitterness. In this method, brewers only add a small amount of hops (or no hops) at the beginning of the boil and loads of hops toward the end of the boil.
BOTTLED BEER IS BETTER THAN CANNED BEER
In many cases, both vessels can successfully hold beer. Assuming you’re comparing the same beer (one bottled version and one canned version), and both were treated the same from the brewery to your glass, any differences you think you perceive are all in your head. Even expert judges can’t tell the difference any more than chance. Modern cans are lined, so no beer touches metal. (Bottle caps are lined, too, by the way.) One difference you might notice, however, is if the beers were exposed to light (especially sun light, or store lights for a long period of time). In that case, the bottled version might taste a bit skunky.
IPA WAS INVENTED TO WITHSTAND THE SEA VOYAGE FROM ENGLAND TO INDIA
There is no evidence that the “India Pale Ale” (or “East India Pale Ale”) beer style was “invented” by George Hodgson or anyone else from England to withstand the long journey from England to India. Hoppy pale ales were already being brewed at the time, and many milder and less-hopped ales (including porters, which the troops stationed in India actually preferred) made the journey to India just fine. Of course, a little extra alcohol and extra doses of hops helped to preserve the beer, but it wasn’t necessarily a requirement. Most likely, the loosely defined style developed slowly over many decades.
BEER SHOULD BE SERVED ICE COLD AND IN A CHILLED MUG
Frosty mugs may sound appealing on a hot day, but they can really kill a beer’s appearance and flavor. Ice crystals on frozen glasses cause excessive foaming problems during filling, plus they carry undesirable flavors from the cooler. Then, as the ice melts, it waters down the beer and kills the head. The icy glass also makes the beer too cold, causing your taste buds to be temporarily numbed, rendering them less effective. Scientifically speaking, cold slows the volatilization of aromatic compounds, quelling hop aromas in IPAs, subtle esters in Belgian-style ales, roasted notes in stouts, and more.