Beer 101

Beer Tasting

While it is easy to pop the top off a beer and swill it down, there are a few simple steps that will help you appreciate the nuances in beer. This will allow you to better understand the differences between a beer you like and a beer you don’t.

As a starter, we recommend you taste any beer in a glass. Glass unlike bottles helps to unleash a beer’s aroma and its flavour. This is often the reason a beer on tap tastes so much better than the same beer in a bottle. Make sure the glass is clean as any dirt or remnants of a previous beer can affect its taste.

If you are tasting multiple beers try tasting those lighter in flavour first before moving to the stronger, more hoppier versions. Also, consider drinking water between beers to help cleanse the palate.


Behold the beer in all its splendour. Raise the glass in front of you, but do not hold it direct to the light as this will dilute the colour. Consider its colour, head and consistency.


Swirl the beer gently in the glass. This will draw out aroma, loosen and stimulate carbonation as well as test head retention.


Around 75% of what you experience is through your sense of smell. Breathe through your nose, then with your mouth open, then through your mouth only (nose & mouth are connected in the experience). Agitate as required. Enjoy its bouquet.


Sip the beer, but resist swallowing immediately. Let the beer wander and explore your palate. Note the mouth feel and the consistency of the liquid’s body, breathe out during the tasting process. Try to detect sweetness, salty flavours, acids and general bitterness. Think about what the flavours are or what they are similar to. Need rating sheets for your beer appreciation event? Download the Beer Cartel Beer Tasting Booklet here

Beer Pouring

As all beers are unique they require slightly different methods of pouring. Below are some general guidelines for pouring beer.

Select the correct glass

Use a clean glass. A dirty glass, containing oils, dirt or residuals from a previous beer, may inhibit head creation and flavour.

Beer Temperature

Ensure that the beer is at the correct serving temperature. General rule of thumb is that the higher alcohol content, the higher the serving temperature. The lower the alcohol content, the lower the serving temperature. The majority of high quality boutique beers are best served somewhere above 4 degrees Celsius.

Strong beers (like barley wines, tripels and dark ales) will be their best at room temperature (13–16 degrees Celsius), while standard ales (bitters, IPAs, dobbelbocks, lambics, stouts, etc) are best at cellar temperature (10–13 degrees Celsius).Lighter beers (lagers, pilsners, wheat beers, milds etc) are best at refrigerated temperature (7–10 degrees Celsius)


Hold the glass at a 45° angle. When pouring the beer aim for the middle of the side.

When slightly more than half of the beer is poured, make the glass perfectly vertical and pour the remainder directly into the middle of the glass to induce the perfect foam head. Remember, having a head on a beer is a good thing, it releases the beer’s aroma and adds to the overall presentation.

As you pour you gradually add distance between the bottle and glass, this further inspires good head.

Beer Glass Cleaning Tips

  • Never chill your glassware. As beer hits frosted glass condensation occurs which can dilute your beer and alter the serving temperature.
  • Hand-wash all glasses. Some dishwashers will leave a residue, which may affect the head retention, as well as flavour and aroma.
  • Use a mild dishwashing soap. If you are really particular, have a separate sponge for your glassware so there is no cross contamination from greasy food particles on a used sponge.
  • Let the glasses air dry. Avoid hand drying with a towel as it will leave dust particles which will affect the head retention.
  • If your glassware has gold/silver rims and/or printed logos hand washing will ensure these features remain in top condition for an extended period of time.

Beer Glasses

To truly appreciate a beer it needs to be served in the correct glass. The world of beer contains a wide range of beer glasses, all shaped and styled in different ways.

Apart from being visually appealing, the shape of the glass can affect the beer experience influencing taste, aroma and the initial pouring. The glass shape can also influence how quickly the beer warms up as well as how the head develops and is retained. Check out our range of beer glasses.

The most common beer glasses include:

  • Goblet/Chalice
  • Flute Glass
  • Oversized Wine Glass
  • Pilsner Glass (or Pokal)
  • Pint Glass (or Nonic)
  • Snifter
  • Stange
  • Stein
  • Tulip
  • Wheat Beer Glass (Weizen Glass)


Goblets or Chalices are large, stemmed and bowl shaped. They only really differ in terms of glass thickness. Goblets tend to be more delicate and thin, while the Chalice is heavy and thick walled. Some Chalices are etched on the bottom to provide a carbonation point, creating and a stream of bubbles for maintaining a nice head.

The Goblet Advantage: Designed to maintain head and ideal for wide mouthed sips.


The Flute glass is the preferred serving vessel for Belgian lambics and fruit beers. They aid in displaying the lively carbonation, sparkling colour and soft lacing distinct to these beer styles. The Flute glass is similar to a champagne glass; however stems can often be shorter.

The Flute Glass Advantage: Showcases carbonation bubbles. Releases volatiles (the compounds that evaporate from beer creating its bouquet) quickly, allowing a more intense initial aroma.


An oversized wine glass is perfect for serving Belgian Ales. The size of the glass assists in the creation of the aroma.

Oversized Wine Glass Advantage: Good replacement for a Tulip or Goblet glass.


While a Pilsner glass is used to serve many types of beers it is intended for its namesake, the pilsner. A Pilsner glass is tall, slender, evenly tapered and usually has short stem at the base.

Check out our range of pilsner beer glasses.

The Pilsner Glass Advantage: Showcases colour, clarity and carbonation. Promotes head retention and enhances aroma.


The Pint glass typically holds one British pint of liquid. There are two main Pint glass types: the Conical and Dimple Mug. The Conical is nearly cylindrical, it tapers at the top to a wide mouth. The Dimple Mug Pint has a handle and is made of thick dimpled glass.

The Pint Glass Advantage: Cheap to make and easy to drink from.

Suitable for: Ales, Stouts, Porters


While typically used for brandy and cognac, the Snifter is ideal for serving strong ales. The glass has a wide bowled body and is stemmed.

The Snifter Advantage: Captures and enhances aroma.


The Stange is a traditional German glass meaning “stick”. The tallness and cylindrical design of the glass is used to serve more delicate beers, amplifying malt and hop nuances.

The Stange Advantage: Tighter concentration of volatiles (compounds that evaporate from beer to create its aroma)


The Beer Stein derives from the German words “Bier” (beer) and “Steinkrug” (‘stone’ + ‘crock’). Steins are traditionally made of pewter, silver, wood, porcelain, earthenware or glass. They often use a hinged lid with levered thumb lift. Today they are more commonly made of thick sturdy glass without a lid. The lid was implemented during the age of the Black Plague (14th century) to prevent diseased flies from getting into the beer.

The Stein Advantage: Large volume and easy to drink from.


The Tulip glass helps trap aroma and maintain head, creating a visual and olfactory sensation. The glass has a bulbous mid section with the top flaring out to form a lip which aids in head retention.

Check out our range of tulip beer glasses.

The Tulip Advantage: Traps and enhances volatiles, while provoking and supporting large foamy heads.


The authentic glass to serve a Weizenbier! The original German version generally holds half a litre with room for head, however there are smaller sizes available. The glass is wider at the top than at the base. This aids in the production of head as well as increasing the exposure to air when the glass is tilted backwards during drinking.

Check out our range of wheat beer glasses.

The Wheat Beer Glass Advantage: Designed to take on volume and head, while locking in aroma.

Food Matching Beer

Beer and food can be matched in one of two ways; either designed to complement or contrast one and other.

Match based on the strength of flavour. Those dishes with more delicate flavours work best with delicate beers, while more full-flavoured foods require beers that have the same hitting power. The intensity of flavour is not the single determinant of strength. The dish and beer at an overall level should be considered. For food some of these factors include richness, sweetness, cooking methods, spicing, texture and complexity of the dish. For beer, this could include alcoholic strength, malt character, hop bitterness, sweetness, richness and roastiness.

Find Harmonies. When looking to match on the basis of complementing flavours consider what common flavour or aroma elements are shared. The citrus notes of Hefeweizens/Witbiers go great with seafood, the maltiness of Amber/Red Ales works well with red meat while the chocolate roasted flavours of an Imperial Stout go well with anything chocolate related.

Consider how the qualities of the food and beer interact. When looking to contrast between beer and a dish think about how each will interact so that one does not detrimentally effect the matching. This is different from the intensity of the flavours, focusing on the ‘type of flavours’. Foods with a lot of sweetness or fatty richness (or both) can be matched by a various elements in beer: hop bitterness, sweetness, roasted/toasted malt or alcohol. Carbonation is also effective at cutting richness. Malty sweetness cools heat, so if you’re leaning to a hoppy beer with spicy food, make sure it has plenty of malt as well.

For some useful pairing ideas check out the PDF attachment from the American Brewers Association below.