Do you like beer? With Superbowl Sunday around the corner, it seems like an appropriate time to talk a bit about it. After all, Americans will consume something like 50 million cases of beer on Sunday (17 times more than average)—you’re likely to be offered one, whether you like it or not.
I felt like it wasn’t until I found myself in a beer garden in Germany with beers served in glasses (and not in plastic red Solo cups) that I started to see the appeal. Like so many things, I find it’s just a matter of trying lots of new things and figuring out what suits you best.
When we first moved to Davis, Aron’s parents had us over for lunch with UC Davis’s brewmaster, Charlie Bamforth—or as the professor of malting and brewing sciences is sometimes known, “The Pope of Foam.” (Davis’s is the top brewing program in the country.) The completely charming Brit brought over a sampling of beers (and a dry wit) and took us on a far-reaching tour of barley and rye and hops.
If you’re interested in hearing a bit about the science of brewing—some applicable inspiration to help you appreciate the stuff (or at least some trivia to share) before game day—there’s a wonderful mini-documentary featuring Dr. Bamforth called “The Art and Science of Beer.” The whole thing is only five minutes, but here’s a shorter clip just about foam:
I’ve collected some of my favorite Bamforth wisdom from these clips, and elsewhere:
Go for the Popular One. In a bar with a lot of choices on tap, there are likely a few that have sat for a long time—long enough for oxygen to sneak in and make the beer stale.
Don’t Overlook the Can. Light is the enemy of beer. Brown glass—or better yet, a can—will keep the light out. Green, clear, or blue glass tends to allow too much in.
But Serve Beer in a Glass. All the better for your nose to “dangle” in it, and your nose is what really determines taste.
Pour with vigor! Release the foam! Beside being a “hedonically fantastic vision of beauty,” beers with the better foam are always thought to taste better. Don’t dump the beer to the point you have a volcanic mess, but avoid the slow pour against the side of the glass that give you something akin to “cold tea.”
Beer goes with everything. In fact it can be a better match to cheese than wine, Bamforth has said: It doesn’t overpower it; it complements it. But the selection of foods that pair well is, “almost unlimited.” … “From white sausage and pretzel with hefeweissen for breakfast to chocolate cake and barley wine for dessert after supper … Think Singha with Thai Red Curry. Think Bass Ale with roast beef. Think Bock with hot wings.”
It’s a matter of taste. 1 in 3 people will actually choose the (technically improperly) skunky beer. All that matters is what you like.
But if you’re still hoping for more direct advice, Epicurious has produced a list of five easily sourced beers that pair well with typical game day fare.
P.S. Expecting, driving, or just abstaining? My picks for the best non-alcoholic beers.[Photos from top: a beer garden in Germany; screenshot of Charlie Bamforth via YouTube; Davis’s annual Bike & Brew Fest, held each August with local breweries like Davis’s Sudwerk and West Sacramento’s Bike Dog in attendance.]