Beer is the world's most widely consumed and probably oldest alcoholic beverage, and the third most popular drink overall after water and tea.
Selecting and Buying
Go to a store that sells a variety of imported and microbrewed ales and lagers.
Determine which beers are bottle-conditioned. Bottle-conditioned beers contain living yeast, and have a layer of yeast sediment on the bottom of the bottle, which can be seen when the bottle is viewed from the bottom. Living yeast will actively keep beer fresh by eliminating unwanted compounds, consuming harmful oxygen, and producing carbon dioxide. Yeast also absorbs and consumes the healthy antioxidant plant constituents that are derived from barley and hops. If the yeast is removed from the beer, much of the healthy constituents may be removed. Yeast also provides B vitamins, which are removed from your body when alcohol is metabolized. Some people may find beer yeast to be unpalatable. If so, step #3 is important.
Determine which beers are dark or, if light in color, which ones are hazy. Dark beers use dark barley malt that enables the healthy hop constituents to remain in solution. Dark beers that have been filtered and have not been bottle conditioned will still provide plentiful quantities of antioxidants, perhaps more so than unfiltered, bottle-conditioned light-colored beers. Filtered, light-colored beers do also provide readily absorbed antioxidants, but may be lacking in certain antioxidants. British stouts and porters use relatively large quantities of dark malt. Haze or an obvious suspension of very small particles in light-colored beers may be an indication that there are plentiful quantities of antioxidant polyphenols in the beer, or that the beer has not been overly processed. However, light, clear beers may be healthful, and very high in quality, but it is important that they be bottle conditioned. Some strains of yeast result in a murky yeast suspension in the beer, while other yeasts result in a thick, compact sediment and an otherwise relatively clear beer. Many healthful nutrients should exist in the yeast sediment and suspended yeast. Some European lagers are aged (lagered) for many months before being bottled. These beers may still contain living yeast, but will be quite clear due to the extended lagering period.
Purchase some beers according to the above steps, and taste them. The beers that are more bitter were probably made with greater quantities of hops. Beers that are not overly bitter but have lots of hop flavor and aroma may have been made with more hops than some bitter beers. More hops means more healthful hop constituents. Beers with hop flavor and aroma should provide a greater variety of delicate hop antioxidants. Dark beers need not be overly bitter or have hop flavor and aroma, as the dark malt helps to keep significant quantities of healthful hop constituents in solution even though less hops may be used. When pouring beer into a glass, try swirling the dregs of the beer in the bottle and pouring the loosened sediment into your glass. This will help to ensure that you consume all of the available healthful nutrients. However, such a practice may not be recommended for certain styles of beer.
Conserving and Storing
Depending on the style, beer needs to be stored in a way that maintains its flavor and freshness. Some can even be stored and aged for maturation. Follow these easy steps to store your beer.
Store vintage beers, imperial stouts, strong ales and lambics in an upright position in a cool, dark place for aging. Keeping these beers stored for long periods of time (a year or more) enhances their flavor and helps them develop complexity-just like wine.
Maintain the temperature of your beer. Though cycling beer from warm to cold and back again usually only causes cloudiness, for the best flavor, keep your beer in the refrigerator at all times.
Keep beer away from direct light. Light reacts with the hops in the beer causing it to stale quickly, often referred to as "skunking." Store beer in a dark place at all times where light cannot reach it.
Use carbon dioxide with keg beer instead of compressed air to force it out. Oxygen accelerates the chemical reactions that cause staling in beer. Keg beer can go flat in a matter of days when exposed to oxygen.
Take note of the "freshness" or "consume by" date on the beer packaging. If there is no date, store your beer for no longer than 6 weeks (unless you are aging it). Beer is perishable, like other foods, and can only be stored and kept fresh for a limited amount of time. Stronger, hoppier beers may keep for longer.