Blowing Up Beer Myths

All last week, I heard so much about NFL Draft that it made me want to try a glass, but all the bars I called didn't have any for sale.


Do you know something else that isn't funny? Misconceptions about beer. OK, actually they can be funny, but I needed a way to work my corny NFL Draft joke into this column.

Here are some myths about beer:

Some beers come from the bottom of the barrel: I've heard this line about bock beers in particular. It's not true. If you think about it, all beer inside any vessel is the same — with no part better or worse than any other — since beer is a uniform liquid. A slight exception is unfiltered and bottle-conditioned beer, which can have a fine layer of harmless yeast at the bottom of the container. And kegs draw from the bottom; otherwise they would be impossible to empty.

Dark beer is stronger or heavier: The color of a beer doesn't necessarily have anything to do with its strength. It just shows if the brewer used roasted malts or not. Darker malt doesn't always equal more alcohol or calories, either. A great example of this is Guinness Draught stout, which many people think of as heavy and calorie-dense — almost like a beer milkshake, right? It's not. Twelve ounces of Guinness has 125 calories, compared with Budweiser's 145, according to the breweries. And the alcohol? Guinness is 4.2 percent alcohol, Budweiser is 5 percent.

Ale is stronger than lager: Even though some states (but not Florida) require that beer above a certain strength be called "ale," the term should not denote strength. Ale is beer brewed with strains of yeast that ferment quickly at the top of the vessel and at warmer temperatures. Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeast strains and ferment slowly at colder temperatures. There are strong lagers, like Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner (8.1 percent alcohol), and weak ales, like the great-named Polygamy Porter from Squatters in Utah (4 percent alcohol).

Bottled beer is better than canned: While this line may have been true years ago, it does not hold up anymore. Today's aluminum cans are lined so metal does not come in contact with beer and affect its flavor. And as I wrote in last week's column, cans prevent all light from passing through, which means canned beer can never become "skunked" or light-struck. Also, cans are easier to recycle than glass bottles, and you can take cans many places where glass isn't allowed, like the beach.