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An introduction to Craft BeerTaught by Matt Simpson

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The Beer Sommelier; "Just like wine; not all beer is created equal"

  • For all Craft Beer appreciators

  • Understanding the brewing process

  • Ordering and tasting

  • Pairing Craft Beer with foods


We’ve historically heard it a LOT: “Wine is serious...beer is fun!” This was the prevailing wisdom for centuries...until recently…

What people are realizing now, though, is that gourmet craft beer can be as serious a beverage as wine, and even more complex, with infinite style variations and a broad food-pairing range. What people are now asking is, “What beer should I have with X, Y or Z food?” This course is designed to give you the confidence to help you answer that question knowledgeably

This course is a guide to craft beer. It will give you the pointers you need on a day to day basis. Consider it the “Cliff’s Notes” of craft beer creation and food pairing.

We discuss ingredients, the brewing process and other peripherals. By the end of the course you’ll understand the creation process for beer (after all, you should know what it’s made of and how it’s made), craft beer styles, craft beer tasting (appearance, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel), glassware (no plastic cups here, folks) and importantly food and beer combinations. You’ll understand various meals, chocolate, cheese, desserts, and how to pair them with appropriate beers.

Now, I’m here to help...it’s what I do...it’s what I love. If you have any questions about beer—at all—don’t hesitate to ask. I’m fortunate enough to have surrounded myself with some of the most beer-knowledgeable people in the world. In the event I can’t answer your question, I’ll certainly do my best to get it answered.

The Curriculum

  • 1. Grains, malts, hops, water, yeast

    Craft beer creation takes the sugar from grains, boils it with hops and water, cools it down, adds yeast, which eat the sugars, and turns them into carbon dioxide (or, CO2) and alcohol (and a few other things).

    But more specifically in lesson one we learn about the components that make up craft beers and what the combinations mean.

    We’ll cover:

    • Grains (malted barley, wheat, rice, corn and more)
    • Grain Malting & Roasting
    • Types of Malt (2-row and 6-row)
    • Roasted grains and Lovibond units
    • Pale malt, Pilsen (or “Pils”), Czech and German pilsners.
    • Munich malt is used in Marzens (otherwise known as Oktoberfests), Helles and other German lagers.
    • Pale ale malt (often called Maris Otter malt)
    • Vienna malt
    • Wheat malts
    • Rye Malt
    • Adjunct Grains and Sugars:

    Hops (plant flowers for bittering):
    If beer is a soup, the hops are its spice.

    Water may be the most voluminous ingredient in the creation of beer, but for our purposes, it will take a back seat.

    In a nutshell, yeast are microorganisms that eat the sugars in the wort (the beer before its fermented) and make alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2), as their main byproducts…with a bunch of other flavor and aromatic components as well.

    Malt may be the backbone of beer, water the base and hops the spice…but yeast is the workhorse – the engine – that turns the soup into beer!

  • 2. How is craft beer made

    In order to create a beer, much like any other gourmet dish, you need to formulate a recipe. The brewer selects from all the combinations of grains, water, hops and yeasts available, and comes up with a recipe to match the style guidelines (or personal taste) for which he’s looking to match. Once he/she’s created the recipe, it’s simply a matter of “cooking” the ingredients for their individually required times, volumes and combinations, until the “soup” is just right. In this lesson you will learn the different impacts of the combinations, at that craft beer making is as much art as it is science.

    You will learn the components of making craft beer in lesson two:

    • Mashing the Grains
    • The Boil
    • The Big Chill
    • Yeast and Fermentation
    • Bottling and Kegging
    • Filtering

  • 3. Craft Beer Styles

    As a trained and experienced beer judge, I believe that having delineated styles is not only healthy, but necessary. Why? Because without style guidelines and their inherent definitions, competition among brewers – both professional and homebrew – would be impossible. How else would it be possible to compare apples to apples, style for style, entry for entry, and see which brewer is more competent at adhering to a given set of parameters? It wouldn’t. Without someone outlining the levels of bitterness, color, gravity, aroma, flavor, and more - for any given beer type, competitions would be purely hedonic and subjective, not objective and impartial, as any competition should be judged. By the end of lesson three – you will understand the following styles and how they are judged: German Lagers, Ales, Czech Republic/Eastern European German Lagers, Ales, British Ales, American Ales, American Beers, Stouts and Lagers and more.

  • 4. Beer Tasting, Presentation and Storage

    There’s nothing really complicated about drinking beer. You simply pick it up and drink, right? No, not really. Beer is an incredibly complex beverage that commands the respect of a proper pour, an inspecting glance and sniff, and finally, a taste.

    If you think about what goes into making a beer (water, malt, hops and yeast), then consider how many different varieties of each component there are, then multiply all the possible variations of those ingredients, you’ll realize how many possible variations of this beverage are possible…thousands. Which is what makes the Style Guidelines so important as a baseline.

    In this final lesson you will come away with the learning outcomes of understanding: Tasting beer properly, beer glassware, beer serving temperatures, and beer and food pairings.


A thirst for an understanding about Craft Beer from the one and only Beer Somelier, world expert, Matt Simpson

Meet your expert tutor

Matt Simpson has been involved with craft beer, in one regard or another, for well over two decades. He taught Beer Education 101 at Emory University, is a BJCP (www.bjcp.org) Certified Judge, Siebel...read more

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