beer education

NC Beer Month News and Events for Easter Weekend

Heading into the third weekend of NC Beer Month, we are carried by the momentum of last week’s World Beer Cup in Denver.  North Carolina breweries were awarded 8 medals, including a Gold to Asheville Brewing for Ninja Porter and a bronze to Wicked Weed for their Tyrant Double Red IPA.  NoDa Brewing of Charlotte beat out 222 other IPAs to take Gold for their Hop Drop ‘n Roll in the most competitive contest of the event. 

Other North Carolina winners include:

White Street Brewing -- Gold – Kölsch (Köln or Kölsch style Ale)

Mother Earth Brewing – Bronze – Endless River (Köln or Kölsch style Ale)

Outerbanks Brewing Station – Gold – Meyerbock (Heller Bock/ Maibock)

Olde Hickory Brewing – Silver – Irish Walker (Strong Ale or Old Ale)

This competition had over 1400 breweries from 58 countries competing in 94 different categories.  The success of North Carolina’s small breweries helps explain why there is so much local pride surrounding beer.  These brewers deserve it.

And what better way to show your support of NC brewers than by going out and buying some beer!  Two events really stand out this week in the Asheville area, and I hope everyone has the chance to get out to both.

Sharpen the Blade Saison Fest

Friday April 18th:  4pm- 10pm

Burial Beer is hosting the first Saison Fest in Asheville.  Saisons are a style that originated in Southern Belgium and were first brewed by farmers as partial payment to their seasonal workers.  The beers had to be high enough in alcohol to stay fresh from early spring to late summer, but they had to be thirst quenching enough to be desirable after a hard day working the fields.  Every farmer brewed theirs a little bit differently based on what was available, and that freedom of expression is what drives modern day brewers of the style.  Saison Fest will have examples from 15 NC breweries on offer this Friday.  There is no admission charge, just buy the beer by the glass and enjoy.  The best news is that Spring should be back in town by this weekend, so you shouldn’t need your coat.

Highland Brewing 20th Anniversary Plaid Party 

Saturday April 19th:  4pm-9pm (Doors at 2)

Highland Brewing is celebrating 20 years this month, and they are offering a series of limited release beers to commemorate.  Highland is the brewery that started the modern day craft scene in Asheville, and they remain the largest locally owned brewery in Western North Carolina.  Show some support to these pioneers by heading out to the tasting room this Saturday to try beers that you haven’t had and won’t have the opportunity to try again.  “Celtic Ale” the original name and recipe for Gaelic, a 20th Anniversary Scotch Ale, and two “NC only” beers including a lager and a Belgian Ale will be poured along with Highland’s usual line-up and other small batch beers.  Live music, food trucks and to-go bottle sales round out the afternoon.  They are asking that people carpool when possible, as parking is limited. 




Brewer- Farmer Relationships Threatened

News about an FDA proposal to control animal feed is making small brewers and small farmers nervous.  Both would experience increased costs of operation if this proposal goes through.  Fortunately, it is open to public comment until March 31st. 

Brewing uses a lot of barley.  Barley is a cereal grain rich in protein and carbohydrate calories as well as a host of other important nutrients.  Brewers are most interested in the starches and sugars that are extracted through the mashing process.  Once those have been removed from the grain, the rest is considered waste to the brewer.  For as long as there have been brewers living near farmers, these wasted grains have ended up as animal feed.  A new effort from the FDA would severely threaten that relationship.


A new proposed rule would prevent breweries from passing off spent grain to farmers. The rule is meant to “ensure the safety of animal food for animals consuming the food and ensuring the safety of animal food for humans handling the food, particularly pet food…”

The rule essentially would require breweries to dry, analyze and package the grain before sending it to the brewers. All without any of it touching human hands. The process would be too time consuming and too costly for small craft brewers. The grain would have to be dumped. The farmers would be barred from picking it up. The free grain is a big help financially to the farmer, offsetting food costs for the animals.

Obviously there is a need to control the products farmers feed their livestock.  There is real danger to consumers of animal products if the feed used to raise them is unsafe.  Brewers' barley, however, does not fall into this category of dangerous products.  This barley has already been deemed safe enough to use as a principle ingredient in a beverage for human consumption.  The brewing process simply steeps the barley in 150+/- degree water for an hour or so.  If the farmers are utilizing the spent grains from brewers in a timely fashion, there is little risk for bacterial growth or any other spoilage that might affect the quality of the feed.  Any proposal should seek to regulate that part of the equation, if anything.  From a quick google search, I wasn't able to find any information to support a theory that brewers' grains pose any health risk to cattle.  Also, a study released by the National Institutes of Health in 1994 concluded the following:

Twenty lactating Jersey cows were offered diets containing 0, 15, or 30% wet brewers grains or 30% wet brewers grains plus liquid brewers’ yeast during hot, humid weather. The DMI was not different, even though diets with 30% wet brewers grains contained only 35.5% DM and approximately 50 versus 36.8% NDF for the control diet. Yields of milk and FCM did not differ for cows offered the control diet versus wet brewers grains or diets with 15 versus 30% wet brewers grains, but milk yield for diets with 30% wet brewers grains was greater with added liquid brewers’ yeast than without it. Milk fat percentage was not different, but milk protein percentage was lower, for diets with wet brewers grains than for controls and for 30% wet brewers grains than for 15% wet brewers grains. Serum urea N was lower for control cows than for cows receiving the diets with wet brewers grains. Feed cost per cow was lower for wet brewers grains versus the control diet, and income over feed cost was greater for diets with 30 versus 15% wet brewers grains. Large quantities of wet brewers grains can be added to the diet during hot weather without depressing DMI.
— National Insititute of Health

This only helps to reaffirm the argument that farmers strongly benefit from the use of brewer's grains as feed.  Also, many small brewers reap the benefit of free haul off and disposal of this waste product.  If small brewers were forced to pay for this waste to be removed, they would incur extra costs that would have to be passed on to the consumer.  No one benefits from losing this relationship.   

Please don't let small brewers and farmers get caught up in this proposal.  The comment period is open until March 31st.  Follow the link to make your opinion heard.

Yuengling Ice Cream Makes a Return


On my brewery tours of Asheville, I tell participants the history of beer in the US, and one of the major events in US brewing history was Prohibition.  The outlaw of the manufacture of alcohol in the US changed the trajectory for beer for the next 80 years.  Before Prohibition, many brewers were extremely successful and had built large business enterprises.  One of those breweries was the one owned by the Yuengling family in Pennsylvania. 

Before the devastation of the Volstead Act, the Yuengling family had earned a lot of money brewing beer.  In the boom times, the patriarch of the family smartly invested in gold, railroads, and a dairy farm.  This dairy farm would become a major enterprise for the family when they were forced to stop making beer for thirteen years.

Most large breweries had mechanical refrigeration by 1920, so the Yuengling family smartly combined this asset with their dairy farm and started an ice cream company.  Even after Prohibition was repealed the ice cream business was popular enough to keep it alive until the early 1980s.  The brand was shut down at that point, but the Yuenglings announced recently that their once famous ice cream will be back on shelves throughout the mid-Atlantic soon.

Best known for beer, the family-owned Yuengling brewery launched its ice cream subsidiary in 1920 to help the business survive Prohibition.

The dairy branch was spun off from the flagship in 1935, two years after Prohibition ended, but it stopped production in 1985.

At that time, David Yuengling wasn’t ready to take over the family business from his father. But after spending 30 years in the computer industry, David was ready to revive the ice cream business.

Production was expected to start in March, but advance interest from grocery stores like Acme and Weis encouraged him to speed up the process. Quarts of the 10 new flavors hit shelves on Monday.

”I think one of the biggest problems people have with new products is name-brand recognition, and we already have that,” Yuengling said.

Yuengling’s Ice Cream remains separate from the Yuengling brewery, which David’s second-cousin now owns. The Pennsylvania-based brewery has been family owned since it opened in 1829 and distributes mainly to the East Coast.

The ice cream company is also based in Pennsylvania and plans to distribute to stores in the Mid-Atlantic region.

And no, beer isn’t one of the flavors. But a chocolate and caramel combo is called Black and Tan, sharing its name with one of the six Yuengling beers
— Katie Labosco for CNN

Why every restaurant needs beer education

As craft beer becomes a more mainstream product, restaurant and bar owners need to prepare their staffs for a new customer demographic, the educated beer drinker.  When wine exploded in the 1990s, there was a demand for educated wine professionals in the service industry.  Restaurants began to build thoughtful wine lists of popular items that paired will with the food on offer.  As craft beer continues to surge throughout the United States, restauranteurs are again faced with building their businesses based on their customers' interests or being left behind as others grow.

More taps doesn't mean better beer

More taps doesn't mean better beer

Not every restaurant has to be a "beer bar".  That knee jerk reaction to the growth of craft beer has produced a few success stories, but has also led to an overabundance of 100+ tap pubs with no passion for the products they serve.  I think this stage of growth is one where we can look to the wine industry for support and a clear path.  Incorporating and integrating beer into the overall restaurant experience is a far more achievable and rewarding goal than out-competing one another for "most taps".

This integration is where beer education comes into play.  As restauranteurs become more knowledgeable about beer, they will make better decisions for their businesses.  Choices will be made based on the food menu rather than on what the distributor had on special. 

Once the beer is in house, knowledgeable staff will do a much better job describing flavors and making recommendations. This product knowledge will result in more sales and greater revenues for the restaurant.   Proper presentation and draft system maintenance will enhance the appearance that the establishment is proud of its offerings. 

BREW-ed was established to help restaurants with this transition into the world of craft beer.  Through on-site staff training to consulting services for business owners regarding products, menus and equipment, BREW-ed is able to help prepare for the continued growth of craft beer.


What is Malt? Basics of Beer

Most beers are made up of four main ingredients:  Water, barley, hops and yeast.  Throughout the Basics of Beer series, I will address each of these topics individually.  Last time, the discussion was about the differences between ales and lagers and an overview of what happens during fermentation.  Over the next two posts, I will talk about barley and what it lends to finished beer.  This post will give an overview of how barley is processed before it makes it to the brewery.  This process is called malting.


The basic idea of malting is to take raw barley, allow it to germinate to a certain point, and then stop it before it turns into a new barley plant. Brewers want the starches and sugars of the barley grain, as well as enzymes that will help break them down once the malted barley enters the brewery.  Very few brewers still malt their own barley, though historically it was not uncommon.  Through the following steps, specialized producers called maltsters create the wide range of barley products used by brewers to add fermentable sugar, color and flavor to their beers.

Steeping tank at Briess Maltings

Steeping tank at Briess Maltings

Steeping is the first step in the process.  After the maltster receives raw barley from the farm, a large drum called a steeping tank is filled with cool water.  The raw barley is added and over the next two to four days the barley will soak up the water, increasing the moisture content in the grain.  This begins the germination process, and the same reactions that happen to the seeds in nature are happening inside that steeping tank.


Man raking malt

Man raking malt

Raking is the next step in the process.  Once the moisture content of the seeds has hit the desired level, oxygen must be introduced to continue germination.  The barley is dumped from the steeping tank onto the floor of the malt house where it will sit for several days.  By raking the barley around on the floor, the maltster is getting oxygen to the seeds.  During this stage, natural enzymes in the barley seed are breaking down the endosperm of the seed to make starches that, if left alone, would become the nutrients for a new little barley plant.   Heat is also produced during this process naturally, and there are stories from the old days of piles of wet malt bursting into flames on the floor.  

As soon as the first rootlets, called chits, appear at the ends of some of the barley seeds, the maltster must stop the germination process.  If allowed to continue, all those starches that were just created would turn into roots and stems and barley plant parts.  The process is stopped by drying out the malt very quickly in a large kiln.  The moisture content is brought from 45% to around 3% percent within 2-4 hours.  This low moisture content is what makes barley shelf safe for up to a year.

Malt kin diagram

Malt kin diagram

After the barley has been dried, the maltster will kiln it further to make a wide variety of products.  In the kiln, the barley is heated to different temperatures and held at those temperatures for different amounts of time.  Maillard reactions are happening in the kiln.  Maillard reactions are a browning reaction that is also responsible for making toast.  If you were to put a piece of white bread into a toaster for a few seconds it will come out a little yellow and taste a bit different.  If you leave it in longer, it will turn brown and taste very different.  If you leave it in for a really long time, it will turn completely black and taste VERY different.  These same reactions occur in the maltster's kiln.  The different amounts of time and temperature that are applied to the barley will create different malts that will add different flavors and colors to the finished beer, later.  The range of malt flavor can be from biscuity or cracker-like (very lightly kilned malt) to toffee or nutty (more highly kilned) all the way to burnt or coffee-like (very highly kilned).   As the malt is being kilned, the enzymes that the brewer needs to finish the sugar creation process in the brewery are slowly being denatured, or made inactive.  Generally, as the malt is darkened in the kiln its extract potential, or the amount of sugars it can yield when brewing, is diminished.   

Once this final step is complete, the maltster will ship the different products out to breweries where they will be chosen in the right proportions to make any one of the tremendous variety of beer styles.

If you'd like to learn more about Beer Ingredients or the Brewing Process, sign up for a BREW-ed Brewery & History Walking Tour

What's the difference between an ale and a lager? - Basics of Beer

I spent a lot of time working behind bars and would have the following interaction at least once a week: 

Customer:  "What's good?" 

Me:  "What do you think you're in the mood for?" 

Customer:  "Well... I like ales and I like lagers..."   

At this point I always thought about suggesting they just point at something, because ALL BEERS ARE EITHER ALES OR LAGERS*.  (If you're thinking "What about hybrid styles?", we'll get to that later).  

The differences between lagers and ales only have to do with the yeast used to ferment them.  Other variables like color, alcohol strength and flavor have nothing at all to do with whether a beer is a lager or an ale.  This is one of the most common points of confusion for consumers, so I want to make sure that everyone understands the difference.  This article will address what happens during fermentation and how lagers and ales are different.  Finally, we'll confuse matters a bit by talking about hybrid styles.



An old saying goes that, "A brewer makes wort, but yeast makes beer."   What this means is that everything that the brewer does on the hot side of the brewery where the kettle and mash tun are is production of wort.  Wort is the sugary, bitter liquid that the brewer has prepared as a hospitable environment for yeast to feed and reproduce.  While the yeast are doing that, we get the bonus of them making us beer.

Yeast "budding" before reproducing

Yeast "budding" before reproducing

Simply stated, fermentation of beer is the process by which yeast consumes simple sugar molecules and produces nearly equal parts of ethanol (the tasty kind of alcohol) and carbon dioxide.  That's all the yeast does.  It doesn't care if the wort is light colored, dark colored, etc.  It will eat the sugars and make alcohol and CO2.   When it's done doing this it falls asleep and falls to the bottom of the fermenter,  just like after Thanksgiving dinner.

So, what makes an ale an ale and a lager a lager?


Ales are fermented with different strains of the yeast family sacchromyces cervisiae or literally "beer sugar fungus".  Within this family there are different strains that have different characteristics.  Some strains are very tolerant to alcohol while others are not.  Some of these yeast strains produce fruity smelling esters  or spicy phenols  while they eat those sugars and make ethanol and CO2.  Some of them are capable of eating longer chain sugar molecules than others.  Though they have their differences, they are all considered to be the same species and they all share certain characteristics.

Temperature  is the biggest common shared trait and the biggest contrast to the family of lager yeasts.  Ale yeasts like to eat sugar at temperatures between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, though some ale yeasts might even do the job at slightly cooler or slightly warmer temperatures.  Ale yeasts cannot withstand very cold temperatures and most will go dormant below 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

 Time it takes to get the job done is another shared trait that is different from lager yeasts.  Ale yeasts will typically take about 7 days to finish the primary fermentation of a beer, though they can take up to an additional week or more to completely finish the job.  Lager yeasts, as we will discuss, take considerably longer.  This is the main reason why many of your favorite craft beers are ales.  Small breweries typically don't have the fermenter space to produce lagers on a regular basis.

 Ester production  is another way ale yeasts differ from lager yeasts.  If you've ever smelled banana, pear or juicy fruit gum coming off of your beer, those aromas and flavors were produced by the ale yeast strain that fermented it.  Belgian beers are especially known for their fruity and spicy aromas and flavors.  These are produced by strains of yeast that Belgian brewers employ that produce a lot of esters and phenols.  Lager yeasts are not known for producing many esters.

Fermenting ale with krausen

Fermenting ale with krausen

Often the term "top fermenting" is also used to describe ale yeasts.  This goes back to the days before people really had an understanding of how fermentation happened.  Before the rise of the microscope in the 17th century, yeast was a bit of a mystery.  However, brewers knew that if they took the bubbling krausen  from the top of a fermenter of an actively fermenting batch of beer and put it onto another batch of wort, that wort would start fermenting also.  Therefore the beers were considered to be "top fermenting".  In fact, there are yeast all throughout the wort fermenting it from the top to the bottom.  The krausen is simply a visible cue that fermentation is happening.  Because ale yeast ferment wort rather quickly, the release of carbon dioxide is visible and gets trapped in wort proteins and hop resins to create a frothy layer of foam on the top of the fermenter. 

Historically speaking, most ancient beers were produced as ales, as this yeast strain thrives in the same temperature range as humans do in most of Europe.  It wasn't until much more recently that lagers were produced. 


Lagers are fermented with yeast belonging to the family sacchromyces patorianus, sometimes referred to as sacchromyces carlsbergensis after the Carlsberg brewery where the yeast was first described.  Lager yeast is believed to be an ancient hybrid of a wine yeast known as sacchromyces bayanus and the ale yeast sacchromyces cervisiae.  Within the lager yeast family we see a lot less variety than in the ale family.  Lager yeasts are also capable of consuming some sugars that ale yeasts cannot, such as melbiose.  Lager yeasts are generally described as "cleaner"  than ale yeasts in this respect, and that "clean" character is sought after among lager producers. 

Temperature  is again of utmost importance to the successful fermentation of a beer with lager yeast.  Lager yeasts like to work at much cooler temperatures with the primary fermentation taking place below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  The warm temperatures of an ale fermentation would be detrimental to the health of the lager yeast. 

Time becomes a factor after the primary fermentation.  The beer is typically cooled to just above freezing and held at that temperature for 6-8 weeks.  It is this process that earned the beer family the name lager  as lager  literally means "to store"  in German.    It is for this reason that most small breweries do not produce lagers.  Small business owners can't afford to take up valuable tank space for nearly three times as long to produce a batch of beer.  Unfortunately, consumers are not willing to pay three times as much for a glass of lager as for a glass of ale. 

 Ester production  is minimal to nonexistent in well produced lagers.  The cooler temperatures of the lager fermentation keep the yeast from producing esters or adding any real character of its own to the beer. 

In contrast, "bottom fermenting" is often used to describe lager beer fermentation.  What this really is is a result of the cooler fermentation temperature.  Yeast metabolism is like many other processes in nature in that the warmer the temperature is the faster it goes and vice versa.  Lagers ferment more slowly and though the same materials that create krausen on top of a batch of ale are being produced, they are not as abundant because it is happening so much more slowly.  To the brewers who worked before yeast was better understood, it seemed logical that the fermentation was happening at the bottom of the fermenter.  This is also where they would find the yeast at the end of the fermentation to be used in the next batch.

Lagers like it COLD

Lagers like it COLD

The history of lager production is much more recent than that of ales.  Though there were some lagers being produced before the 16th century, a 1553 amendment to the famous Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 outlawed brewing in the warm summer months.  City leaders were concerned that the beers produced during the summer often tasted sour (due to increased bacteria levels in warm environments).  The solution was to only allow beer to be brewed from September 29th to April 23rd each year.  Though they didn't know it yet, they accidentally legislated that only lager yeast could ferment beer in Bavaria, as it was too cold for ale yeast to do well in those months. 


I told you above that I was going to muddy the waters a bit at the end, but even hybrid styles each technically fall into one of the above categories.  Hybrid styles are those that use one species of yeast (ale or lager) but are processed like the other species. 

For example, Kolsch style ales are native to the region around Cologne, Germany.  They are fermented with an ale yeast strain that likes the cooler end of the ale temperature spectrum and are then lagered for several weeks before they are packaged.  The result is a crisp, clean, clear beer with very few esters. 

On the other hand, the California Common style, popularized by Anchor Brewing of San Francisco, California, is produced with a lager yeast fermented at the cooler end of the ale temperature range. 



From the discussion above I want to make abundantly clear that there are a wide range of ale and lager styles.  Some ales can be very light in color and low in alcohol like the American Cream Ale, and some lagers can be very dark and high in alcohol like the Baltic Porter.  Americans typically think of lightly colored, low alcohol beers when we think of lagers, because the beers of the larger commercial breweries in the US are all lagers and all fit that description.  However, all of the contributing factors that make a beer dark or high in alcohol are done before yeast is added to the wort.  The species of yeast used and the way the beer is fermented determine whether or not the beer is an ale or a lager, nothing else.  


If you'd like to learn more about fermentation,  contact BREW-ed, or join us on a Brewery & History Walking Tour.


* If you were thinking about beers fermented with Brettanomyces, that will be covered in another post. 





Five Tips To Buying Better Beer

As craft beer continues to gain popularity, more and more businesses are trying to cash in on the new demand.  Anyone reading this has likely noticed beers from smaller breweries popping up in previous unlikely places like chain restaurants and big box discount stores.  How can you, as the consumer, make sure you're spending your money on something you'll enjoy?  Follow these five tips to buying better beer, and you'll never be disappointed by less than brewery fresh beer again.

1.  Check The Date

Packaged On or Expiration Date?

Packaged On or Expiration Date?

Beer is a perishable food item, just like anything else you might buy at the grocery store.  You wouldn't buy a gallon of milk without checking the date.  Give your beer the same respect.  Most breweries will put some kind of "packaged on" or "best by" date on their bottles and/or boxes to help consumers know they're getting fresh beer.  Checking these dates isn't always easy though.  Fresh Beer Only is a great site that helps take the mystery out of beer date codes.   As a general rule of thumb, beer is freshest within 120 days of packaging.  After that, it will likely not taste how the brewer intended.

2.  Avoid Brightly Lit Coolers

UV light makes beer "skunky" !

UV light makes beer "skunky" !

Beer has two mortal enemies.  One of them is light.  Most breweries do their best to package their beers in a way that will keep them free from light as much as possible.  However, a lot of times, stores don't show the beer the same respect.  If the beer is kept under bright florescent lights, its flavor might be affected through a process called "skunking".  Green and clear bottles are especially susceptible to this.  Brown bottles block most of the harmful light, and cans provide total protection from harmful UV light.  "Skunked" or lightstruck beer smells just like it sounds: like a skunk.  Obviously, this is not a good thing.  The worst part is that beer can become lightstruck in a matter of minutes!  Whenever possible, buy beer that isn't kept under bright UV lights, or at least grab yours from the back of the cooler where it is normally darker.

3.  Buy Cold Beer

Wet cardboard in your glass... Delicious! 

Wet cardboard in your glass... Delicious! 

Not only is cold beer ready to drink when you buy it from the store, its freshness is also being helped by the colder temperature.  Beer's second mortal enemy is oxygen.  Brewers put a lot of effort into keeping oxygen out of their packaged beers, but inevitably some miniscule amount will find its way inside.  Once it comes in contact with the beer, it starts the slow but steady process of making that beer stale.  First, your hop aromas and flavors fade away.  Next, your malt flavors become muddled, and finally you have a bottle of something that tastes kind of like wet cardboard. 

Warm temperatures speed up this oxidizing process.  Beer that is shipped and stored cold will last longer than beer that is left to sit out on a warm shelf.  Better beer stores will have plenty of cold storage for their beer or will work to keep the temperature of the entire store low to help slow oxidation.    Also, keep in mind where the beer was before it was on that shelf.  Many big box stores have storage areas or warehouses that aren't climate controlled.  If they are receiving huge shipments of beer to a centralized location, it could spend months in a hot place before being moved to a cold refrigerator case. 

4.  Consider the Source

Do you think their beer is fresh? 

Do you think their beer is fresh? 

If you find your favorite specialty beer in a remote gas station in the middle of nowhere next to expired beef jerky and think it's your lucky day, take a moment of pause.  How much of that beer do you think that gas station sells each month?  Do you think they've kept it under the best conditions? 

The same goes for stores that offer a ridiculous variety of beers.  Some do a very good job of monitoring their inventory to give consumers the freshest beer possible.  Others just pride themselves on having a whole lot of stuff.  Some of it might have been sitting there since the day they opened.   

5.  Use Common Sense

Buying fresh delicious beer is a lot like buying anything else.  Use common sense and you will get good results.  Much like buying seafood, there are places you should and should not buy from no matter how appealing the offer might be.  If you walk into the supermarket in July and see your favorite Christmas seasonal, it is not a wonderful treat from the beer gods.  It is old beer.  You shouldn't buy it any more than you should a container of egg nog that mysteriously winds up on the shelf at the same time of year.   Follow these basic tips and you should be much happier with the beers you buy.

Would you like to learn more about beer?  Join BREW-ed for a Brewery & History Walking Tour .