There are some myths about beer which need to be cleared up so here we go.
Myth 1 – Dark Beer is Heavy
Couldn’t be further from the truth, folks. Colour in beer comes purely from the grain used in its creation, with darker beers containing more toasted or roasted barley malt and paler beers containing less or no darker malts. And roasting malt doesn’t make it heavier or more caloric.
Myth 2 – Ale is Stronger than Lager
The funny thing about this popular North American myth is that Brits think the exact opposite, with the perception in the U.K. being that way because best bitters normally sit around 4% alcohol by volume and lagers generally come in around 5%. The truth is that alcohol comes from the amount of sugars provided for fermentation and has nothing to do with whether that fermentation takes place at warmer (ale) or cooler (lager) temperatures.
Myth 3 – Beer Makes You Fat
Inactivity and bad diet make you fat. Beer, when enjoyed in moderation and as part of balanced lifestyle, doesn’t.
Myth 4 – Stout is a “Meal in a Glass”
Most stouts are no more caloric or filling than the yellow lager many people knock back by the pint on a Saturday night. The reason we think otherwise is because we expect something that has a very dark colour to be richer than something that’s pale. See Myth #1.
Myth 5 – Bock is Brewed Each Spring After the Brewing Tanks are Cleaned
This one is so prevalent that it even made it into the pages of the landmark Time-Life book series, “Foods of the World,” in the “Wine and Spirits” volume. The idea is that the brewer cleans his or her tanks once a year and ferments the gunk scraped off the sides into a beer called bock. Suffice to say that any brewer who did this once wouldn’t be in business long enough to do it again. (Bock is simply a Germanic style of strong lager, likely originating in the town of Einbeck, from which the corruption “bock” was formed.)
Myth 6 – Cold-Filtering
Here’s one from the marketing geniuses behind the big breweries. Simply, all beer is cold-filtered, since only a fool would run their beer through a “hot filter,” even if such a thing did exist in a brewery. What the use of this phrase is really saying, usually, is that the beer is not pasteurized, as are many of the world’s biggest selling brands.
Myth 7 – Draught Gets You Drunk Faster than Bottled Beer (or Vice Versa)
Here’s what gets you drunk: Alcohol. Whether it comes from bottled or draught beer, wine, cocktails or straight spirits doesn’t matter.
Myth 8 – Imported Beer is Better than Domestic Beer
Almost every brewer exporting his or her beer to a foreign destination exploits this myth at one time or another, whether implicitly or explicitly. But that fact remains that beer from any given country is not necessarily going to be better than that from another, as witnessed by some of the great beers I’ve tasted from non-traditional brewing countries like Italy and Brazil, or some of the poor ones I’ve had from brewing powers like England and Belgium.
Myth 9 – Wine is More Complex Than Beer
Give me a break! I enjoy wine as much as the next drinker, and I appreciate the complexities and nuances of a truly fine zinfandel or sauvignon blanc, but how can a drink made from a single ingredient, grapes, be necessarily more complex in flavour than one made from a minimum of water, malt and hops and an almost limitless diversity of other ingredients? Ever find coriander or cumin notes in a wine? No? Well, you can in a beer.
Myth 10 – “That Beer I Had last Night Made Me Sick”
Maybe the scallops you ate at dinner made you sick, or perhaps you picked up a contaminant from somewhere else or simply drank too much. But being a boiled and fermented alcoholic beverage, the chances of a beer causing illness is very, very, very slight.
Myth 11 – Fruit Beers Are “Girly Beers”
Get it straight: Hops only started being used in brewing about 1,000 to 1,200 years ago. Up until then, for at least five millennia, beer was flavoured with a wide variety of spices, herbs and, yes, fruits. In fact, archeological research has shown that King Tut drank fruit beer, and he was one dude you could hardly consider “girly.”
Myth 12 – Ales Are Necessarily Better Than Lagers
This common though misguided beer aficionado myth stems largely from the fact that most major brewery brands are lagers, and the vast majority of those lie low on the flavour meter. But as many excellent lager brewers show, cold-fermented beers like Ontario’s King Pilsner, Live Oak Pilz from Texas and the classic Budweiser Budvar from the Czech Republic, sold in North America as Czechvar, can be every bit as flavourful, complex and rewarding as any ale.
Myth 13 – Canadian Beer is Stronger Than American Beer
A popular perception from the bad old days of major brewery domination, this one stemmed from the fact that, until recently, American breweries measured their alcohol contents by weight while Canadians used volume measures. Since 4% alcohol by weight is equal to 5% by volume, north-of-the-border brews were thought to be more potent than their southern cousins. Today, with 1,400 breweries in the States and another couple of hundred in Canada, this shouldn’t even be remotely considered as valid.
Myth 14 – German Wheat Beers Are Flavoured With Bananas and Cloves
The Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, called the Reinheitsgebot, mandates that beer be made from only malted grain, hops and water, with yeast as a given. So no, there are no fruits or spices in the Bavarian style of wheat beer variously known as hefeweizen, weissbier or hefeweissbier. What causes the banana and clove flavours and aromas normally associated with these brews are the particular yeasts used to ferment them.
Myth 15 – Beer and Fine Dining Don’t Mix
With its wealth of flavours and finely nuanced characters, the world of beer has a style to pair with any food, from the commonplace to the extravagant. (See Myth #9 for more on this.) The reason we tend to place wine at the table rather than beer is because that’s what the French do, and the western world learned much of what it knows about fine dining from the French.