Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 37
Beer myths and facts

May 17, 2001

Among the questions we received at this week was one we see quite often: "Is bock really the beer left over at the bottom of the tank?"

Of course the answer is no. Because bocks are often dark in color and fully flavored does not mean that they were scraped from the bottom of the barrel.

Michael Jackson writes about how this story, which after more than 100 years clearly isn't going away, might have got started:

"A high gravity brew was made in March and laid down as a provision to be drawn upon during the summer months. When the warm weather was over, in September and October, the last of the stock was ceremonially consumed. This may explain the resilient folklore that bock beer is made from the sediment taken from vessels during spring cleaning. A laughable story, but perhaps based on a misunderstanding of the truth."


The question got us thinking about other beer myths. Here are five more that we see bandied about.

- The best beer is sold in green or clear bottles rather than "plain brown" ones.

In the years following World War II, in part because there was a shortage of brown glass, European brewers shipped beers in green bottles. It became a status symbol for imports. The color of the bottle no longer says anything about the quality of beer inside, and as we've written before green glass gives less protection against beer becoming light struck and developing a "skunky" taste. More on that.

- Ales are served at room temperature in the United Kingdom.

This story also goes back to World War II, when American GIs spent considerable time in England. Cask-conditioned (or "real") ale is served at cellar temperature, which is in the low- to mid-50s.

- Wheat beers always should be served with a slice of lemon.

This is a matter of personal taste. The tartest of wheat beers, such as Berliner Weisse, are usually served with lemon, woodruff or syrups to cut the acidity. However, wheat beers, from weissbiers to Bavarian weizens to English and American wheat beers, cover a broad range. If you like lemon with your wheat beer, by all means enjoy it that way. But don't feel obligated.

- Imported beers are stronger than American beers.

This is a function of the alcohol by volume (abv) versus alcohol by weight (abw) issue we've discussed here before. Many U.S. citizens think the rest of the world measures alcohol like they do (by weight) and don't realize that 5% by volume is no stronger than 4% by weight. More on that.

- Light beers are much less likely to give you a beer belly.

A bottle of Miller Lite has 96 calories, while a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston has 160. A brisk 20-minute walk is all that separates those two. So unless you drink your beer a case at a time ...

Although beer is partially to blame for beer bellies -- it contains no fat, but those calories and carbohydrates add up -- the chips, pretzels, pizza, etc. that many people enjoy with beer deserve as much of the credit. A full-flavored beer with a light snack has far fewer calories than a light beer with a pile of nachos.


Michael Jackson notes that ale is probably the world's most misunderstood drink. He takes a look at a dozen of the most resilient beer myths.

Tasting notes

Brewed by BridgePort Brewing Co., Portland, Ore.

Michael Jackson writes:

Old gold to bronze, with faint yeast haze from bottle-conditioning. That process adds complexity and life. Flowery-fruity hop in the aroma: lemon-zest, peach sherbet, garden mint and vanilla pods. Firm, dry palate, with lightly creamy malt flavors. Very drying finish, with more citrus zest. Both refreshing and appetizing.

Brewed by Tollemache & Cobbold Brewery in England

Jeff Evans writes:

A very dark red/brown beer with an appetisingly fruity, dark malt aroma. The taste is mellow and mouth-filling: sweet, nutty, smoky and fruity, with coffee notes but only gentle bitterness. Sweet coffee finish.