For the uninitiated there are many misconceptions surrounding beers: it's bland, low-grade, unhealthy and can only be downed in pints by men as they watch the football.
To dispel these myths, IBTimes UK went beer tasting with Jane Peyton, Britain's beer sommelier of the year 2014, to explain why you can savour beer just as much as you might a wine or champagne. Peyton says that her dream is that high-end restaurants will one day propose to their customers to pair not just wine with their food, but beer as well.
"You can treat beer as fine wine, with fine dining. It's about your attitude, it's about the glassware that you use, it's about where you drink it, the occasion, what you're eating, what your mood is. I'm as happy drinking a pint in a pub on a Saturday as I am drinking it out of a champagne flute," she says leaning on the counter of Ye Olde Mitre, a historic pub in central London that still showcases part of the the cherry tree trunk Elizabeth I used to dance around.
Despite such notions, many people remain adamant that they don't like beer. For Peyton it is mostly because people haven't had the chance to taste it properly. "It's usually women who would say that they don't like beer. They think of beer as being a rather sort of masculine drink, which is ridiculous," she says.
There are 3 branches in the world and they are not all bitter: Ales (wheat beer, stout, mild and pale ales), lagers and lambics. The latter is a Belgian beer naturally fermented using wild, rather than cultivated, yeasts. The wild yeast and other microflora including the bacteria such as the the Lactobacillus bacteria contributes to the sourness of the beer. As it is often bottled with the addition of fruits or fruit syrups, Peyton suggests it is the perfect introductory beer for the sceptical.
It's all about the glassware
In the UK, a pint is the legal measure in a pub but if you order a bottled beer or if you are at home, changing the glassware will not only change the taste of your beer but will also change your attitude towards the beverage.
"Aroma is absolutely crucial in our food and drink. The brain registers most flavours through the nose, so smelling your beer is the way to taste it properly. A wine glass keeps the aromas in because it's got quite a big bowl shape," Peyton explains.
It goes without saying that a wine glass should not be filled to the top, like a pint, in order to be able to put your nose in it and smell those aromas.
Pouring your beer in a champagne flute will also change your attitude. In the same way that pouring a Chateau Petrus into a plastic glass would not feel fancy, no matter how good and expensive the vintage, pouring your Indian Pale Ale into a champagne glass instantly makes the drink look classy. For Peyton, IPAs are also the perfect way to start a meal. "Bitterness kicks off the digestion and digestion starts in the mouth with the saliva." In other words, beer is a healthy accompaniment to food as the bitterness helps you digest what you are eating.
It's all about the food
Beer is a complex drink that can be paired with food. "Wine and cheese, no. Beer and cheese, yes," claims Peyton.
Another cliché that we often associate with beer is that is is very high in calories. "It's more the kebab that you have on the way home. There are 190 calories in a pint of a classic session beer," argues Peyton.
Session beers, such as bitter or IPA, have been brewed in England since the First World War, when taxes on beer ingredients greatly increased and brewers responded by lowering the strength of their beers. These low alcohol Session beers (maximum 4.1%) are a big thing for British brewers as it is the alcohol that is calorific, so the reduced alcohol in these beers mean they have fewer calories.
So if you like your bitter with peanuts and/or pork scratchings, here's a guide to a better and healthier pairing of beer with food.
Indian Pale Ale
We tried Brewster's IPA. Brewster's Brewery was founded in 1998 by Sara Barton in Grantham. They won Gold and Silver Medals at the International Brewing Awards of 2015.
Smell and taste: Tropical fruits, pineapple, raisin.
Pair with: Spicy food, fish & chips, tempuras, cheese.
We tried England's only lambic. "They can't really call it a Lambic as it is a Belgium Name for their beer but Elgood's Coolship is a lambic." Jane Peyton has spoken. Elgood's brewery was established in 1795 in Cambridgeshire. Elgood's coolship lambic-style beer won the silver medal at the International Brewing Awards 2015.
Smell and taste: Sour and berries such as current and raspberries.
Pair with: Cheese and especially goat's cheese, light seafood, ham, chocolate tart.
Fuller's London black cab.
Smell and taste: Coffee, chocolate, chicory, liquorice
Pair with: Tiramisu, stilton cheese, red meat, mushrooms.
We tried Fuller's London Pride.
Smell and taste: Caramel, biscuit malt, hops.
Pair with: This classic bitter is perfect for your Saturday at the pub.