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Post Column: The beer fans' guide to reviewing great brews

Since this is a column about beer, we decided the best thing would be to skip reviewing a beer on the first week and instead talk about that wonderful beverage that humans have been brewing for thousands of years.

People have been brewing beer since possibly as early as 3500 B.C. That means that we have been working on perfecting beer for more than 5000 years. Early Sumerian writings, including prayers, contain references to beer.

Apparently, ever since we figured out how to brew this stuff, we’ve wanted to talk about it.

Beer is made through a process of fermentation. A brewer will boil his basic ingredients, malt, hops and sugar to create something known as wort. Wort, essentially, is beer before it has any alcoholic content.

After the boiling process is over, the brewer will transfer the wort into a fermenter. It is there that the most important ingredient is added: yeast.

Yeast feeds on the glucose in the wort and produces ethanol and carbon dioxide. Ethanol accounts for the alcoholic content of the beer, while carbon dioxide carbonates it.

That is the basic process of brewing beer. But as we’re sure you can guess, there are many other factors that make beer so interesting and delicious.

One way brewers create the flavors of their beers is by increasing the amount of a specific ingredient.

For example, an India pale ale contains more hops than a pilsner. That increase in hops is what creates an IPA’s characteristic bitterness and citrus flavor.

Brewers also have the option of adding new ingredients. This is typically done in the fermentation stage, such as adding vanilla pods or berries to the beer along with the yeast.

If you have ever had a vanilla porter, that vanilla flavor was created by putting vanilla pods in the fermentation tanks or by adding vanilla extract to the beer before bottling.

All of this leads up to the fun part: drinking the beer. Beer is like good food, in that you want to not only taste it, but to enjoy the coloring and scent of it.

Color and scent are the first hints of what a beer will taste like as well as an indication of quality. So when we pour ourselves a beer, we take note of the color and scent before moving on to the flavor.

Once we’ve taken our first few drinks, we can begin to note a few different things: how it tastes at first, how the taste changes as it lingers and how prominent and noticeable the alcohol is.

In our subsequent columns, we’ll be reviewing one beer a week, and we’ll try to take note of the different complexities found in each brew. We hope you’ll drink along with us.

Jared Henderson and Patty Arnold are seniors studying philosophy and biological science, respectively, at Ohio University and columnists for The Post. What beer should be on their radar? Email them at and

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