In its most basic form, beer is extremely uncomplicated. The four main ingredients are grains, hops, yeast and water. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just assume water tastes like water and set it aside. That leaves only grains, hops and yeast. The majority of beer styles are a variant on those three things. What type and amount of malts were used? What type and amount of hops were used? What strain (or strains) of yeast was used? If you remember those three questions, you know beer. Those are your ingredients, and they have the biggest impact on a beer’s appearance, aroma, taste and mouthfeel.
Of course, the level of alcohol in a beer can change the style it fits under – a helpful tool for determining which beers are good for a calm night out and which are better to drink in a panic room.
Lastly, beer can be altered in other ways: The brewer could add fruit or age it in bourbon barrels or use unique fermentation processes. The possibilities are almost endless, so let’s just toss everything else in a broad category of “What the hell else did they do to it?”
Alright, so ingredients, ABV and “anything else?”. Now, let’s get to the beer.