Healthy Bread Pizza

Easy Party Food Kids Can Assemble with Natural Ingredients

Feeding children for a party, special occasions, or just dinner doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming, or unhealthy. Try the following pizza kids can make, and offer them a tasty and nutritious meal.

Ingredients for Bread Pizza

Serves 10, two bread pizzas per person

  • Two loaves of whole wheat French bread
  • Three tablespoons olive oil, in a small bowl
  • Large tin crushed tomato sauce, marinara sauce, or other natural spaghetti sauce
  • Medium sized package of turkey pepperoni
  • 16oz. package shredded full fat mozzarella cheese
  • 16 oz. package shredded reduced fat or non-fat mozzarella cheese
  • Mushrooms, peppers, onions, or other toppings as desired, finely chopped
  • Oregano, basil, red peppers, and other seasonings as desired

How to Make Bread Pizzas

  1. Prepare your pizza oven.
  2. Lightly grease two baking sheets with olive oil using a pastry brush or fingers. The bread pizzas have very little grease, so it is extremely important to lightly grease the cookie sheets, so that the pizzas don’t stick.
  3. Cut the French bread or bagels into twenty slices. Set aside.
  4. Pour out half the bag of full fat mozzarella into a medium sized bowl. Add half the bag of low fat or non-fat mozzarella to the same bowl, and mix. This blend of cheese lowers the overall fat of the cheese while maintaining the gooey pizza cheese lost with just fat free cheese.
  5. Form assembly line, with stations for the bread slices, then sauce, pepperoni, toppings, cheese, seasonings, and small bowl of olive oil. Add utensils to each station as appropriate, as well as paper towels to clean up. If serving a larger group, spread out stations so the pizza artists have enough room to create.
  6. Invite children to form a line beginning at the bread station. Supervise as children place toppings on a slice of bread. Be careful when applying seasonings, as some may be too spicy, or children may put too much on inadvertently.
  7. After adding the cheese, carefully lift up the bread pizza with a spatula and place on the greased baking sheet.
  8. Dip the pastry brush in olive oil and gently brush oil around the crust of the bread, as well as any parts not covered by topping. The oil prevents the pizzas from drying out.
  9. When both sheets are full of bread pizzas, bake until cheese melts, 7-10 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven, and let set a minute before serving to prevent burnt tongues.

Other Ideas for Assembling Bread Pizzas

Invite older children to prepare the bread, vegetables, and cheese ahead of time and set up the stations.

Allow children to make a design with pepperoni or vegetables on top of their pizza’s cheese layer so that they can tell their pizzas apart.

Offer a taste of toppings and seasonings ahead of time, to make sure children like their pizza toppings before they make their pizzas to prevent wasting food. This activity also encourages children to eat and try vegetables.

Serving Suggestions With Healthy Bread Pizza

Offer a green salad and fresh fruit for desert to round off a healthy meal.

Explain to children that vegetables are a healthy part of dinner, and offer a cut raw vegetable plate with light dressing to entice them.

Healthy bread pizzas are an easy, healthy, and fun way to make a children’s dinner or party memorable.

Homemade Dough Makes the Perfect Pizza

A person’s love affair with pizza starts at an early age and reflects his or her environment. The thickness of the crust varies from a New York City pizza that’s so thin it can be folded in half lengthwise, to a Chicago favorite, the deep-dish pizza. Toppings range from traditional (tomato sauce with cheese) to trendy (duck sausage and goat cheese), and everything (and anything) in between. Pizza has diversified, blended, and been embraced by many ethnic cultures.

Make Homemade Pizza

The best pizza, though, may be the one made in a home kitchen. Why make pizza at home? To control the quantity and quality of the toppings, regulate the thickness of the crust and the size of the pizza, for the satisfaction of making pizza at home, and for sharing the pleasures of cooking with family and friends.

Homemade pizza is one of the easiest meals to make and provides the cook with an opportunity to personalize his or her creation. Make the dough from scratch for this simple recipe in the style of Pizza Margherita. A pizza stone will help crisp the crust, but it isn’t essential. Baked on a hot pizza stone, a pizza cooks fast; but it can also be baked in a pan with a few minutes added to the cooking time.

Pizza Cooking Methods

If using a pizza stone, a pizza peel will make it easy to place or remove the pizza from the stone. The pizza may also be formed on parchment paper and both the pizza and parchment paper are placed on the stone. Another method is to form the dough into a pizza on a flat surface, then place the dough on the hot stone and then add the toppings. The stone and brick pizza oven will be hot, so precautions must be taken against burns. A pizza peel will be needed to remove the cooked pizza from the stone.

Additional toppings are optional, but too many toppings will add moisture to the pizza and produce a soggy crust in the center. Cook vegetables and meat to reduce moisture content and bake the crust for a few minutes before adding toppings to give the center of the pizza a chance to cook partially through.

When making pizza, use fresh yeast and a high-gluten flour (don’t use cake flour), and make sure the oven can reach and maintain a temperature of 500°F. Have all toppings ready; they can be prepared while the dough is rising. After removing the pizza from the oven, give it a few minutes to cool down before cutting.

The Perfect Basic Pizza Margherita

  • 2 cups very warm water
  • 1 (¼-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 to 4½ cups flour
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped coarse
  • 8 to 12 stems fresh basil, washed, dried, and leaves removed from stems
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin (optional)
  • 8 to 16 ounces shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Pour water into a large mixing bowl. Add honey and sprinkle with yeast. Let sit for 15 minutes, allowing yeast to foam. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and three cups flour and mix well. Stir in enough remaining flour for dough to form a ball. Transfer dough to floured board and knead five minutes (knead in mixer with dough hook for four minutes) or until dough is smooth.
  2. Coat the inside of a large glass or ceramic bowl with remaining olive oil. Place dough in bowl, cover with wax paper and a dish towel folded in half. Place in a warm spot. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
  3. Place baking stone in oven and heat oven to 500ºF.
  4. Punch dough down. Divide into four pieces. On floured board, pat and stretch one piece of dough into a 10-inch circle. With heavy oven mitt, carefully remove baking stone from oven and place baking stone on a heat-proof surface. Position round of dough on hot baking stone. Or transfer dough to parchment paper and place dough and parchment paper on baking stone. Or place dough on a large oiled cookie sheet. Top dough with one-quarter of the tomatoes, basil leaves, onion (optional) and cheese.
  5. With oven mitt, return stone to oven and bake for 8 minutes or until pizza is golden brown. If using a cookie sheet, bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow pizza to cool a few minutes before cutting
  6. Form the next pizza while the first is cooking, and cover with wax paper. After removing the cooked pizza from the oven, immediately transfer it to a serving dish or cutting board and place another round of dough on the stone or cookie sheet. Add toppings and bake. Repeat with remaining dough and toppings.

Preparing a Pizza Party Menu

Celebrate America’s favorite food with a pizza party that offers something for everyone.

 

Since the ancients started putting toppings on their flatbreads, people have been giving pizza rave reviews.

For your next gathering of friends, have a pizzeria pizza party, with this menu of four variety pizzas and even one for dessert!

 

Menu

Artichoke Red Pepper Pizza

Roasted Vegetable Pizza

Hawaiian Pizza

Dessert Pizza

Basic Pizza Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Dash salt
  • Dash oregano
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 28-ounce can tomatoes
  • 1 large can tomato puree
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pepper
  • Generous pinch of baking soda
  • Parmesan cheese

Heat oil, garlic, salt, oregano and green pepper in a large pot. Add tomatoes, puree, tomato paste, sugar, pepper, baking soda and a little bit of parmesan cheese. Break up tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook on low heat for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

 

Basic Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Mix 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl. Gradually add water and oil and mix at low speed. Stir in 1½ -2 more cups of flour and knead. Place in a greased bowl with a damp towel over top. Let raise 1¼ hours or until double in size. Punch it down and roll it out. Put rolled-out dough onto pizza pans. Add sauce and toppings and bake.

 

Artichoke Red Pepper Pizza

  • 1 pizza crust, unbaked
  • 1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Brush unbaked pizza crust lightly with olive oil. Lay leeks, artichoke hearts and red peppers evenly over crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Add cheese and bake until melted, about 5 minutes.

 

Roasted Vegetable Pizza

  • 1 small eggplant, sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1 red onion, cut into small wedges
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup Basic Pizza Sauce
  • Parmesan cheese

Combine vegetables, oil, vinegar, thyme and pepper in a large baking dish and toss to mix well. Place in a 350 degree pizza oven, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Set aside. Spread pizza sauce evenly over unbaked pizza crust. Top with roasted vegetables. Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

 

Hawaiian Pizza

  • 1 pizza crust, unbaked
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup Basic Pizza Sauce
  • 1 cup chopped smoked ham
  • 1 can pineapple tidbits, drained
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup shredded provolone cheese

Brush unbaked pizza crust with oil and spread sauce evenly over crust. Top evenly with ham and pineapple. Sprinkle with cheeses. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese melts.

 

Dessert Pizza

  • 1 package ready-to-bake sugar cookie dough
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces marshmallow cream
  • Sliced fruit (strawberries, kiwis, blueberries, bananas, pineapple)
  • Powdered sugar

Slice dough into rounds, as you would make cookies. Place the rounds on a pizza pan and press together to form a crust. Bake in a 350 degree pizza oven until done, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and marshmallow cream with an electric mixer. Spread evenly over crust. Arrange fruit slices on top. Using a sifter, sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

Tips:

  • To make your pizza party way more practical and fun, you can use a mobile pizza oven trailer so you and your friends are able to take your party anywhere.
  • If you’re offering different types of pizza, slice the pies into small pieces, so that guests can try a little of each. Keep side dishes light and simple.
  • For a nostalgic pizzeria theme, use a red and white checked tablecloth, serve Coke in old fashioned bottles, and have grated parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes on the table. For a theme movie, watch Mystic Pizza.

Pizza for Everyone, Every Day

I adore homemade pizza and good restaurant pizza, sometimes even a mediocre slice on the fly will do… And I know I’m not alone. As I noted earlier, pizza provokes passions.

If you’re into making healthier food choices, I will share my favorite Homemade Pizza tips this week. Also, stay tuned for my homemade pizza dough recipe. It’s worth a try and a good recipe to get small hands involved in if you want to cook with kids.

A real pizza stone and good quality pizza oven kit makes a huge difference. I’ve been through two of the high-end volcanic or some such model at W-S. The first one cracked and the second shows signs of going that way. Next one I am going to try will be the Californo kit I found out from an online catalog of a restaurant supply store.

Now, here comes my tips for making healthier and delicious pizza at your own home!

Tips:

  • Making pizza at home allows you to control the quality of the ingredients. Make the right choices according to your nutritional needs.
  • Use a pizza kit – check Californo or your local restaurant supply store.
  • Try different recipes for your perfect crust.
  • Be creative! This is the perfect chance for you to experiment with that vegetable you thought you’d never like to eat. Ever thought of putting a mix of fruit and vegetables on it? Pizza makes everything more delicious.
  • Good oregano is key. Throw out that plastic shaker bottle of gray-green stuff that’s been in the spice cabinet for ages. Get a real good quality one.
  • Enjoy with your family and friends. You can make a homemade pizza party and get everyone to cook together.
  • Bon appetit!

Everything You Need to Know About Taking Calcium Supplements

Calcium plays an essential role in maintaining the optimum bone health in the body, and although the best way to take in the calcium is through your diet, many people also consider the option of taking calcium supplements when their diet falls less. However, before you start taking these supplements, you should at least be aware of the pros and cons as well as the choice of supplements.

Before diving into the dangerous part of how much is enough? Let’s take a look at the universal benefits of the calcium.

It’s a known fact that your body requires calcium to not only build but also helps in maintaining healthy bones. 99% and above calcium are stored in bones and teeth. Besides that, your nerves and heart muscles also need a good amount of calcium to function well.

Taking Calcium SupplementsCalcium, when taken with Vitamin D, have more health benefits such as protection against diabetes, cancer, blood pressure. Calcium helps in sending nerve signals and release hormones such as insulin and helps regulate the blood vessels and muscles contraction and dilation.

Therefore, it is so important for your body that in case your body does not receive the recommended calcium from your diet, it will start taking calcium from teeth and skeleton to use on other parts of the body, thereby weakening the bones.

So how much calcium you require each day?

According to the Institute of Medicine, the current calcium recommendation as per the age is as follows:

  • Women 50 and below: 1000 mg daily
  • Men 70 and below: 1000 mg daily
  • Women above 50: 1200 mg daily
  • Men above 70: 1200 mg daily

The maximum cap for daily intake of calcium is 2500 mg for adults up to the age of 50 and 2000 mg for adults above 50. In a routine, it is quite possible to get the recommended amount of calcium through the diet, including the food items such as leafy greens, beans, nuts, dairy products, and tofu.

However, as stated before, those who don’t receive calcium-containing food can consider taking calcium supplements. This article will guide you through the basics of calcium supplements, who all should take them, benefits, and potential risks attached to taking these supplements.

Who and When Should You Take Supplements?

Whenever your intake of calcium is not sufficient, your body will start removing calcium from bones, resulting in weakness, and causing osteoporosis. Women are more prone to getting osteoporosis, and therefore, doctors recommend calcium supplements, especially when they reach menopause.

The time when you can consider taking calcium supplements are:

  • While following a vegan diet
  • If you have high sodium and high protein diet, which can lead to more calcium excretion.
  • If you have any health issues that can limit your body to absorb calcium like inflammatory bowel and Crohn’s disease.
  • If you have osteoporosis
  • If treated with corticosteroids for a long time.

Calcium Supplements: Health Benefits

There are several benefits of calcium supplements to your health

  • Help to prevent bone loss among women post menopause

Post the onset of menopause, and women start losing bone mass because of the low level of estrogen. That’s where the calcium supplements can help as various studies have shown that giving 1000 mg of calcium supplements to women post-menopause can reduce the loss of bone by 1 to 2%. This effect can be well seen among women with less calcium intake and within the initial two years of using the supplements.

  • Helps in fat loss

Various studies have shown the relation between low intake of calcium with higher BMI ( body mass index) and also the higher body fat percentage.

In 2016, a study showed the effect of taking 600 mg of calcium supplements among college students.

Why Calcium is importantThe study confirmed that students with lower calcium intake faced issues with obesity and overweight. Those who were given 600 mg of supplements along with Vitamin D of 125IUs lost body fat under a restricted-calorie diet than the students who did not get the supplement. Therefore, it is recommended to take calcium along with Vitamin D for better absorption in the body.

  • Reduce Colon Cancer Risk

As per the large study, calcium present in the supplements and dairy products may lower your risk of colon cancer.

  • Improves Metabolism

Various studies have indicated that the intake of calcium supplements can help improve your metabolic markers along with vitamin D intake.

In one of the medical studies from 2016, pregnant women took calcium supplements along with vitamin D. The final observation confirmed the improvement in the metabolic markers.

Another research stated that children born to the women who were on a calcium supplement had lower BP at the age of seven, whereas the children born to moms who didn’t take the supplements.

How risky are Calcium supplements?

Even with multiple health benefits, calcium supplements are not for all. In case you have specific health issues that can cause an excess of calcium in the bloodstream such as hypercalcemia, you need to avoid taking these supplements. There’s no definitive reasoning, but there have been speculations connecting heart disease and calcium supplements. 

Likewise, calcium supplements have been associated with prostate cancer too. Different studies have shared that high intake of calcium from supplements and dairy products may cause a high risk of prostate cancer. Therefore, you must avoid any excessive absorption of calcium and consult your doctor about what’s right and what’s not.

Points to consider for the intake of calcium supplements

While taking calcium supplements, always consider these important factors.

  1. Amount

Remember the term elemental calcium, because that’s the key. It’s the total amount of calcium in a given supplement. The actual amount is what the body absorbs for health benefits like bone growth. Make sure you note down the serving amount while determining the total calcium per serving.

  1. Tolerability

Calcium supplements are known to cause only a few side effects, including minor issues like bloating, and constipation. You can try different brands and types of supplements to find the most tolerable one for your body requirements. You can learn more about various supplements for different health issues at different sources such as health blog, mbsf.org, healthline.com, and many other online resources.

  1. Prescriptions

Calcium supplements also interact with other medications, including thyroid hormone synthetics, medications related to blood pressure, antibiotics, and bisphosphonates. Always consult your doctor about the interactions of your prescriptions with calcium supplements to avoid any possible complications.

  1. Form & Absorbability

The calcium supplements come in different forms, including capsules, tablets, powders, and chews. Depending on your convenience, you can pick any sort of the supplement. Also, your body should be able to absorb the calcium. For example, calcium citrate is absorbed well by the body.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, it’s safe to say that dietary calcium is safe as long as your consumption is balanced with your nutritional requirements. Since more isn’t better, avoid taking calcium-fortified foods and calcium supplements at the same time.

Monitor your total calcium intake and read the labels on your supplements to understand the total amount of calcium intake in a day. Also, always let your doctor know about your intake of supplements during the regular health checkup, so they can check and see if everything is well balanced.

Beer for Lent

The Right Lager or Ale for Seasonal Observance

Lent is a time for somber reflection, fasting and repentance, but does that mean that the devout have to forgo their favorite beverage? In the tradition of fasting, drinking “liquid bread” is not only allowed, but appropriate during the Lenten season.

Doppelbock

In Munich, brewers hold true to this tradition by creating strong spring beers inspired by Doppelbock, a beer fashioned by Roman Catholic monks which was specifically designed for liquid fasting during lent. In the seventeenth century, Minim friars created this strong malty beverage that was dense enough to be considered a nutritious meal during fasting. This beer is double strong, hence the name “doppelbock.”

The most popular Doppelbock is named Salvator, Latin for savior. Many breweries end their Doppelbocks with “or,” such as Thomas Hooker Liberator and Duck- Rabbit Duck- Rabbitor.

Fish Friday

Beer is not reserved for liquid fasting during Lent. Throughout the Lenten season, Friday is a day to abstain from red meat and poultry. Shrimp, catfish, salmon and lobster can all be paired with the right beer.

Fried Seafood

Fried seafood, Salmon and Talapia can be dished up with a Pilsner, IPA or Wheat Ale. Pilsners are lagers that are very light in color. They are known to be rich in hops and embrace a prominent a bitter taste. A floral aroma is a trademark for this beer style. Live Oak Pilz from the Live Oak Brewing Company is an example of a Czech Pilsner.

Indian Pale Ales, or IPAs, were created for British troops stationed in India in the late 18th century. Because this beer had to travel long distances it was higher in hops, a natural preservative. English IPAs now have lower alcohol content, thus causing brewers to change the hop-malt ratio. American IPAs are preferred by many beer enthusiasts for their traditional strong hops and citric bitterness. They are golden in color, as oppose to the straw hue of a Pilsner. An example of an American IPA is the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

The American Pale Wheat Ale is a highly carbonated ale. This beer style is less hoppy and has moderate bitterness compared to IPAs and Pilsners. Wheat Ales are often garnished with a lemon wedge, thus making them a perfect complement to fish. An example of a Wheat Ale would be Samuel Adams Summer Ale.

Crab Lobster and Oysters

Rich seafood, such as crab, lobster and oysters can be accented by an Irish Dry Stout or Porter such as Founders Porter and Murphy’s Irish Stout. This demonstrates the pairing of a heavy food with a heavy beverage the same way red wine is served with red meat.

Drinking beer does not diminish the somberness of the season, and can be done respectfully and responsibly. Whether you’re practicing a liquid fast or eating fish on Friday, beer can still be part of your Lenten diet.

Tasting & Evaluating Beer

A Quick Rundown of Beer Characteristics

Beer has been around for thousands of years, but a more formal approach to beer tasting only began to truly take shape in the last 40 years or so. In the 1970’s, Morton Meilgaard designed the Meilgaard Flavor Wheel, dividing aroma and taste characteristics into 14 sub-headings. Michael Jackson published World Guide to Beer in 1977, creating a numerical rating system for beer based on five categories. The American Brewers Association began compiling beer style guidelines, providing a consistency for descriptions, and the Beer Judge Certification Program was established to provide consistency in judging.

But you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy tasting beer, or to be able to rate the beers you try. There are simply a few common aromas and flavors to watch for and recognize. Pick them out, and you’re well on your way.

Immediately after pouring the beer, and before your first taste, take a moment to smell it. Much of the characteristic aroma of beer comes from the hops, and that aroma is usually described as herbal, pine, floral, resin or spice. The hops are also responsible for the characteristic bitter taste of beer, best tasted on the back of the tongue.

The malt, or grain, is responsible for most of the sweeter flavors and aroma in beer. The grain of preference for beer is barley, although wheat beer is a recognized style. Generally, beers made with rice or corn are considered inferior – these are cheaper grains and don’t produce the proper flavor. The aroma may be nutty, sweet, or grainy. Both the aroma and flavor may be described as roasted, caramel, toffee, toasted, chocolate, or coffee.

There is also a degree of aroma and flavor that comes from the yeast. The fermentation process can produce esters, which give beer a fruity aroma. These esters are common in ales, but should be non-existent in lagers. The varieties are almost endless – banana, pear, apricot, citrus.

There are also odors and tastes that shouldn’t be present in beer. The descriptions are self-explanatory – fishy, oily, chlorine, skunky, cooked vegetables, sour, vinegar, solvent-like, cabbage.

Finally, there are descriptors used for beer that have to do with the body, or mouth-feel, or the beer. Beer may be thin, medium, or full-bodied. If you haven’t tasted many beers, think of ice cream – the difference between a bowl of a light ice milk and a bowl of a gourmet ice cream. The flavor may be the same, but they feel very different in your mouth.

If you began trying out new beers on a regular basis, you may want to makes notes about which beers you’ve tried, and what you thought of them. With hundreds, if not thousands, of beers available, it doesn’t take long before it gets hard to remember what you think of which one, unless it was either outstandingly good or incredibly bad. There are journals and forms designed specifically for beer tasters, but a formal journal isn’t a necessity. You may find a small spiral notebook works as well.

Should you read beer reviews? Yes and no. If you’re new to craft beers or beer tasting, you may find it helpful to look up beers you’ve tried at sites like Beer Advocate. Reading the reviews may help you put a name to the flavor or aroma that you couldn’t quite pinpoint, or help you figure out what gives your favorite beer the taste you love. But if you’re going to try out a new beer, hold off on those reviews until you’ve judged it for yourself. No matter how experienced the reviewer, they may taste something you don’t, and you may find flavors they missed.

Most importantly, 100 reviewers may find that Joe’s Beer is a great example of the style, and they may be absolutely right – but that doesn’t mean that they all liked the beer, or that you’ll like it. Like and dislike are very subjective things. And in the end, beer tasting is really all about the search for your perfect beer.

How to Host a Beer Tasting

Enjoy some Suds with Friends with This Guide

Beer used to be thought of as a lesser choice of beverage, one that was drank out of convenience, but not usually known for its taste. But the microbrewery movement and the popularity of craft beers has spurred a revolution, and it’s time you got your friends involved and in the know with this fun party.

Educate Yourself

First, you’ll need to learn a little about beer, but don’t be intimidated by it. You can buy some great books that will tell you all about the beer-making process and the history of beer. It might even be a good idea to purchase one of these books and have it out during the party so that your guests can educate themselves. You don’t have to be an expert, though: your knowledge of beer can be surface-level and you can still have loads of fun trying out different beers.

Choose a Variety

Locate a specialty beer store (they’re more common than you think!) or order beers online that you think your friends might like to try. An interesting spread of different types of beers will feature different varieties of beers (porters, lagers, ales and stouts) and beers from different regions of the country and the world (the Pacific Northwest and Belgium are beer-producing areas that offer a lot of selection).

Lay out Your Spread

It’s important when tasting beer that you leave all the beer in its bottle; some of the bottles are impressive or different or showcase a unique label, and you want your guests to see that. Think about assembling a spread either geographically or by the color or variety of the beer. Then you’ll want to provide small tasting glasses – coffee shot glasses work well since they’re a little larger than those used for hard alcohol, and you definitely want clear glass so that you can compare the color and clarity of the beer. But remember to keep the glasses small – this isn’t a kegger!

Encourage Conversation

Even if your guests aren’t really familiar with brewing or a wide variety of beers, they can still enjoy talking about what they’re tasting. Encourage them by starting a non-fussy conversation about how it tastes, whether you like it and where it’s from. Be armed with a few facts from your research, and soon everyone will be joining in with what flavors they taste, which is their favorite and more. Be sure to remember where you bought the beers, because people will want to write down their favorite to get some.

Throw in Some Food

No party is complete without food, of course, so you should serve some snacks. Try serving snacks with a variety of tastes, like sweet ones and salty ones, and then ask your guests how the beers combine with each of the foods. There’s no real science to it, but some fun foods to try matching with different beers are chocolate, meats, cheese, fish and breads. Go wild!

Tasting beer can be an enjoyable way to get together with friends and learn about a new culinary sensation. With a little effort, you can bring the joy of beer to your friends and have a great party, too.

Ales and Lagers 101

From Budweiser and Coors to fruity ales

Whether you’re new to the beer world or have been enjoying beer for years, it can be overwhelming to be confronted by the selection of beers available at a beer bar or liquor store, especially if your beer experience has been restricted largely to the American mass-market beers. And while you don’t have to know the lingo to experiment and enjoy new beers, learning the basics may make it easier to pinpoint your preferences and help you search out your own ultimate beer.

Despite all the different styles, colors, and flavors, in the end, there are really only two styles of beer – ales and lagers. These terms don’t refer to a particular color or taste, but rather describe the type and behavior of the yeast used in the brewing process, as well as the process itself.

Ales are “top-fermented.” In other words, the yeast collects or floats along the surface of the beer. More importantly, these beers generally are at fermented at higher temperatures, ranging from 60-75 degrees. Because of the higher temperature, these beers have a quicker fermentation period, often a week or less. The yeasts used for ales also product by-products called esters. Esters create a wide range aromas and flavors, as well as textures, that will surprise a novice beer drinker.

Lagers are brewed with bottom fermenting yeast. Just like it sounds, these are yeasts that gather or sink to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. The term lager is derived from a German word, lagern, which means to store, and is a good description. Bottom fermenting yeast work much more slowly and at much lower temperatures, around 34 degrees, and so require the beer-in-progress to be kept for a longer period. Lagers are also often stored to mature after fermenting. The yeasts used in lagers produce fewer of the ester by-products than seen in ales, and so allows other flavors, such as hops, to become more noticeable.

If your exposure to beer has been solely through the so-called “mass market” American beers, you’ve become familiar with lager. Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Michelob – these are all lagers. The range of flavors noticeable in lagers is more limited than that is ales. They’re going to be hoppy, malty, sweet, or dry. There’s definitely nothing wrong with these flavors, but there are fewer variations, which explains why many people insist that all beers taste alike.

There are still few selections of ales from the big brewers, but the number of macro or micro brewer producing ales is growing rapidly, and these could be good choices to expand your beer horizons. The most common flavors are usually described as flowery or fruity, such as plum, apple, pear, grass, and hay, but the yeasts can also produce flavors as unique as vanilla, cloves, or butterscotch. These are not flavors added to the beer (although there are any number of beers with unique ingredients and flavors added), but are essentially a searched-for side effect of the brewing process.

In the end, the best way to learn beer is simply to taste it. There are so many beers that it’s hard to imagine that it would be impossible to find something appealing. Many restaurants are featuring micro-brews and macro-brews along with local brewers, making it easy to try something new. Beer bars and brew pubs are also becoming more common, and most are glad to give patrons an opportunity to sample a taster glass or two. A good bartender or waiter is a fantastic resource; he or she should be able to ask a few questions and make recommendations based on what you’re partial to.

And luckily, many excellent beers are relatively inexpensive. A six-pack is generally not a budget breaker. If you hate the idea of wasting a beer if you decide don’t like it, find a couple of adventurous friends and arrange a “beer swap” – trading out a few bottles makes it even easier to try something new.

Ten Classic Beer Styles to Try Before You Die

If you haven’t tasted these types of beer, you don’t know beer

Most beer drinkers don’t know the difference between a lager and an ale (and many couldn’t care less!). Even more mysterious and intimidating to most beer drinkers are the many, many beer sub-styles that exist. And don’t confuse beer styles with beer brands. Budweiser, Heineken, Beck’s and Corona may be different brands, but they are all the same style of beer: pale lager.

All told, there are approximately 70 styles and sub-styles of beer in the world. The only way to truly understand and appreciate this variety and diversity is to be intrepid and try as many of them as you can. There’s no guarantee that you will enjoy all of these, but at least you will have a better understanding of the world of beer –and maybe even a increased appreciation for the brewer’s art.

As you search out these various styles, be aware of regional interpretations and aggressive marketing strategies that pay little respect to brewing history and tradition. Brewers have a penchant for personalizing their brews with oddball ingredients or techniques and label hype often serves to confuse the consumer further.

To the point, then, here is a starter list of ten classic beer styles you should try before you die. To be true to brewing history and tradition, these should all be from their country and/or locale of origin.

  1. Pilsner- this hoppy golden lager was born in Plzen, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) dating back to 1842. It was the first golden beer of any kind –and now its many imitators make Pilsner the most popular beer style in the world.
  2. Dry Stout– this dark roasty ale that is traced back to Ireland is typified by the inky beer brewed in Dublin by Guinness. Note that the Irish “dry” stout is just one of five different stout styles produced in the beer world.
  3. Lambic– this tart, spontaneously fermented ale can only be found in the Senne River Valley near Brussels, Belgium. Wild, airborne microflora is responsible for lambic fermentation. It is also produced in fruit-flavored varieties.
  4. Doppelbock– this rich, malty lager is a Spring (Christian Lent) staple in Bavaria. Like its name suggests, it is a “double bock,” meaning it is a stronger version of regular bock beer (6.5% to 8% alcohol by volume).
  5. Flanders Red Ale– this reddish colored sour, oaky ale is somewhat rare outside of the Flanders region in northwestern Belgium. Its distinctive character comes from long term fermentation in old oaken vats.
  6. Witbier- this pale, perfumy, citrusy wheat ale traces its roots to Hoegaarden, Belgium. Its pleasant fruity aroma and flavor is derived primarily from the use of the lemony coriander seed and Curacao orange peel.
  7. Rauchbier- this brownish smoky lager is a gift to the beer world from Bamberg, Germany. The smokiness of the beer comes from smoking the barley malt over beechwood fires.
  8. Weizenbier- this cloudy, spritzy golden ale is a Summertime favorite from Bavaria, Germany. Alternately known as weissbier (white beer), this wheat-based beer with the towering white head of foam is a great thirst-quencher.
  9. Berliner Weisse- this pale, sour ale from Berlin, Germany, is also wheat-based, but it is much paler and more acidic. Some Berliners choose to drink their weisse “mit schuss” –with a shot of woodruff or raspberry syrup to cut through the bracing tartness of the beer.
  10. American IPA– this spicy, citrusy, malty, tangy ale is a hop-driven India Pale Ale from the good old U.S. of A. The use of all-American hop varieties gives this brew an assertive tangy, citrusy character.

Some of these beer styles are relatively easy to find in the United States, but others may not be. Searching them out in your travels abroad make the experience all the more fun and rewarding.