Westwood Village’s bar scene may be nearly dead, but hope can spring from the most unexpected places. Cue Ralphs’ wine and beer bar, where you can do your grocery shopping and reward your amazing adult-ing without having to even finish doing so.
At the Cork and Tap Beer and Wine Bar, you can choose from a selection of nine different beers on tap or opt for a $4 tasting of four beers. But without an understanding of the difference between a lager, pilsner, ale and stout, making that choice can be an overwhelming undertaking.
To help you decipher the range of beers offered, I’ve chosen a flight that includes a beer from each of those four categories: the Peroni Nastro Azzurro, the Stella Artois, the Lagunitas Indian pale ale and the Guinness Draught.
Let’s start with the lightest beer of the four: the Peroni Nastro Azzurro. It’s an Italian pale lager, yellow in color and brewed with barley, malt, Italian maize and hops. The maize is used to raise the alcohol level of the beer without too much hops, which allows the beer to maintain the fresh, clean flavor typical of most lagers. It’s not very complex but it’s definitely drinkable.
Next up is the Stella Artois. If you’ve been to a few bars, then you’re probably familiar with the Stella. It’s a popular Belgian beer brewed and sold all over the world.
While the color and smooth taste is similar to the Peroni, the slight difference in flavor can be partly attributed to the fact that the Stella Artois is a European-style pilsner.
A pilsner is a type of lager that has been brewed using Saaz hops. These hops add a bit more of a kick to the beer and some spicy floral flavors to the mix. The company also claims to possess a strain of yeast used only by Stella Artois brewers.
We’ve eased into beer tasting with the lagers but now it’s time to move into something with a bit more character: the Lagunitas IPA. IPAs are intense in terms of hops and bitterness. The Lagunitas IPA is made with 45 different hops but uses 65 different malts to round out the hops’ bitterness. It’s the kind of beer you don’t want to chug, but sip and discover its layered flavors. It’s also the kind of beer that craft beer brewers love and your friends won’t stop talking about.
Last but not least, we have the Guinness Draught, a popular stout beer. At first sight, you might be wondering what happened to this beer. Why is it so dark? Is this the Halloween edition? While a stout is technically a form of ale because it uses the same strain of brewer’s yeast, the treatment of the grain is what gives the beer its dark color and unique taste.
To make the Guinness Draught, some of the barley is roasted and then brewed with malts and a variety of hops, which results in a black color and rich flavor. You might observe a hint of sweetness and coffee from the smell or “nose” of the beer. This is due to the roasting process of the barley and the sweetness from the malt.
The pillowy mass of white bubbles at the surface of the beer might also surprise you. This collection of carbon dioxide bubbles that forms at the top of the beer is called the “head.” The head of the Guinness Draught is much creamier than most beers. This is because Guinness adds nitrogen to the beer, which allows for a firmer, denser head with smaller bubbles and less acidic taste. Though it’s not any higher in calories than most ales, you’ll be glad you left this one for last because it may feel like dessert.
Before you leave, remember to call a friend or an Uber to pick you up. Each tasting glass is four ounces, which means you’ve consumed around 16 ounces of beer, or about one and a half beer cans. On the other hand, if all that beer is making you hungry, check out the Ralphs bar snacks menu. The sliders and chicken quesadillas aren’t half bad, and you may just be tempted to order another flight and stay awhile.