Varieties Of Beer
There are only several different types of beer, though there are many different names and style labels that attempt to categorise beers by overall flavour and occasionally origin. The British beer writer Michael Jackson wrote about beers from around the world in his 1977 book The World Guide To Beer and organised them into style groups of his own devising. This book had an influence on craft and home brewers in USA who developed an intricate system of categorising beers which is exemplified by the Beer Judge Certification Program. Outside of North America beer is mainly categorised by strength and/or colour.
A common method of categorising beer is by the yeast used in the fermentation process. Most beers fall into one of two large families: ale, using top-fermenting yeast, or lager, using bottom-fermenting yeast. Beers that blend the characteristics of ales and lagers are referred to as hybrids. Alcoholic beverages made from the fermentation of sugars derived from non-grain sources are generally not called "beer," despite being produced by the same yeast-based biochemical reaction. Fermented honey is called mead, fermented apple juice is called cider, fermented pear juice is called perry, and fermented grape juice is called wine.
A modern ale is commonly defined by the strain of yeast used and the fermenting temperature.
An ale yeast is normally considered to be a top-fermenting yeast, though a number of British brewers, such as Fullers and Weltons, use ale yeast strains that settle at the bottom. Common features of ale yeasts regardless of top or bottom fermentation is that they ferment quicker than lager yeasts, they convert less of the sugar into alcohol (giving a sweeter, fuller body) and they produce more esters (which give a fruity taste) and diacetyl (which gives a buttery taste).
Ale is typically fermented at higher temperatures than lager beer (1523°C, 6075°F). Ale yeasts at these temperatures produce significant amounts of esters and other secondary flavor and aroma products, and the result is a beer with slightly "fruity" compounds resembling but not limited to apple, pear, pineapple, banana, plum, or prune.
Stylistic differences between some ales and lagers can be difficult to categorize. Steam beer, Kölsch and some modern British Golden Summer Beers are seen as hybrids, using elements of both lager and ale production. Baltic Porter and Bière de Garde may be produced by either lager or ale methods or a combination of both. However, commonly, lager is perceived to be cleaner tasting, dryer and lighter in the mouth than ale.
A glass of lager
Lagers are the most commonly-consumed beer in the world. They are of Central European origin, taking their name from the German lagern ("to store"). Lager yeast is a bottom-fermenting yeast, and typically undergoes primary fermentation at 7-12°C (45-55°F) (the "fermentation phase"), and then is given a long secondary fermentation at 0-4°C (30-40°F) (the "lagering phase"). During the secondary stage, the lager clears and mellows. The cooler conditions also inhibit the natural production of esters and other byproducts, resulting in a "crisper" tasting beer.
Modern methods of producing lager were pioneered by Gabriel Sedlmayr the Younger, who perfected dark brown lagers at the Spaten Brewery in Bavaria, and Anton Dreher, who began brewing a lager, probably of amber-red color, in Vienna in 18401841. With modern improved fermentation control, most lager breweries use only short periods of cold storage, typically 13 weeks.
In terms of volume, most of today's lager is based on the Pilsner style, pioneered in 1842 in the town of Plzen, in the Czech Republic. The modern Pilsner lager is light in colour and high in carbonation, with a strong hop flavour and an alcohol content of 36% by volume. The Pilsner Urquell or Heineken brands of beer are typical examples of pilsner beer, as are most American beers such as Budweiser, Coors and Miller.
These are beers which use wild yeasts, rather than cultivated ones. All beers before the cultivation of yeast in the 19th century were closer to this style, characterised by their sour flavours.
Hybrid beers have some of the characteristics of ale and of lager. Steam beer, Kölsch and some modern British Golden Summer Beers are seen as hybrids, using elements of both lager and ale production. While Baltic Porter and Bière de Garde may be produced by either lager or ale methods or a combination of both.
Draught and keg beers
Draught beer keg fonts at the Delirium Café in Brussels
Draught beer from a pressurised keg is the most common dispense method in bars around the world. A metal keg is pressurised with carbon dioxide (CO2) gas which drives the beer to the dispensing tap or faucet. Some beers, notably stouts, such as Guinness and "Smooth" bitters, such as Boddingtons, may be served with a nitrogen/carbon dioxide mixture. Nitrogen has fine bubbles, producing a dense head and a creamy mouthfeel.
In the 1980s Guinness introduced the beer widget, a nitrogen pressurised ball inside a can which creates a foamy head. The words "draft" and "draught" are often used as marketing terms to describe canned or bottled beers containing a beer widget.
Schlenkerla Rauchbier direct from the cask
Cask ales are unfiltered and unpasteurised. When the landlord feels the beer has settled, and he is ready to serve it, he will knock a soft spile into a bunghole on the side of the cask. The major difference in appearance between a keg and a cask is the bunghole. A keg does not have a bunghole on the side.
The soft spile in the bunghole allows gas to vent off. This can be seen by the bubbles foaming around the spile. The landlord will periodically check the bubbles by wiping the spile clean and then watching to see how fast the bubbles reform. There still has to be some life in the beer otherwise it will taste flat, but too much life and the beer will taste hard or fizzy. When the beer is judged to be ready, the landlord will replace the soft spile with a hard one (which doesnt allow air in or gas out) and let the beer settle for 24 hours. He will also knock a tap into the end of the cask. This might simply be a tap if the cask is stored behind the bar. The beer will then be served simply under gravity pressure: turn on the tap, and the beer comes out. But if the cask is in the cellar, the beer needs to travel via tubes, or beer lines, up to the bar area using a beer engine.
Bottle conditioned beers
Bottle conditioned beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised. It is usually recommended that the beer is poured slowly, leaving any yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle. However, some drinkers prefer to pour in the yeast, and this practise is customary with wheat beers. Typically when serving a hefeweizen 90% of the contents is poured and the remainder swirled to dissolve the sediment before pouring it into the glass.
Gambrinus - king of beer
Beer in a social context
Various social traditions and activities are associated with beer drinking, such as playing cards, darts or other games; or visiting a series of different pubs in one evening. Consumption in isolation and excess may be associated with people "drowning their sorrows," while drinking in excess in company may be associated with binge drinking.
Beer around the world
Beer is consumed in countries all over the world. There are breweries in Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Syria as well as African countries and remote countries such as Mongolia.
An appropriate glass is considered desirable by some beer drinkers. Some drinkers of beer may sometimes drink straight from the bottle or can, while others may pour their beer into a vessel before imbibing. Drinking out of a bottle inhibits aromas picked up by the nose, so if a drinker wishes to appreciate a beer's aroma, the beer is first poured into a glass, mug, tankard, or stein. As with wine, there are specialized styles of glassware for some styles of beer, and some breweries even produce glassware intended for their own beers. Some aficionados claim that the shape and material of the vessel influences the perception of the aroma and the way in which the beer settles, similar to claims by drinkers of brandy or cognac. Some drinkers in Britain prefer their ale to be served in pewter tankards, while in Europe it is common for glasses to be rinsed just before beer is poured into them. While glass is completely non-porous, its surface can retain oil from the skin, aerosolized oil from nearby cooking, and traces of fat from food. When these oils come in contact with beer there is a significant reduction in the amount of head (foam) that is found on the beer, and the bubbles will tend to stick to the side of the glass rather than rising to the surface as normal.
The conditions of serving have an influence on a drinker's experience. An important factor is temperature: colder temperatures start to inhibit the chemical senses of the tongue and throat, which narrow down the flavour profile of a beer, allowing delicate, fully attenuated beers such as Pilsners and Pale lagers to be appreciated for their crispness, but preventing the more rounded flavours of an ale or a stout from being perceived. While there are no firmly agreed principles for all cases, a general approach is that lighter coloured beers, such as Pale lagers, are best served cold (40-45F/4-7C), while dark, strong beers such as Imperial Stouts should be served at cellar temperature (54-60F/12-16C) and then allowed to warm up in the room to individual taste. Beers between these two extremes should be served at temperatures between these extremes.
The pouring process has an influence on a beer's presentation.
The rate of flow from the tap or other serving vessel, tilt of the glass, and position of the pour (in the center or down the side) into the glass all influence the end result, such as the size and longevity of the head, lacing (the pattern left by the head as it moves down the glass as the beer is drunk), and turbulence of the beer and its release of carbonation.
Heavily carbonated beers such as German pilsners or weissbiers may need settling time before serving, however many Weissbiers are served with the addition of the remaining yeast at the bottom of the bottle to add both flavor and color.
Rating beer is a recent craze that combines the enjoyment of beer drinking with the hobby of collecting. People drink beer and then record their scores and comments on various internet websites. This is a worldwide activity and people in the USA will swap bottles of beer with people living in New Zealand and Russia. People's scores may be tallied together to create lists of the most popular beers in each country as well as the most highly rated beers in the world.
Beer contains alcohol which has a number of health risks and benefits. However, beer includes a wide variety of other agents that are currently undergoing scientific evaluation.
Nutritionally, beer can contain significant amounts of magnesium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, and B vitamins. Typically, the darker the brew, the more nutrient dense.
A 2005 Japanese study found that non-alcoholic beer may possess strong anti-cancer properties. . Another study found non-alcoholic beer to mirror the cardiovascular benefits associated with moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages.
It is considered that over-eating and lack of muscle tone is the main cause of a beer belly, rather than beer consumption.
The Strongest Beers In The World
Beer strength varies by local custom. British ale tends to average 4.4% abv. Belgian beers tend to average 8% abv. While the typical strength for the global pale lager is 5% abv. The yeast used for brewing beer normally cannot get the strength much beyond 12% abv; however, in the 1980s the Swiss brewery Hurlimann developed a yeast strain which could get as high as 14% for their Samichlaus beer. Since then breweries have experimented with using champagne yeasts, continually pushing up the strength. Samuel Adams reached 20% abv with Millennium. The strongest beer sold in Britain was Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout, a 21% abv stout which was available from UK Safeways in 2003. In Japan in 2005, the Hakusekikan Beer Restaurant sold an Eisbock believed to be 28% abv. The beer that is considered to be the strongest yet made is Hair of the Dog's Dave - a 29% abv barley wine made in 1994.