All About Beer
All About Beer
November 23, 2013
Everyone has that one "go-to" beer that is their ultimate favorite above all the rest. My personal favorite is a nice, cold bottle of Redd's Apple Ale. Of course, never be discouraged to try something new or different. In this blog I will discuss the different types of beer and what makes them different. As always I encourage my readers to please drink responsibly.
Many people wonder just how many different "types" of beer there are. The answer is simple; there are only 2: Ales and Lagers. What's the difference between them you ask? YEAST!
Lagers are considered "bottom fermentation yeasts" and have only been around for a few hundred years. Lagers were actually propagated on accident and were not fully understood until the invention of the microscope. Much like white wines, lagers have to be kept at colder temperatures because it limits the formation of fermentation by-products thus creating a much cleaner flavor. Lagers, for the most part, are more popular in America though are nothing compared to the European counterparts. Popular varieties of lagers include pilsners, bocks and dunkels. (We'll get into those in a bit)
Ales are the opposite of lagers as they are "top fermentation yeasts" and are the oldest of the two types of beer. The word "Ale" is derived from the German word "alt" which means old or aged. Production of ale can be traced back more than 6,000 years. Much like red wines, ales are served at room temperature, which gives it a more intense flavor profiles. The most popular ales are pale ales, India pale ales, stouts, porters and wheat beer.
Pale ales fit their name, as they are light in color (a result of using pale malts) and weren't created until somewhere around the mid-17th century when British brewers started using a type of coal called coke instead of wood during the brewing process. By using coke instead of wood it allowed for more control, much like using a gas stove instead of an electric stove. Traditionally, pale ales are light unassuming beers and are good for beginners because the flavor isn't too intense.
Porter's (a combination of brown ale and mild ale) use to be the most popular beer in the world until that title was stolen and production of Porters were stopped. In 1978 it was resurrected. These beers were widely distributed around England and were prized for being less thick and aggressive on the taste buds. Porters are milder than stouts so they're better for people who want something dark but not necessarily heavy or rich. They have a low alcohol content and go great when combined with flavors like chocolate, liquorices, caramel and toffee.
Stouts are almost as imposing as their name. Their exact origins are unknown but are believed to be related to porters and share some taste traits with them. Stouts are mostly a very dark brown or black, though blonde stouts do exist. Stouts are most popular in winter and are often brewed with oatmeal, coffee, milk, sugar and even chocolate.
India Pale Ales style emerged during the British occupancy of India when a taste of home was needed. Brewed with more hops, India Pale Ales have a distinctive bitter taste. These ales have replaced the once-popular porter by balancing sweet maltiness with the added hops.
Wheat Beer is another popular form of ale, or for the Germans among us, weizenbier. Wheat Beers are the oldest style of ales in the world today and is thought to have come from Bavaria. It is brewed using a mixture of barley and wheat grain but contains little to no hops. For this simple reason wheat beers are lighter and easier on the taste buds. Wheat Beers combine well with fruity flavors and due to wheat proteins and a special kind of suspended yeast give it is cloudy appearance.
Now back to Lagers, which are the second family of beers and are vastly more popular even due to the fact that it hasn't been around as long as Ales. Lagers and Ales differ by their fermentation process. Lagers fermentation occurs at lower temperatures causing a layer of hybrid yeast to ferment on the bottom of the beer. Lagers can be distinguished from ales by their significantly cleaner finish and popular varieties which include pilsners, bock and dunkels.
Pilsners are the "celebrities" of lagers. Pilsners are the youngest lager and has come a long way from its beginning in Czechoslovakia. Today, its international style has been brewed all over the world, with more than fifty percent of beers sold being Pilsners. Its taste, simple and clean, is the very definition of refreshing with only a small hint of hops bitterness.
Bocks are the closest beer that provide some sustenance and the so it was nicknamed "liquid bread" by Bavarian monks for its popularity during fasting. Bocks contain low amounts of hops and are not overly sweet or fruity but rich and toasty. More often than not bocks contain more alcohol content than the average beer (6.3%-13%). Brewers of Munich took the once dark beers and have developed a wide range of bocks ranging in color, flavor and alcohol content.
Dunkels (pronounced "doon-kuls") are one of the darkest lager styles. Often referred to as Germany's first beer style, dunkels actually originated in Bavaria around the 15th or 16th century and to this day most of this style is still brewed in Bavaria. Dunkels tend to be a little sweet and nutty with a hint of vanilla. A proper dunkel should not be bitter and should have a persistent head on it.
So there you have it, a blog all about beer, its two different types and the styles of those. All of these can be found at your local grocery or liquor store. Enjoy and Happy drinking!