The basic ingredients of any beer are water, barley malt, hops and yeast. Brewers add special grains, herbs, spices, fruit, vegetables and even chocolate to provide unique tastes to their beers.
Water makes up the majority of a beer’s content.
Barley is a basic cereal grain that isn’t used much in baking, but is perfect for beer. Barley consists of enzymes which convert the starch in the grain into sugar and other fermentables. The barley must go through a process called “malting” before it can be used in brewing.
Hops are a flower from a vine. They provide the majority of the bitterness and aroma found in beer and are boiled to release the oils providing these flavors into the brew. There are many varieties of hops produced all over the world.
Yeast are unicellular fungi. Yeast is the most important part of brewing beer. Yeast converts sugars into alcohol through a fermentation process. Yeast has a faint flavor but can still affect the taste of a beer.
Beer takes several weeks to brew from start to finish, depending on the style.
Malted barley is first boiled in water to release the malt sugars. This malt sugar solution is boiled with the chosen variety of hops to provide the bittering. The solution is cooled and yeast is added to begin fermentation.The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol.When the main fermentation is complete, the beer is bottled with a little bit of added sugar to provide the carbonation.
There are many classifications of beer, but they all stem from two categories – ales and lagers. Ales ferment quickly at the top of the wort in warmer temperatures. Lagers ferment slowly at the bottom of the wort in cooler temperatures.
Most Common Ales:
Belgian Ale: Abbey, Amber, Blond, Dubbel, Tripel, Trappist, and Quadrupel
Dark Ale – Stouts (with even more subcategories) and Porters
Pale Ale – Althier, American, Bitter, IPA, Saison, and Scotch
Wheat beer – Berliner, Dunkel, Hefeweizen, Kristallweizen, Weizenbock, and White
Most Common Lagers:
Bock – Doppelbock, Eisbock, Maibock, and Weizenbock
Marzen, also called Oktoberfest
Pale Lager – Dortmander, Dry, Helles, Pilsner, and Spezial
Organic beer is made using USDA certified organic hops, barley, and other ingredients. This means that all the ingredients used in the brewing process were grown without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, or any other chemical or toxin. Many brewers believe that the use of organic ingredients leads to a fresher and more flavorful beer as well as a healthier beer.
Ales ferment at the top of the tank, while lagers ferment on the bottom. For this reason, ales are often called “top-fermenters” while lagers are called “bottom-fermenters.”
Light beer is beer that has been reduced in alcohol content or in calories. It is usually chosen by a beer drinker who wants to limit their calorie intake.
Draft, bottles, and cans are ways of storing beer for drinking.
Draft beer is the most popular when available. It is poured from a tap to serve, and this gives it a unique “mouthfeel” because of the carbon dioxide. Draft beer has a shorter shelf life than bottled or canned beer because it has not undergone pasteurization before being packaged into metal kegs. Draft beer is usually sold in bars, restaurants, and other establishments where beer is a regular staple for on-premise refreshment.
Bottled beer usually, but not always, undergoes pasteurization before glass bottling and has a shelf life of around three months. Brown bottled beer keeps longer than green or clear bottle beer. This is because sunlight or fluorescent light causes oxidation faster inside green or clear bottles than in brown bottles. If you buy beer in any color bottle that’s not brown, be sure to keep it in a dark place until you’re ready to drink it.
Canned beer is filtered before it goes into an aluminum can. Once canned it goes through the pasteurization process. Brewers generally tweak their recipes to make up for any flavor lost in the filtering and pasteurizing processes. Canned beers can be spoiled by exposure to extreme temperatures.
Beer should be served in a glass to give it proper carbonation. Beer in bottles has a much higher carbonation. The aroma and color of the beer are also better experienced through a clean glass.
Beer in general should be served at “cellar temperature.” This means warmer than a fridge, but colder than the room you’re in. Taking a beer out of the fridge and waiting a few minutes should let it settle to a good temperature for you to better experience the taste and aroma. With that said, drink your lagers at a lower temperature than your ales. Lagers brew in cooler temperatures and taste best in environment in which they were brewed.
In 2000, Realbeer.com ran this helpful guide:
A beer served too cold will withhold most of its flavor. But while serving beer at room temperature brings out the flavors and aromas and is appropriate when judging beer, most drinkers prefer something cooler. Some general guidelines:
- Serve fruit beers at 40-50° F.
- Serve wheat beers and pale lagers at 45-50° F.
- Serve pale ales and amber or dark lagers at 50-55° F.
- Serve strong ales, such as Belgian ales, at 50-55° F.
- Serve dark ales, including porters and stouts, at 55-60° F.
Yes, there are many shapes and sizes of glass that can be used to enjoy beer. The most common are listed below along with the beer they serve best.
Flute – the preferred serving glass for Belgian lambics and fruit beers. The narrow shape maintains carbonation, while providing a strong aromatic front.
Goblet or Chalice – Large, stemmed bowl shaped glasses for serving heavy Belgian ales, German doppelbocks and other big sipping beers. The distinction between goblet and chalice is typically in the glass thickness. Goblets tend to be more delicate and thin, while the chalice is heavy and thick. Goblets are often scored on the bottom to attract carbon dioxide and provide a stream of bubbles for maintaining a nice head.
Mug – Always with a handle, the mug is usually thick and holds a lot of volume. They are great for any German lager.
Pilsner – This tapered glass is used to serve many types of light beers but especially the pilsner. Smaller then a pint glass, they are tall and slender. They are made to showcase the color and clarity of the Pilsner style, as well as maintain a nice head.
Pint – A pint glass is the most common glass. Good for serving stouts, porters and English ales, the pint glass is easy to make, and easy to store, making it a favorite in bars and restaurants.
Snifter – Most often used for brandy and cognac, snifters are also great for aromatic beers like Belgian ales, India pale ales, barleywines and wheat wines. The shape helps trap the volatiles, while allowing swirling to agitate them and produce a strong aroma.
Tulip – These beautiful glasses trap the aroma and maintain large heads for the Scottish ales, barleywines, and Belgian ales they serve. The body is round like a tulip bulb, but the top flares out to form a lip which helps head retention.
Tumbler – A short thick glass, the tumbler is used for lambic and Belgian ales.
Start with a clean glass. Hold the glass at a 45 degree angle and pour slowly, targeting the middle of the slope. When you get about half-way, bring the glass to a 90 degree angle and continue to pour to create a foam “head” at the top. Head releases aroma and adds to the presentation of the beer when poured in the right amount, between 1 and 1.5 inches.