The brew page was brought to fruition because of my personal curiosity of this most popular beverage. Since a much higher percentage of my peers drink beer rather than wine, understanding and reporting on this "trendy" subject seems a logical editorial ingredient. Beer is hot in this country. Especially microbrews. So let's find out why.
Is it an economic issue? Do we drink more beer because it's less expensive than wine? According to recent surveys, we spend as much on beer (per six pack) as we do on a bottle of wine. We'll spend five bucks on a glass of beer at the local micro-brew pub, yet we won't spend the same on a glass on fine wine in a restaurant. Why? It's not that we have less to spend. So why do we favor beer over wine?
What about advertising? Are we influenced by beer ads? I seriously doubt that we believe drinking beer will get us beautiful women or men. We may be young, but we're not stupid. However, I do think encountering a stuffy wine ad in a magazine is a turn off. Whether it's subliminal or not, the fact remains wine has a stuffy, elitist image. Beer does not. Wine is ritual. Beer is fun. You figure it out.
With this short introduction behind us, let's start with what beer is, how it's made and the different styles you may come across at your favorite local brew pub or micro-establishment.
GLOSSARY OF STYLES
Ale - originally a liquor made from an infusion of malt by fermentation, as opposed to beer, which was made by the same process but flavored with hops. Today ale is used for all beers other than stout.
Alt - means "old". A top fermented ale, rich, copper-colored and full-bodied, with a very firm, tannic palate, and usually well-hopped and dry.
Amber Beer - an ale with a depth of hue halfway between pale and dark.
Barley Wine - dark, rich, usually bittersweet, heavy ales with high alcohol content, made for sipping, not quaffing.
Bitter - the driest and one of the most heavily hopped beers served on draft. The nose is generally aromatic, the hue amber and the alcoholic content moderate.
Bock - a strong dark German lager, ranging from pale to dark brown in color, with a minimum alcoholic content of about 6 percent.
Brown Ale - malty beers, dark in color, and they may be quite sweet.
Burton - a strong ale, dark in color, made with a proportion of highly dried or roasted malts.
Christmas/Holiday Beer - these special season beers are amber to dark brown, richly flavored with a sweetish palate. Some are flavored with special spices and/or herbs.
Dopplebock - "double bock." A stronger version of bock beer, decidedly malty, with an alcoholic content ranging from 8 percent to 13 percent by volume.
Hefe-Weizen - a wheat beer, lighter in body, flavor and alcohol strength.
Ice Beer - a high-alcohol beer made by cooling the beer during the process to below the freezing point of water (32 degrees Fahrenheit) but above that of alcohol (-173 degrees Fahrenheit). When the formed ice is removed and discarded, the beer ends up with a higher alcohol-to-water ratio.
India Pale Ale (IPA) - a generously hopped pale ale.
Kolsch - a West German ale, very pale (brassy gold) in hue, with a mild malt flavor and some lactic tartness.
Malt Liquor - most malt liquors are lagers that are too alcoholic to be labeled lagers or beers.
Muncheners - a malty, pale lager distinguished from the darker, heavier Munich Dark beers by the term "dunkel."
Octoberfest/Maerzen/Vienna - a copper-colored, malty beer brewed at the end of the winter brewing season in March.
Pale Ale - made of the highest quality malts, the driest and most highly hopped beer. Sold as light ale or pale ale in bottle, or on draft as bitter.
Pilsner - delicately dry and aromatically hoppy beers.
Porter - a darker (medium to dark reddish brown) ale style beer, full-bodied, a bit on the bitter side. The barley (or barley-malt) is well roasted, giving the brew a characteristic chocolaty, bittersweet flavor.
Stout - beer brewed from roasted, full-flavored malts, often with an addition of caramel sugar and a slightly higher proportion of hops. Stouts have a richer, slightly burnt flavor and are dark in color.
Sweet Stout - also known as milk stout because some brewers use lactose (milk sugar) as an ingredient.
Wheat Beer - a beer in which wheat malt is substituted for barley malt. Usually medium-bodied, with a bit of tartness on the palate.
TRY THESE BEER & FOOD PAIRINGS:
Stout with spicy chili. Hefe-Weizen (with a lemon twist) with spicy mussels in cream sauce.
Raspberry Wheat Beer with a chocolate hazelnut tort.
Pale Ale with a caesar salad (with a smoked meat).
Walnut Ale with a lamb kabob with onions and peppers.
DEFINITION OF BEER
Beer is generally defined as a fermented grain beverage, in which starch is broken down into fermentable sugars and then transformed into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It is flavored with a bitter herb, such as hops, or by adding any number of aromatic plants.
The principal ingredient in beer is barley, which is encouraged to sprout by being steeped in water. It's then heated in a kiln to produce malt (maltose sugar) and, more importantly, enzymes, called amylases, which convert the rest of the starch into fermentable sugars. The malt is placed in a vessel known as a mash tun where hot water, and sometimes cereals, are added to it to produce a mash. The mash is then clarified -- liquid separated from the remaining grain. This resultant liquid is referred to as wort (pronounced "wert"). The wort is transferred to a vessel known as a kettle or copper, in which it's boiled. This is the actual brewing process.
During brewing, hops, the flowering cones of a climbing vine related to cannabis, are added, primarily as a bittering agent, to balance the malt's sweetness. Without hops, beer would be a mawkishly sweet, sticky and unappealing drink. They can add a spicy, aromatic component to the beer, depending on what variety is used. Hops also help clarify and preserve the brew.
After brewing, the hops are removed and the wort cooled and transferred from the brewhouse to fermentation vessels. Here, yeast is added (known as pitching) to produce primary fermentation. After fermentation has ceased, the fermented wort is moved again to be matured or aged, often with a secondary fermentation, in lagering tanks or casks. The beer is then filtered unless it's to be conditioned further in the bottle or cask. At this point, the beer, which is ready for bottling, canning or kegging, can be pasteurized.
At every stage of production, brewers have their own additional procedures or variations of ingredients, treatments, time and temperatures. Fundamental variations make for different styles of beer.
This is the most popular type of beer in the United States. Ninety percent of the amber, light beer served is lager. Lager simply means the beer has been "stored" or "stocked." The name comes from the German verb, lagern, meaning Ôto store.' It refers to earlier times when German monks stored beer in cool mountain caves during the hot months of summer.
While better lagers are aged up to three months, some domestic lagers are aged for as little as one week. Lagers in the United States are usually brewed with adjuncts, such as corn or rice, while most European lagers are brewed with barley malt. A smaller quantity of hops is used in lager than in ale, which gives these beers only a mild hop aroma and flavor.
Lager beer is usually produced with bottom-fermenting yeast. This means that the yeast settles to the bottom of the fermentation vat when fermentation is completed. The lager itself is drawn off, leaving the yeast in the tank. With beers brewed with top-fermenting yeast, such as ales and stouts, the yeast rises to the top in a froth during fermentation and is skimmed off.
There are basically two types of lagers -- light and dark. Light lager is pale golden in color, generally strongly carbonated and has a soft, mellow dry taste. Most U.S. beers are light lagers. Dark lagers are brewed the same way as light lagers, however, they're darkened in color through various methods. The color of true dark lagers is derived from adding roasted barley. Imitation dark lagers are made with caramel or with an extract of roasted barley malt, both methods being less time consuming and costly than adding barley in precise amounts. Dark lagers are generally more aromatic, creamy-headed and sweeter than light lagers.
Genuine Pilsner is a delicately dry and aromatically hoppy beer. It originated at Pilsen, in Bohemia, in the 19th century and is the ancestor of many lager styles produced around the world today. Bock beer is a heavy, dark lager beer, which is full and rather sweet and hoppy in character. Its dark color is normally obtained by using high-colored malts.
Ale is brewed from the same basic ingredients as lager: barley malt, hops, yeast, water and a small amount of adjuncts, such as flakes of rice and corn. More hops are used, and fermentation is done with top fermenting yeast. Ale is more aromatic than lager, with more pronounced hop flavor and aroma. It is also more full-bodied and higher in alcohol content -- ranging from four to five percent. Ale is the most popular beer in Britain, where it further subdivided into light and strong categories.
Stout and porter are two varieties of ale. They are fermented as ales are, using top-fermenting yeast. In addition to the ale ingredients, roasted barley or malt, or barley and various sugars, are included. Some brewers use malted or flaked oats as well. Although color varies from light to dark within each type, porter is generally lighter in color and lower in alcoholic content than stout and is also less bitter.