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What's more refreshing on a hot summer day than a nice cold beer? Or how about drinking a nice cold one with some buddies after work at a local bar, sound nice doesn?t it? Beer has been around for many years and will probably be around for many more. A beer is any variety of alcoholic beverages produced by the fermentation of starchy material derived from grains or other plant sources. The production of beer and some other alcoholic beverages is often called brewing. Most every culture has there own tradition and the own take on beer, thus producing many different styles and variations.
Simply put, a beer style is a label given to a beer that describes its overall character and often times its origin. It's a name badge that has been achieved over many centuries of brewing, trial and error, marketing, and consumer acceptance. There are many different types of beer, each of which is said to belong to a particular style. A beer's style is a label that describes the overall flavour and often the origin of a beer, according to a system that has evolved by trial and error over many centuries. According to the type of yeast that is used in the beer's fermentation process, most beer styles fall into one of two large families: ale or lager. Beers that blend the characteristics of ales and lagers are referred to as hybrids.
An ale is any beer that is brewed using only top-fermenting yeasts, and typically at higher temperatures than lager yeast. Because ale yeasts cannot fully ferment some sugars, they produce esters in addition to alcohol, and the result is a more flavourful beer with a slightly "flowery" or "fruity" aroma resembling but not limited to apple, pear, pineapple, grass, hay, plum or prune. Stylistic differences among ales are more varied than those found among lagers, and many ale styles are difficult to categorize. Top-fermented beers, particularly popular in the British Isles, include barley wine, bitter, pale ale, porter, and stout. Stylistic differences among top-fermented beers are decidedly more varied than those found among bottom-fermented beers and many beer styles are difficult to categorize. California Common beer, for example, is produced using a lager yeast at ale temperatures. Wheat beers are often produced using an ale yeast and then lagered, sometimes with a lager yeast. Lambics employ wild yeasts and bacteria, naturally-occurring in the Payottenland region of Belgium.
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There are five main sub-catagories of ale beer which are: barley wine, bitter, pale ale, porter and stout. Despite its name, barley wine is indeed an ale. It has a hearty, sweet malt flavor which is offset by a strong and bitter flavoring from the hops for balance. Bitter ale has heavier hopping, dryer hop finish, light in alcohol content and if they are higher alcohol they are know as ESB (extra special bitter). Pale ales share a pronounced hop flavor and aroma with low to medium maltiness, and there is also a good deal of fruity esters. The Porter?s name comes from the Porters at London?s Victoria Station. They would frequently mix several styles of beer into one glass and drink large quantities of the mixture. A style was eventually created to approximate this blend and came to be known as a porter. The porter is a good beer for those who want a full flavored, dark beer without the bitterness from the roasted barley that a stout now possesses. Finally, there is the stout, a dark copper to very black in color ale. It has a rich and complex maltiness with noticeable hop bitterness. The two main ingredients are the dark roasted barley and black malts.
Lagers are the most commonly-consumed category of beer in the world. They are of Central European origin, taking their name from the German word lagern, which means "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 1840?1841. With modern improved fermentation control, most lager breweries use only short periods of cold storage, typically 1?3 weeks. Most of today's lager is based on the Pilsner style, pioneered in 1842 in the town of Plzeò, in the Czech Republic. The modern Pilsner lager is light in colour and high in carbonation, with a mild hop flavour and an alcohol content of 3?6% by volume. The Budweiser brand of beer is a typical example of a pilsner.
The five main sub-catagories of lagers are: pilsner, bock, helles, dunkel and Oktoberfest. Pilsners? defining elements were the extremely soft water that was pumped locally and the unique aromatic hops that were also grown nearby. Pilsners are malty sweet, and well hopped. Caramel flavors are often noticed accompanied by medium to high bitterness. Pilsners have a good amount of carbonation and are clean and crisp. Bock beer is a hearty beer with high alcohol content. Contrary to the rumor, bock beer is not what?s cleaned out of the bottom of the vats at the end of the year! Bock beer has a pronounced malt flavor with just enough hop bitterness to tame the sweetness. Bock beer is matured for a long period of time during the second fermentation. Helles is a pale lager that is light in color, not taste or calories. It is low in alcohol and intended to be an everyday or session beer. Only a mild, short lived bitterness should be expected. Dunkel is basically a helles with additional roasted malt added for color and a toasty, chocolate-like taste. Last but not least, Oktoberfest or marzen. This beer is amber in color and is slightly heavy. It is malty sweet as typical with beer from southern Germany and Austria. There is low to medium bitterness but enough to offset the sweet.
Hybrid beers are the last of the three main types of beers. Hybrid or mixed style beers use modern techniques and materials instead of, or in addition to, traditional aspects of brewing. Although there is some variation among sources, mixed beers generally fall into four sub-categories: fruit and vegetable, Herb and spiced, smoked, and speciality. Fruit beers and vegetable beers are are a variety of mixed beer blended with a fermentable fruit or vegetable "adjunct" during the fermentation process, providing new qualities. Herb and spiced beers add herbs or spices derived from roots, seeds, fruits, vegetables or flowers instead of, or in addition to hops. In a smoked beer a brewer will fire his malt over a wood fire and let the smoke absorb into the grains. This imbues a smoky character in the taste of the brew. Specialty beers are a catch-all category used to describe any beers brewed using unusual fermentable sugars, grains and starches.
With all of the different brewing techniques and styles and forms of ingridents there is almost and endless world of beer. Beer is diffently the ultimate social drink and it has been proven for years. Beer can be anything from dark, fruity and mysterious to light, crisp and refreshing. Beer tasting is an art and should always be respected. So respect your beer and have fun. Go to your local bar today with a few buddies and begin on your own beer journey.