» What is beer?
» What are ales?
» What are lagers?
» How are they different?
» What are lambics?
» What is "bock" beer?
» What is "porter"?
» What are "dry" beers?
» What are "ice" beers?
» What are "cold-filtered", and "heat pasteurized" beers?
» What is "draught" (draft) beer?
» How is specific gravity related to beer?
» What does "Dubbel" mean on a beer label? What is beer?
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from malted grains, hops, yeast, and water. The grain is usually barley or wheat, but sometimes corn and rice are used as well. Fruit, herbs, and spices may also be used for special styles. In the distant past, the terms "beer" and "ale" meant different things. "Ale" was originally made without using hops, while "beer" did use hops. Since virtually all commercial products now use hops, the term "beer" now encompasses two broad categories: ales and lagers.
What are ales?
What are lagers?
How are they different?
Ales generally undergo short, warm fermentations and are intended to be consumed soon after completion. The result of relatively warm fermentation is that a lot of by-products of yeast metabolism besides alcohol and CO2 get left in the beer. These usually manifest themselves as "fruity" or "buttery" flavors which vary in degree and flavor with the strain of yeast used and the temperature and duration of fermentation. Accordingly, ales exhibit their most complex flavors when served at warm temperatures, around 50-60F (10-15C).
The trick with lager yeast is that they can survive, metabolize, and reproduce at lower temperatures. Lager yeast can assimilate compounds which ale yeast cannot, fewer by-products are made, and the stuff that does get made drops out during lagering. The result is a very clean, sparkling beer. Lagers are best served at slightly cooler temperatures than ales, 40-50F (5-10C).
Of course there are notable exceptions:
Koelsch and Alt
What are lambics?
What is "bock" beer?
Bocks are usually strong beers made with lots of malt yielding a very
full-bodied, alcoholic beer. A persistent myth has been that bock
beers are made from the dregs at the bottom of a barrel when they are
cleaned in the spring. This probably seemed logical because of the
heavier body and higher strength of bocks. From a brewing standpoint,
this is clearly impossible for two reasons: 1) The "dregs" left
fermentation are unfermentable, which is exactly why they are left
over. They cannot be fermented again to make more beer. 2) Any
attempt to re-use the "dregs" would probably result in serious
bacterial contamination and a product which does not resemble beer as
we know it.
What is "porter"?
Harwood's Entire was highly hopped, strong, and dark. It was brewed
with soft rather than hard water. Within a few years Entire was also
being referred to as "Porter" (short for porter's ale) because
porters of the London street markets were especially fond of it.
Porter that was extra strong was known as "Stout Porter", and
What are "dry" beers?
What are "ice" beers?
This process is not new to brewing, having been developed in Germany to produce "eisbocks". Apparently they were produced by accident during the traditional spring celebration with bock beers. Spring, being the capricious season that it is, probably sent a late cold snap around one year causing some of the spring bocks to partially freeze. People drank it anyway and liked the change in flavor.
In its current incarnation, the process is an offshoot of the concentrated fruit juice industry. It was developed by orange growers to reduce the costs of storage and shipping by concentrating the fruit juice through freezing and removal of some water. Labatt Breweries claims to have pioneered this process for brewing and most of the large North American brewers quickly followed suit in the usual marketing frenzy.
The main difference between these "ice" beers and true eisbocks
taste and character. Any beer brewed using this method will only be
as good as the brew with which you start. In other words, if you
start with a bland, flavor-impaired, adjunct-laden beer and remove
some of the water, you end up with a bland, flavor-impaired,
adjunct-laden beer with more alcohol. OTOH, if you take a rich,
malty, traditionally brewed bock and remove some of the water, you
end up with an eisbock.
What are "cold-filtered", and "heat pasteurized"
Heat Pasteurized is a redundant phrase since pasteurization means heating to kill microbes.
Some beers are bottle or cask conditioned, meaning that live yeast are still in the beer in its container. Most mainstream beers are either filtered, to remove all yeast and bacteria, or pasteurized to kill all yeast and bacteria. This makes for a more stable product with a longer shelf-life.
Pasteurization is more expensive and tends to alter the flavor. Filtration is cheaper, leaves a clearer beer, and has less effect on flavor.
What is "draught" (draft) beer?
How is specific gravity related to beer?
The OG will always be higher than the FG for two reasons. First, the yeast will have processed much of the sugar that was present, thus, reducing the gravity. And, second, the alcohol produced by fermentation is less dense than water, further reducing the gravity. The OG has a significant effect on the taste of the final product and not just from an alcoholic standpoint. A high OG usually results in beer with more body and sweetness than a lower OG. This is because some of the sugars measured in the OG are not fermentable by the yeast and will remain after fermentation.
Here are some rough guidelines:
Some Bitters, Milds, Wheat beers, and most "Lite" beers have
ranging from 1020-1040. The majority of beers fall in the 1040-1050
range including most Lagers, Stout, Porter, Pale Ale, most Bitters,
and Wheat beers. From 1050-1060 you'll find, Oktoberfest, India Pale
Ale, ESB (Extra Special Bitter). In the 1060-1075 range will be Bock,
strong ales, Belgian doubles. Above 1075 are the really strong beers
like Dopplebocks, Barleywines, Imperial Stouts, and Belgian trippels
and strong ales.
What does "Dubbel" mean on a beer label?