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Beer: Types, Descriptors, Creation

april 7, 2020 Adam

Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of grains.

Beer is typically 10 proof, meaning its alcoholic content is roughly 5%.

Types of Beer

Ales - Ales are a rich beer variant offering a wide array of flavors and colors: from bitters to milds, pales to ambers, there are also abbey ales, nut brown ales, and many more, including Blue Moon. They are top-fermented, brewed at cellar temperature, and generally have malty or fruity aromas.

Lagers - Lagers are bottom-fermented, and it generally takes several months at near-freezing temperatures to finish a brew. While the result is less complex than most ales, these beers offer a much sharper, crisper flavor, making them by far the world’s most popular brew. Lagers like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller are what most people think of when they think beer: pale, carbonated, and lightly hoppy.

Stouts & Porters - Stouts and porters are the darkest beers on the market. Both are nearly black, with thick, rich, malty flavours. The color and flavor in a porter comes from a variety of roasted malts mixed with other grains. Stouts are much the same, but with a more pronounced profile from barley. Perhaps the most famous example of a stout is Guinness.

Malts - Malt beers are darker, thicker, and sweeter than lagers or ales. Their flavors often have chocolatey or nutty notes. Popular malt liquors include Olde English and Colt 45.

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Beer Descriptors

Amber is used to refer to the color and full-bodiedness of a beer. It can describe ales and lagers, but either way an amber tends to be maltier, fuller, and darker gold. Samuel Adams Boston Lager or Sleeman’s Amber Ale are popular examples.
Blondes are usually ales which are a paler yellow color. They have a milder but crisp flavor and a hoppy aroma, with a light sweetness and minimal bitterness.
With Newcastle Brown Ale as perhaps the best known example, brown beers are darker in color with strong hints of caramel or chocolate in their flavor profile. Many variants include nutty tones, usually called nut browns.
Golden ales with a crisp, mild, and sweet flavor. Typically relatively clear and easy-drinking.
Dark beers are typically either ales, stouts, or porters, though dark lagers have emerged recently and are gaining popularity. Dark ales are typically chestnut brown with a full-bodied, malty flavor. Porters and stouts, such as Guinness, are dark nearly to black.
Fruit beers are brewed like ales, but the malts are held back in order to allow fruity characteristics to come through more fully. These beers are usually crisp, light, and not bitter.
Golden beers, such as Becks or Samuel Adams Golden Ale, were first produced in the UK. They carry overtones of vanilla and citrus, sometimes with additional flavors that carry a hint of spice. These are rarely hoppy and always crisp.
Creamy, full-bodied, and slightly sweet, these beers are usually fuller-bodied than, say, a Golden or a Cream. Sleeman's Honey Brown is a popular example.
India Pale Ale
The original IPA. It is a hoppier version of the pale ale and was originally developed during British rule in India to survive the long distance between countries. These have emerged as enormously popular in recent years.
Light beers are generally simple lagers with a lower alcohol content and milder flavor. Traditional examples include Bud Light and Coors Light, which are popular throughout the United States.
These are a relatively recent addition to the light beer collection, with Bud Light Lime being the foremost example. Light in flavor and alcohol content with the addition of lime.
Pale Ales
The pale ale, an English invention, is a mild but enjoyable beer with a hint of fruity flavor and a clear, yellow or copper color. Many of the most well-known beers are pale ales, such as Heineken, Dos Equis, and Budweiser.
Pilsners are lagers made in a particular style with hard water. They are typically more bitter than a traditional lager, with a dryer and crisper flavor and similar coloring. Stella Artois is a pilsner.
Reds, such as Rickards Red, are ales that range from red to brown in color and have a heavier flavor than an amber. Mildly hoppy and with traces of caramel, they strike a balance between light beers and dark.
The definition of a “strong” beer may vary geographically, but in general it refers to the broad category of beers with an alcohol percentage greater than 7%. Most malt beers, like Olde English and Colt 45, fall into this category, as do many modern craft IPAs.
Wheat beers can be either filtered or unfiltered. Either way, they are typically light, easy-drinking, and mild in flavor. Unfiltered wheat beers have a cloudy profile and are hazy and opaque.


Beer Creation

Hops - Hops are perhaps the best-known ingredient in beer, providing flavor and aroma in a variety of differing degrees. The plant itself is a flowering vine (latin name: Humulus lupulus). In addition to bitterness, hops provide stability, citrus notes, zest, and spice to a brew.

Malt - There are many grains that can be used in beer — wheat, oats, rye, barley, and more. Malt, or malted barley, however, is generally the most-used grain in the fermentation process. Malting is the process where partial germination is used to convert starch from barley seeds into natural sugars. A rich variety of flavors and colors can be yielded from the malts chosen in the brewing process. Malts are also used for whisky making.

Germination - Germination is the process that seeds undergo when they first sprout into plants. In the malting process, barley seeds are allowed to partially germinate so that their resources and starch reserves are made available. During the early stage of germination, enzymes are created which convert the starch from the seeds into sugar. At this point in the malting process, germination is halted and the sugars are used for fermentation. If germination were to continue, plants would grow from the seeds and they would consume the sugar as energy for growth.

Fermentation - Fermentation is the process by which alcohol is developed from the ingredients in a brew. It is the same process that produces wine and spirits, with sugar being converted by living organisms (e.g., yeast, enzymes, etc.) into ethyl alcohol through their digestion process.

Full-bodied alcohol - A beer’s full-bodiedness is its weight and thickness in the mouth. The texture of a beer while drinking can be light, heavy, or anywhere in between, with fuller-bodied referring to richer, more complex flavor profiles.

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