Mankind's greatest invention. Arguably the oldest drink known to man. The perfect relief for a parched throat. An ideal accompaniment to a comforting meal. A stress buster as well as an ice-breaker. Yes, you guessed correctly, we are talking about the one and only, our dearest friend- Beer. With an endless variety of flavours and styles to choose from, there is a beer for everyone. The possible varieties and flavours that can be created with the simple base ingredients of malts, hops, yeast and water are beyond our imagination. Craft beer harnesses these possible amalgamations to make brews that are a delight for your palate.
How Is Beer Categorised? A Beginner's Guide To Beer
This endless diversity may leave you confused. How can you tell one beer apart from another? More importantly, what is Craft Beer? Craft beer is made with the highest quality of ingredients, with no added flavours or preservatives. Craft beer is what provides us with an endless variety of different styles for different seasons, palates and preferences. Most importantly, it is beer the way it was meant to be. Beers can be categorised based on their aroma, strength, flavour, appearance/ colour, mouthfeel and bittering agent. Imagine this - a delicious pint of beer is placed in front of you. The first thing you would notice is the colour of the drink. The appearance of the beer exists on a spectrum, from light (pale straw and straw) to deep brown (amber-brown, brown, ruby-brown and deep-brown) or jet black (in the case of stouts).
Next, you pick up the beautiful pint in front of you and take a sip. The aroma contributes to most of the flavour that fills your mouth. The hops contain a variety of essential oils that dance on your tongue, contributing to the unique flavour of each beer style. The hops could add to the bitterness of the beer or even impart all sorts of bouquets, including fruit, citrus, pine, herb, floral, spice and grass, contributing to the flavour.
Still confused? How will you find the perfect beer to suit your flavour profile? How can you identify which brew may be your style? This is the perfect guide for you, as we will outline the myriad of beer styles.
Here Is A Comprehensive Guide To Beer Styles
- Wheat Beers: Top-fermented, in which the wheat component is proportionately bigger than the quantity of the malted barley. A classic German Weizenbier and Belgian Witbier are the two main kinds of wheat beer.
- English Style Beers: Since the early parts of the 19th century, the term 'bitter' was used to refer to pale ale in England. These hoppy and tart beers were called 'bitters' by bargoers, in contrast with the less hoppy, milder styles that were prevalent back then.
- American Pale Ale: This is an English pale ale made in America, from ingredients native to America. To be more precise, it's a relatively modern craft beer (c. 1980) that has taken inspiration from classic English pale ale. The Nevada Pale Ale was the most recognised, and also the most popular, of American craft beers, at least until Indian pale ales became all the rage recently.
- Indian Pale Ale: So known because it was transported as export beer to India (and other territories) in the 19th century. A hoppy pale ale that was commonly available in England by the early part of the 1800s, it would win approval in Britain's colonies, no doubt quenching the thirst of the irritable rulers. Among the varieties of Indian Pale Ale (IPA), you will come across English IPA, American IPA-including East Coast IPA (New England India Pale Ale), Milkshake IPA and West Coast IPA-and the Double, Triple, White, and Black IPAs.
- Larger: A beer that is brewed and conditioned at cool temperatures through a prolonged process of fermentation using a slow-acting yeast. Among lager types, you will find Pilsner, German Style (under which would be included Munich Helles, Marzen-or the traditional Oktoberfest Lager-and Alpine or Vienna lager), Kolsch and Smoked Lager.
- Dark Beer: As this beer is made from roasted grains, not only does that give it a darker hue, but it also lends it a flavour that's deeper, richer and immensely satisfying. Stout is a dark beer (the most famous being Guinness) that is available in 'dry', 'oatmeal', 'milk' and 'imperial' variants. The Porter is a malty and full-bodied ale that's more than the sum of its parts and dates back to 18th-century England. Meanwhile, Schwarzbier is a dark lager with origins in Germany, and Braggot is a cross between mead and beer (the proportion of each need is not similar), a brew with its provenance in medieval Europe.
- Sour Beer: Acidic and tart by design, this style of beer have in its family Belgian Lambic, Gueuze and Flanders Red Ale from Belgium, and German Gose and Berliner Weisse from Germany.
- Red/ Amber Ales: Beers with high ABV (alcohol by volume) like Trappist Ale, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Tripel and Scotch Ale, and fruit-infused beers. Purists may gasp but the last mentioned falls under the definition of beer-as long as the fruit element is balanced with the beer, and does not think of dominating it.
So, next time you sit down to quaff a pitcher alone or with friends, at home or in a traditional pub-raise a toast to the wonders of this refreshing drink whose each swig brings pleasure, and the promise of effin' good times ahead.
About Author: Manu Gulati is a certified beer expert and also a master brewer.
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