Beer has been brewed for over 6000 years and contains anywhere from 3.5% to 11% alcohol.
Beers are classified as lager or ale, depending on the type of yeast used and the temperature employed in the beer making process.
The four ingredients needed to make beer are barley malt, hops, yeast and water.
One overlooked factor is the type of water used. Lightly mineralized waters like those in the Czech Repubulic produce the great pilsners of the world. Dublin's unique water led the creation of the stout, Guinness.
Barley malt denotes the partialy germinated or sprouted grain that begins beer making. Within malt are hydrolytic enzymes that are necessary for breaking down the starches and converting the complex carbohydrates of the malt into the simple sugars that will then undergo fermentation by the yeast.
The grains are firat soaked in water to begin germination and then dried to halt the process. The mixture is then mashed, (a process of allowing the enzymes of the barley malt to diffuse into solution). Once the enzymes are released they break down the starches contained in the barley endosperm (carbohydrate store). The mash solution is then filtered producing a mixture called the wort, which contains water and nutrients.
The wort is the liquid portion of the mix and contains simple sugars, starches and proteins.
Hops are plants that are added to malt to provide bitterrnees, sweetnes and flavor to beer. Hops preserve the quality of the beer.
Hops are added to the wort according to individual tastes and results sought by the brewer.
Hops provide bitterness to the brew. The wort with the added hops is then pumped into large fermentation tanks, where the selected strain of yeast is added.
The type of yeast added to the wort determines the type of beer produced.
The yeast is responsible for converting all of the sugars in the wort into alcohol. The long-chain starches in the wort, that did not get broken down, remain in solution providing calories and sweetness to the beer.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae causes top fermentation. In this fermentation, the yeast rise to the top forming a frothy mass. Ales, bitters and stouts are produced with top-fermentation.
Saccharomyces uuvarum are used in the production of lager beers since this species of yeast ferments from the bottom as it brews.
Bottom-fermentation produces a less frothy, sweeter beer.
Lager beer is a generic term for any beer produced by the process of bottom-fermentation. This is the predominant brewing method except in Britain and Belgian. Lagers are paler, crisper, drier and less alcoholic than ales. They are bright and effervescent. The yeasts that produce them settle to he bottom during the fermentation process and thrive in colder temperatures.
Lager beer is made from bottom fermenting yeast Saccharomyces uuvarum and is fermented at cold temperatures for up to 2 weeks. The mixture is then lagered (stored) for up to 3 months at temperatures approaching freezing.
The word "lager" is derived from the German word lagern, which means to store. It refers to the long period of storing the mixture.
Lager beer is stored in cellars and undergoes a longer second fermentation period.
Lagering is done near the freezing temperature and proceeds very slowly. The longer the beer is aged, the fuller the flavor, resulting in a beer with more body and a longer shelf life.
Light Lagers are pale gold in color and light in body. Through the addition of corn or rice the appearance of beers can be made paler. Some lager beers are already pale as water. Light Lagers are fairly high in carbonation. They are best served cold.
The Vienna style lager beer is characterized by an amber color and a very mild hop taste. Although brewed with less hops, it is not less flavorful. Its flavor is due to the increased contribution of the malt.
Munich beer is a lager beer with less hops, which makes it less bitter.
Munich style lager beer is characterized by its dark-brown color and full-bodied flavor. It has a slight hop taste but is more aromatic and creamier than a light lager beer.
The color of the lager comes from the addition of roasted barley. Dark Lagers are sometimes the result of the addition of caramel or roasted barley. This is a much less expensive process to produce the desired color. The alcohol content of Lager is roughly five percent by weight.
Most beers produced in the U.S. are lager beers. Lager beers represent almost ninety percent of the beers sold. Pilsner beer is lager beer with a strong hop component causing its characteristic bitterness.
Ales are beers that are brewed using the top fermenting, saccharomyces cerevisiae, strain of yeast. Ales are typically fermented close to room temperature.
Ale yeast floats on the surface and are classified as top-fermenting. At these warm temperatures, yeast produce abundant amounts of flavor chemicals (esters and aldehydes) that give ales their characteristic fruity aroma.
Ale possesses a greater percentage of alcohol (4 to 5 percent by weight) than lager and is more aromatic.
Ales are full-bodied with a pronounced hop flavor. Their tartness is the result of the bitter compounds embedded in the fibers of the hops.
Ale is fermented at a higher temperature than lager beer and for a lesser period of time.
When ale is maturing, it is stored at a warmer temperature than beer is.
Ales requires additional aging in the bottle to develop their best strength and flavor.
Ales can have lower levels of carbonation while cream ales and sparkling ales have high levels of carbonation.
Highly carbonated ales froth a rich foam when they are poured and produce a strong effervescence. Some ales have an alcohol level that approaches that of wine. These beers will keep for several years in a bottle, just like a good wine.
Stout beer is very different from lager beer and ales. Stouts differ in color, taste and texture.
In addition to using a top fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Stouts employ caramel and roasted barley added to provide color and body to the beer.
Most beer drinkers believe that Stout beer is stronger than lagers. Instead, although Stout is a fuller bodied beer it does contain less alcohol and carbohydrate.
Light Beer contains fewer carbohydrates and hence less calories than normal beer.
A less caloric beer is achieved by altering time and temperature cycles. The result of increasing them creates is a more concentrated brew with a higher alcohol content. More alcohol allows for the dilution of the beer with water without the loss of its kick. The dilution of the brew lowers the caloric content but maintains alcohol concentration.
Removing some of the un-fermented starches that remained in the wort also lowers the calories of the beer. This is another method used to produce light beer.
Dry beers are noted for their high alcohol content, up to 9 or 10 percent in Japan. This is achieved by brewing the wort longer thereby converting more carbohydrates into fermentable sugars. The beer produced appears drier (less sweet) because it contains less sugar and fewer carbohydrates in solution.
Belgian beers are the most sophisticated and expensive of the beers.
As with all beers, it is brewed by combining water and barley to create a liquid or the wort that is flavored with hops and fermented with yeast.
The location where the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol determines the type of bear produced. Top and bottom fermenting yeast produce Stout and Lager type beers, respectively.
Belgian beers are considered some of the best beer in the world. The extraordinary care taken by Belgian breweries include not only the brewing of the beer but its bottling as well. They treat their beer as a wine and bottle it in brown or dark green tinted glass to protect its contents from oxidation. They are often sealed with a cork to preserve freshness.
Some beers undergo a second round of fermentation or re-fermentation. This occurs inside the bottle and increases the final alcohol content of the beer.
Listed below are a varieties of Belgian beers.
1. Pils is a lager beer. Stella Artois is a Belgian beer but is really no different from other nation's beers. It is a bottom-fermenting beer and Belgian’s number one selling beer.
But around the world, Belgian beers are known for their top-fermenting beers. They are stronger and more unique that lager beers.
2. Trappists beers are ales. Malted barley is top-fermentesmade and made entirely under the supervision of Trappists monks. The breweries must be located inside the abbey of the repective order. Chimay is one example of such an ale.
Trappist ales are designated as single, double or tripple indicating the relative amount of alcohol they contain.
3. Dubbel beers are brown and undergo double fermentation.
4. Tripel beers are strong blond beers. Tripel beers undergo a triple fermentation process to make them much higher in alcohol content.
5. Lambic Beers are unique to Belgium and are distinguished by the tartiness of their taste, They are neither top-fermented nor bottom-fermented.
Lambic beers are prepared via the spontaneous fermentation of wild, air-born yeasts, found only around the city of Brussels.