Beer is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages available. It is typically made with some type of carbohydrate that is able to ferment. Popular ingredients include hops, malted barley, yeast and water.
Wine uses grapes and traditional beers are made with barley. Like wine, beer can be made with other ingredients, but barley is the traditional food option. Barley has a low fat and protein content. Since it is high in starch, it is excellent for brewing beer. During growth, the starch feeds the plant and spurs it to grow. When beer is made, the starch is used with malt to begin the fermentation process. The addition of malt catalyzes the starch and makes all of the sugar ready for brewing. Currently, the maritime climate in the United Kingdom is excellent for growing barley. Craft beer and ales often use this starch as a basis for fermentation.
Reaching 20 feet high, hops is structurally similar to Cannabis. This climbing plant produces cones that are filled with resin and oils. When used to make beer, the cones add a distinctly bitter hop flavor. Although many people believe beer is made from just hops, only about 150 grams are used in an entire barrel of beer. Due to its strong flavor, hops are typically used in craft beer like a spice. To harvest hops, farmers must pick them towards the end of summer and dry them in a special Oast House. In the past, hops were placed into high sacks known as pockets. Presently, hops are packed into pellets and vacuum-sealed like coffee. This ensures that the hops stay fresh before they are used in ales and lagers.
The next ingredient is water. For every pint of beer, four to six pints of water must be used throughout the brewing process. Since water is a key ingredient, the quality and minerals in the water are extremely important. Natural salts can make the water more appealing to breweries and lead to better tasting ales. In Burton, dissolved gypsum that naturally occurs in water has led to breweries setting up operation in the area.
The last major ingredient used in craft beer is yeast. Known by its Latin name of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a microscopic fungus. To ferment sugar, yeast must be used. It gradually grows on sugar and creates carbon dioxide and alcohol. Since yeast greatly affects the taste of the beer, brewers will use different strains and fermentation methods. The whole process of fermenting the beer is jealously guarded by the brewers since the yeast is one of the main ingredients to make the unique flavor of each beer.
Different Beer Styles
There are over 100 different types of beer available on the market. Some of the different craft beer available includes pilsners, bocks, pale ales, stouts and porters. One of the most popular types of beer is the lager. They are fermented cold to make a more delicate flavor and are often lighter in color than other beers. Lagers have alcohol contents that range from 4 percent to 14 percent with United States lagers being lower in bitterness. Popular British lagers include carling and Fosters while the Pilsner Urequell is a favorite from the Czech Republic.
Unlike a lager, ale is typically fruitier and has a full favor. It is fermented at a high temperature and boasts of a straw color. Until kilned malts were introduced in the 1800s, most ale types were smoky-flavored and brown in color.
Specialty Beer and Craft Beer
In the modern marketplace, many beers fall outside of traditional classifications. As the modern consumer develops a more fine-tuned beer palate, specialty beers are growing in popularity. From Belgium, fruity beers are hitting the marketplace while wheat beers are rising in consumption. Wheat beers made in Holland have a unique taste due to the coriander and orange peels used to flavor them. One specialty beer is found in the Guinness Book of World records. Sam Adams Utopia clocks in at a high 27 percent ABV.
Long ago, beer was used in Western Europe with every meal. In the current era, many countries in Europe still use beer with meals instead of wine. With the complexity of beer tastes, each meal can find the perfect food to match it. Steaks or heartier meats work well with a smoked porter while ale pairs well with a light sandwich or salad.
Over the past few years, microbreweries and specialty beers have risen in prominence. The varieties of flavors and styles have enabled beer tasting to be on par with wine tasting. From simple ales to flavorful lagers, each beer is designed to suit a unique set of taste buds.
UK’s Beer Academy