Beer 101

If you think a beer is a beer is a beer, you haven’t experienced the many differences in this drink. There are special nuances in every brand and flavor that make each one unique and special. Here is a look at the basics of beer so you can become an expert and enjoy your favorite drink even more.

Ale or Lager

Beer can be put in to two main categories: ale and lager. The difference in these two is in how beer is made. With ale, the yeast ferments at the top of the brewing vessel at high temperatures. It only takes about a week to ferment and often has what is described as a fruity flavor.

Lager beers allow the yeast to ferment at the bottom of the vessel at a lower temperature. These beers are stored at a lower temperature until they mature. You’ll also taste more combinations of flavors, making this a sophisticated drink for beer enthusiasts.

Regional Drinks

Once you’ve decided on your choice of ale or lager, the next step is to choose the region. American drinks are popular and come in a large variety. Of course, some purists insist on only German lagers, English ales or other regional choices. You’ll find everything from a Czech Pilsener to a Belgian Dark Ale to a Japanese Rice Lager in this category. Each region has its own recipe and flavor, which is why beer drinkers are often adamant on sticking with one region for the best flavor.

Differences in Types of Drinks

Within a region, you’ll find numerous options. For example, if you want an American beer, you’ll have plenty of choices. Try an American Stout, American Porter, American IPA, or black, brown, blonde or dark wheat ale. Of course, you’re likely to pick a favorite because each type of beer has its own unique recipe.

  • American Stout – draws its inspiration from Irish and English Stouts, features roasted flavors and often aged in whiskey or Bourbon barrels with hops balanced
  • American Dark Wheat Ale – usually cloudy with a range of color from brown to garnet, high to medium body with a large amount of carbonation and low hops, some have flavors of toasted malts and caramel
  • American IPA – the color can be anything from a very pale gold to a reddish amber, hops usually have a citric or herbal flavor with a high level of bitterness and moderate to medium body
  • American Porter – offers a wide range of flavors with some brewers adding in smoked malts, coffee or chocolate to go with the burnt flavor of this brew, some are age in whiskey or Bourbon and hop bitterness is usually balanced
  • American Pale Lager – brewed without rice or corn, but still containing the yellow fizz and a complex bitterness
  • American Malt Lager – uses large amount of corn, rice or other adjuncts along with refined brewers sugar, very few hops are used, a dry beer

The next time you are out and ready to enjoy a tasty brew, you’ll have a better idea of the differences in beers. You just might be interested to try something new to tempt your palette and enhance your knowledge of beers.