It IS All Beer

"Beer" is but a generic term, and it actually includes all malt beverages. Brewed and fermented from malted barley and other cereal grains, more beer is consumed world wide than any other beverage except water and tea. Throughout history, references to beer are found. Ancient hieroglyphics have been used to trace the roots of brewing back to ancient African, Egyptian and Sumerian tribes. Ancient laws regarding beer production were included in the Code of Hammurabi. Ancient civilizations had prayers to the likes of the Mesopotamian Goddess of Beer. Ancient lore says that it was those Sumerians who actually discovered the fermentation process, and by chance, at that.

But, this is not a history lesson. What of the "Beers" of today?

Pale Ale
Fermented at a higher temperature than beer, Ales are top-fermentation brews, as the high temperature causes yeast to remain at the top of the brew. Ales are malt brews, and the name "Pale" Ale comes from the early 1700s when coke was used to first dry the malt, resulting in a lighter color than other common beers of the era. Ales are full bodied, and generally more bitter than beer. In fact, in the 19th century, Pale Ale was commonly referred to by the name "Bitter".

IPA (India Pale Ale)
IPA is a Pale Ale that features a higher alcohol content that generally found in pale ales and it is know for being more heavily hopped. The current leader in popularity among craft beers, the IPA has come a long way from its early days of being transported across the seas by British merchants as part of their trade with India. Today, American brewed IPAs have featured more fruity and resinous flavor and character that more traditional brews, including those of the more malting British varieties.

Mild Ale
Darker than Pale Ale, Mild Ale originated as a young brew, less aged than most, malty, but less hopped, and thus more tangy. Extremely popular for a century, its popularity diminished in the mid-20th century, only to regain is position more recently, thanks in large part to the explosion of microbreweries, and likely too in part due to is lesser alcohol content.

Dark colored, malty, sweet, and strong-hopped, Stout is made from roasted malts or barley, and with slow fermenting yeast. This process produces a strong, higher alcohol content brew. Perhaps most well know is the Irish Stout, such as Guinness, which is very dark, and features a dry flavor and hint of coffee. Varieties of Stout may or may not include Porter. At one time the names were interchangeable, and at other times Stout was considered to be a stronger variation of Porter.

Today, Porter is generally considered a different brew than Stout - milder in taste but darker in color. Very dark malt is used, and the result is a brew that is sweeter and less hoppy. Porter was the first beer to be aged at its brewery and thus ready to consume as soon as it hit the pub. The name "Porter" actually derived from its popularity with London street porters in the 18th century. Today, alas, the Porter is the basic brew used in the preparation of flavored beers, such as pumpkin, chocolate, vanilla, and the like.

The types of beers described above all basically developed in the British Isles. The Lager, however, is an invention of the Central European, and is the name used to describe cool, bottom-fermenting, bright, clear, light-bodied, sparkling and effervescent malt brews. There are Lagers, though, prepared from corn or rice. The word "Lager" means to "store" and thus the Lager is a brew that is aged, and in the Lager aging process, it is also "krausened" - its natural developing carbonation is hastened by the retrieval of expended gases that are added back into the brew. The Pale Lager is the worlds' most popular beer, and the vast majority of American-made beers are lagers.

Not now a distinctive type of beer, the Pilsner is a term applied to a wide variety of light beers. The term came into wide use by brewers from around the world who were attempting to duplicate the unique taste of the Pilsen Beer of Bohemia. Uninformed sources will often assign a specific description to the Pilsner, as a bottom-fermented golden-colored brew, with a distinctive hop aroma and flavor.

For a variation on traditional beer aromas, and for more intense sourness, try a Lambic, which is a beer made not from cultivated brewers's yeasts, but rather from wild yeasts. Unique to the Pajottenland region of Belgium, the Lambic is produced by a spontaneous fermentation
process. The Lambic is left to actually left to ferment for up to three years in very particular oak or chestnut barrels, or by some produces, in used wine barrels. Brewed from malt and wheat, forerunners of the Lamic can be traced to the 1100s. The modern Lambic in today's market is generally a blend of two or more brews.


"Bock" - the beer with a season - is a heavy, dark, sweet German beer, traditionally brewed in the winter for consumption early the following year, as part of the celebration heralding the arrival of Spring. Today's Bock can frequently be much lighter in both color and density.

Generally regarded as rice WINE, Sake is not fermented as is wine, but rather, it is brewed, just like in the process for making beer. Well, not just like making beer.

In the brewing process for beer, there is a two step process, where first starch is converted to sugar, and then the sugar converted into alcohol. In the brewing of Sake, the two processes occur simultaneously. And, while beers generally have an alcohol content of 3% to 9% (and wines from 9% to 16%) Sake is a little bit more, shall we say energetic, with an alcohol level of 18% to 20%*.

*That is the undiluted alcohol level of fresh-brewed Sake. However, the last step of the process for making Sake includes a dilution by adding water, that effectively lowers the alcohol level to a wine-like 15%.

©2011 by theHoundDawg for
No reprints or any commercial usage without written permission other than linking to this page, which is encouraged.